OpenBag: Kaja Kuhl Explores Migrant Populations in New Urbania

Kaja Kühl founded youarethecity, a research, design and planning practice that is interested in creating dialogue about the urban environment.

Kaja Kuhl not pictured.

youarethecity collaborates with institutions, individuals and non-profit organizations to produce maps, diagrams, writings, designs, websites, events and exhibitions about urban spaces. A major theme is how migrant populations can come and shape their new sociopolitical environment or be totally crushed by it.  Kaja stopped by OpenBag to give us an overview of some of her projects.

+Spatial Practices of Migration explore global migration and urban planning in an effort to provide linkages between the global flow of human capital and the spatial consequences and challenges this mobility presents for local communities. What does migration really look like?

TOWARD A JUST METROPOLIS: From Crises to Possibilities explores how first ring suburbs (Edison, NJ and Brentwood, NY) have attarcted 1st or 2nd generation immigrant communities with strong conenctions to their native cultures.  Subsequently changing the feel of those “traditional” American communities into more ethnic communities, while exisitng in a traditional (Levittown) typology. Check out Edision, New Jersey. It has experienced growth and increase of wealth from the influx of Indian immigrant. The main commerical drag, Oak Tree Road,  is now a vibrant commercial center made entirely of ethnic shops. The flip side is Brentwood where statisics show a drop in education levels, incomes and increases in crime.  What other problems and opportunities are presented?

+ The Phytoremediation Field Guide, a project in collaboration with City Atlas, explores low cost methods to remediate polluted land . The aim is to clean contaminated soil on urban lots with a migrant population, in this case, plants.  Plants that eat toxins. The high cost of traditional remediation dooms the 11,000 acres of low value parcels in NYC to lay dormant, as the landlord avoids having to pay the costs of scraping the soil and replacing it.  But couldnt this land be turned over to good uses – such as community gardens or urban agriculture? And couldn’t it be cleaned up in the process?

Phytoremeditation offers a lower cost, and longer timeline to clean the soil.  Phytoremediation uses plants that absorbs the toxins from the ground, then plant is removed, toxins and all.  Basket willow, mugwort, indian mustard, sunflower, and ferns are just some of the examples of plants that absorb toxins and synthesize or absorb the toxic chemicals.  Its a potentially great solution and Kaja’s work is pushing the field forward.

Check out all of Kaja’s work at youarethecity