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Aging Against the Machine

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West Oakland, CA



Client / Date of Completion:
Center for Architecture New York, 2022

Curator: Barry Bergdoll and Juliana Barton

Urban Design, Design-Research Project


Photographs: Sam Lahoz, Asya Gorovits, ImagenSubliminal / Miguel de Guzman

Project Leads: Neeraj Bhatia, Ignacio G. Galan, and Karen Kubey
Todd Levon Brown, Lindsay A. Goldman, and Annie Ledbury

Project Team: Katharina Sauermann (Research assistant), Pablo Saiz del Rio and Vivian Rotie (models), Cesar Adrian Lopez (drawings), Yumeng Guo (Film), and David Peters, Black Liberation Walking Tour (Resident Liaison)

Aging is not a problem to be solved. The problem is the range of barriers—physical, social, financial, and cultural—that make it difficult to grow older with dignity and in community. Older people in the United States are often either isolated at home or subjected to institutionalized forms of care. Aging Against the Machine advocates for alternative housing and community development scenarios for aging that open up multiple options for care, improve physical access to the city, enhance resource sharing, and strengthen community ties.

In West Oakland, a culturally and racially diverse neighborhood, older residents are faced with precarious living conditions, insufficient public infrastructure and amenities, and limited caregiving options—effects of decades of disinvestment in social programs and the legacies of redlining. Despite these challenges, residents are working together to resist predatory real estate practices and advance the common good.

The area has long been a testing ground for civil rights movements and counterculture communities, producing alternative housing models, mutual aid networks, and initiatives—from historical Black Panthers programs to work inspired by Center for Independent Living resources for people with disabilities. Individual and collective initiatives continue to improve the neighborhood, including the community development work of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) and San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative (SPARC).

Aging Against the Machine builds upon this past and ongoing work. The project has been developed in solidarity with local residents, who contributed through a series of roundtables and conversations. Making visible, connecting, and expanding local initiatives and amplifying resident voices, the project manifests through proposals in a range of scales—from interior home renovations to collective land ownership models and intergenerational housing projects. Diverse spaces for commoning and networks of care at the scale of the building and the neighborhood are integrated with public social programs and mutual aid initiatives, ultimately contributing to an intersectional, community-based approach to aging.