"Points of View: Architecture and Migration" A Presentation by Dr. Rugare.
On Thursday night we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) on Euclid Avenue to attend a presentation by Dr. Steve Rugare, Associate Professor of Architecture at Kent State University, titled "Points of View: Architecture and Migration" which examined how "immigrant communities have adapted to the built environments" that they encountered in their new homes in the United States. Dr. Rugare talked about how many immigrants have arrived here with only "the clothes on their backs" and have had to take advantage of whatever housing was available to them because discrimination and lack of financial resources limited their power of choice. Subsequently, he showed us a slide of one of the first Chinatowns which was distinguished only by lanterns hanging outside of buildings. Eventually, certain places took on a more ethnic flavor of architecture but this was largely due to what the tourists expected of the place (i.e. San Francisco's Chinatown and the Red Chimney Restaurant in Slavic Village).
Instead, immigrants relied on their own networks and memories of their home countries to maintain their heritage. Most of the time, whatever money they had to invest in recreating the architecture of their homelands was directed to religious institutions like the First Hungarian Lutheran Church in Cleveland.
During the Q and A, Dr. Rugare was asked about the impact of the automobile on ethnic housing patterns and he said that it mattered quite a bit because people were able to travel more easily and were thus able move to the suburbs where they were less inclined to live in ethnic clusters. Of course, from a business standpoint, we still have places like Little Italy and Asia Town Center but on a personal basis (and we have found this to be true) immigrants tend to get together at various meeting places like clubs, churches, and restaurants rather than live in relatively close proximity to each other.
Dr. Rugare was also asked about architectural projects created to assist refugees in the camps where they have to live. He said he would like to see more work done to create a positive "public realm" in these camps referring to places where people go to connect with each other and children go to play. He went on to say that this was very important because if small children have to live in these camps for four years, they spend a good part of their childhood there.
We got to speak to Dr. Rugare for a moment when we first arrived and found him charming. He told us that a group that he was working with once used the services of Margaret W. Wong and Associates to help an employee who had a problem with his immigration status.
We also visited with Ms. Deidre McPherson, Curator of Public Programs for MOCA, who knows Ms. Margaret W. Wong due to her service on the MOCA board.
We gave our contact information to a couple whose daughter is an adjunct professor of music at a local colleges and knows several international students who might wish to remain in the United States after they graduate.
Sitting next to us was a former student of Dr. Rugare named Teodora who immigrated to the United States from Macedonia when she was four years old along with her parents. We talked for a moment about the transition that her family had to make and she was more than agreeable to be interviewed for "I, Foreign Born."