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


Palace of the People


When the opportunity came for two professors to participate in the Chicago Architecture Biennial, they listened to elders from the Potawatomi Nation and found a way to reckon architecture’s relationship to the Indigenous peoples of Chicagou.

Looking out the east-facing windows of Yates Gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center, it’s easy to admire the wide territory the windows frame. A shoreline east of Michigan Avenue is still landfilled by rubble from the 1871 fire. Millennium Park, Grant Park, and Burnham Park have become urban landmarks on land that was once covered by the waters of Lake Michigan.

Taking a step back to better regard the view, you can more easily read the text painted across the windows in front of you: YOU ARE LOOKING AT UNCEDED LAND.

The words were part of an exhibit called the Settler Colonial City Project (SCCP) that ran from September 2019 to January 2020 as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The exhibit was created by History of Art Assistant Professor Ana María León and Andrew Herscher, associate professor of architecture in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and in history of art and Slavic languages and literatures.

When Herscher and León were first invited to present work at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial, they used the opportunity to start a conversation about the settler-colonial history of the city.

Read Gina Balibrera’s piece on SCCP here.