The Settler Colonial City Project is a research collective focused on the collaborative production of knowledge about cities on Turtle Island/Abya Yala/The Americas as spaces of ongoing settler colonialism, Indigenous survivance, and struggles for decolonization.
The concept of “settler colonialism” has recently emerged as a name for a distinctive form of colonialism that develops in places where settlers permanently reside and assert sovereignty. While the settler colonial dimensions of American cities have been centered in contemporary urban activism, these dimensions have been, at best, only tentatively explored in contemporary architectural and urban studies. Investigating the settler colonial history and contemporaneity of cities on Turtle Island/Abya Yala/The Americas, we aim to foreground Indigenous knowledge of and politics around land, life, and collective futures, as well as settler colonialism as an unmarked structure for the distribution of land, possibilities of life, and imagination of those futures.

2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Chicago
American Indian Center, Chicago

—Mapping Chicagou/Chicago
—Decolonizing the Chicago Cultural Center
—The Petro-Biennial Complex
At the Border of Decolonization
—The Settler Colonial Present

—SCCP at Homes on Fields, Harvard GSD
—SCCP at Urgent Pedagogies
—SCCP at Architecture Beyond Capitalism
—SCCP in PIN–UP 30: Legacy
—SCCP in the Architect’s Newspaper
—SCCP at PPEH on the Petro-Biennial Complex
—Unsettled Lands: Architecture, History, Pedagogy
—Conversations on Care at MIT
—SCCP at Chicago Public School Grade 7
—RCA: Co-liberation
SCCP at Art Gallery of Alberta
—SCCP at LSA Magazine
—Press on the Chicago Architecture Biennial


2. Decolonizing the CCC

SCCP 2019

The Chicago Cultural Center has been justly celebrated as a “people’s palace”: “it was made for everyone and welcomes everyone,” wrote renowned Chicago journalist M. W. Newman.[1] This claim, echoed many times by many others, testifies to the Center’s enduring status as a public monument accessible to all. Given this status, the decision to locate the Chicago Architecture Biennial in the Chicago Cultural Center is entirely logical.

This building for the people of Chicago, however, was only made possible by the extraction of land, labor, and resources from other people, near and far, in colonialist contexts. If the Chicago Cultural Center is a palace for Chicago’s people, then it is also an archive of the exploitation of colonized people whose land, labor, and resources yielded this palace’s constituent parts. According to The People’s Palace: The Story of the Chicago Cultural Center, the building is “a celebration of the arts, education, Chicago, and the world.”[2] Attention to the building as an archive of colonialism suggests that it is also an inadvertent yet vivid memorial to colonial extraction, dispossession, and violence.

To focus attention on colonialism as the key condition of possibility for the creation of the Chicago Cultural Center is not at all to diminish the building’s beauty and grandeur or call into question its importance in Chicago’s urban history. Rather, it is to compliment and complicate this history by revealing the ways in which even this renowned achievement of U.S. culture is related to colonial exploitation and violence that this culture has ignored, forgotten or disavowed. In this context, the history of the Chicago Cultural Center offers a unique perspective on the enmeshment of late 19th-century U.S. culture in U.S. settler colonialism and Indigenous dispossession.

And yet, to inaugurate an effort to decolonize the Chicago Cultural Center is not only to attend to the building’s past and its relationship to colonialism, both in the United States and across the globe; this effort also can open up consideration of futures in which colonial pasts are remembered, addressed, and redressed. Decolonization is not a metaphor: this profound claim, made by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, also leads us towards an imagination of the Chicago Cultural Center as hosting new publics in new spaces in a new future, each defined by an awareness of Chicago’s colonial antecedents.[3]

Read and download this publication.

[1] M. W. Newman, “Introduction,” in Nancy Seeger, The People’s Palace: The Story of the Chicago Cultural Center(Chicago: Chicago Cultural Center, 1999), unpaged.

[2] Seeger, The People’s Palace: The Story of the Chicago Cultural Center, unpaged.

[3] Eve Tuck (Aleut) and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor” Decolonization Indigeneity  Education Society1(1), 2012: 1-40.