Bureau 0–1 is proud to stand by and continue to support many people who have come together to promote peaceful social reform, and work towards equality and freedom for all people. We are a design office that also has something of a minority background, which is why we take special interest in visions for a better world. This past June saw worldwide demonstrations of Black Lives Matter (BLM), which coincided with LGBT Pride Month. Direct action took place across the public realm, such as in streets and parks. This month, we would like to consider the role of the “public space”.
What is this “public space” we need? The spread of Covid-19 has drastically changed our conventional interpretations. To begin with, we should ask if the definition of “public” subsumes something that benefits society at large. This query exposes some historical contradictions. Thus, we cannot categorically deny that the system that defined and controlled the notion of “public space” has not had an effect on the emergence of BLM.
On June 5, in the course of a single day, gigantic yellow letters reading ‘Black Lives Matter’ were drawn on a road near The White House. Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia had invited locals to do participate. The cost is said to have been covered by the public art foundation that sponsors murals. Later, the location from which the authorities used tear gas to force out peaceful demonstrators was renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.
These actions were powerful statements by the mayor, but at the same time, they can be considered appropriations or “hacking” of public spaces, albeit using the vested powers of her office. Public behaviour is an important subject when considering cities and architectural spaces. It is in this sense that the mayor’s decision to connect BLM with urban sites becomes a point for reflective and productive dialogues. Bureau 0–1 will continue to support the movement, though it belongs to a zone where ideology and politics intersect, traditionally where design or architecture seldom navigated comfortably. The movement addresses deep-rooted problems by demanding freedom and legal rights, and it does so both peacefully, and most importantly, creatively. A demonstration is a form or protest and does not signify or sanction violence or riots.
Kaz Yoneda, the principal of Bureau 0–1, was born and raised on the West Coast of the United States. As the member of a minority he experienced prejudice. However, he also admits that the reverse might have also been true, which he was able to receive college education thanks to “affirmative action” (efforts to advance minorities) and pursue his passion for architecture.
When Kaz made the decision to move to Japan, he thought he would leave various forms of prejudices behind. He was wrong. His appearance is Japanese and he speaks Japanese, but he feels there is still an invisible wall in front of him. The fact is, racial as well as other forms of prejudices exist in Japan. As Covid-19 spreads worldwide, we are reminded that prejudice too is a common, shared problem of humanity, and can occur anywhere. Bureau 0–1 is committed to and hopes to be involved with those public spaces in which people can creatively develop concepts for everyone’s freedom.
People have had to struggle to secure their inviolable rights. We are once again yearning for the very same thing. When we can confront society while accepting the realities before us, only then, will we be able to embark on meaningful discussions and engender solutions. This time the world… we… must change.