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Pagodas and Public Housing: Reexamining the “Projects” in San Francisco’s Chinatown: A talk by Amy Howard, February 11, 2010

Amy Howard is a professor of American Studies at the University of Richmond where she also directs the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. Prof. Howard will explore the history of the Ping Yuen public housing project in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Ping Yuen’s location, faux Chinese architectural design, and tenant population of Chinese Americans defy the stereotypical image of public housing and demonstrate the importance of community ties between project residents and the surrounding district. In 2014, her book More than Shelter: Activism and Community in San Fransisco Public Housing will be available from the University Press. Organized by the Design, Architecture, and Culture Group of Quadrant.

This talk is also available as an audio download (.mp3 – 41.6 MB).

Vertical ghettos, warehouses for the poor, crime dens-these are just a few of the ways scholars and journalists have described public housing in the past fifty years. Despite underfunding, mismanagement, and design flaws, public housing has also served as a community for some tenants. This presentation explores the history of the Ping Yuen public housing project in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The location, faux Chinese architectural design, and tenant population of Chinese Americans defies the stereotypical image of public housing. Welcomed by the district and praised locally, nationally, and internationally, Ping Yuen demonstrates the importance of community ties between project residents and the surrounding district. Similarly, the activism of the tenants challenges popular assumptions linking low-income populations with a lack of civic engagement. Their efforts resulted in better homes and improvements to the greater Chinatown community.

Question and Answer

See also Prof. Howard’s interview with The Bat of Minerva.

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