Dolores Hayden, M.Arch from Harvard University, is Professor of Architecture and American Studies at Yale University. She is the president of the Urban History Association; a former Guggenheim, Rockefeller, NEH, NEA, and ACLS/Ford fellow; has taught at MIT, Berkeley, and UCLA; was founder and president of The Power of Place in Los Angeles from 1984 to 1991; and has published six award-winning books about the character and design of American cities.
Hayden’s is a feminist architectural historian’s perspective, brought beautifully and thoughtfully to bear in The Power of Place. In it she examines the terrain of urban landscape theory and history, as well as tells her story of negotiating the terrain of urban practice, sharing various projects undertaken by The Power of Place non-profits arts and humanities group. She believes we must claim the “entire urban cultural landscape as an important part of American history” (111) and that urban preservation “must emphasize public processes and public memory” (ibid).
“It all comes back to community process” (75).
She asserts that cultural geography, architecture, and social history intersect to create the history of cultural landscape, the production of space and human patterns — cultural identity, social history, and urban design are inextricably linked. Hayden follows Lefebvre (1991), who connected the sense of place felt in the cultural landscape (e.g. biological reproduction [body], reproduction of the labor force [housing], and reproduction of social relations [public space of the city] to the political economy. More, the territorial histories are based concretely and critically in race and gender, as space shapes and constrains social reproduction.
Place is especially important because studying it encourages a reclamation of history and recovery of memory. She advocates for architectural preservation, vernacular especially, because those sites are often where conflicts over power were undertaken, “counter-space.” In addition, she argues for environmental protection and landscape preservation, and public art for public memory. Relevant public art engages the historical and material, and has a “new kind of relationship to the people whose history is being represented” (76).
Hayden speaks of the invisible Angelenos, and the workers’ landscapes and livelihoods. She recounts the stories of and The Power of Place projects for: Biddy Mason, the Latina union leaders of the Embassy Auditorium, and Little Tokyo on First Street. She believes in the power of “shared authority” (Michael Frisch, 1990), and explains the rewards for undertaking the difficult tasks of collaboration for historical preservation:
- urban history is the richest source for historical study
- attaching history into city design is quite inexpensive
- designation of incredibly important places obviates any need to separate out constituencies into academic categories — all are welcome.
“Any historic place, once protected and interpreted, potentially has the power to serve as a lookout for future generations who are trying to plan the future, having come to terms with the past” (247).