What Is “Home” in Post-Pandemic New York?

In a multi-month lab at the Center for Architecture, three locals with underrepresented perspectives explore what makes a house—and a city—a home.

Photography by Asya Gorovits

In a year in which hundreds of thousands have been forcibly displaced and their land seized as others’ homelands, untold more have few options beyond risking their lives to relocate far from their country of origin as refugees and migrants, and millions live without housing or housing security, the moment has come to think hard about the concept of home itself. For that reason, the Center for Architecture’s exhibition “CFA Lab: Seeking Refuge and Making Home in NYC” feels right on time. The multi-disciplinary lab is itself a kind of home, offering residencies to underrepresented architecture and design professionals. “Seeking Refuge” makes room for three, selected by curator Vyjayanthi V. Rao with Matthew Bremer, to explore New York City through the eyes of those who call it home.

New York City’s status as a so-called “sanctuary city” remains intact at the moment, but what does that mean in immigrants’ lived experience? Karla Andrea Pérez, a CCCP Candidate at Columbia GSAPP and co-director of Manhatitlan, visited their homes to make Undocumented, an installation of video, interviews, and photo albums offering proof that whatever governments choose to call them, documenting their own dignity is a tool immigrants can use to feel seen and safe. Too often, those not considered part of the dominant culture are categorized as invisible or passive actors in the built environment. “Making Home,” an exhibition by Culture as Creative principal Kholisile Dhliwayo, rejects the notion that Black communities lack agency. Instead, in a septet of videos, Black ingenuity shows itself to be integral to the city’s built environment.

Queer people often have to—often get to—build our own families, so our homes need only resemble ones for traditional families to the extent we desire. In their installation “Queeries: Designing Reality Equitably and Madly (Q:DREAM),” the architect and activist A.L. Hu documents the past and present existence of queer home-making, including efforts from organizations like the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. They also traveled around the city asking queer people to describe their idea of home. Visitors can add their responses to postcards at the exhibition, all of which will be folded into a future-thinking, living archive. The powerful are hard at work telling those outside the dominant culture where, and how, they should feel at home. “Seeking Refuge” shows the power of answering that question ourselves.

Photography by Asya Gorovits
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