Working Thesis

It is no secret that urban centers around the world find their education systems in a state of economic and political upheaval. From first-world democracies to third-world dictatorships, the triple-threat of economic hardship, political ineptitude/corruption, and material/structural building deficiencies have rendered urban public education in a state of social and political crisis.

While some cities have been able to stabilize their public education system with national subsidies or private gifts and funding, dis-invested urban centers with an already spotted history of social and economic hardship are often at the brunt end of the totem pole when cities whose very economic and political survival is at stake make triage decisions about which schools to save, which districts in which they should re-invest, and which social and public policies to enact.

As the struggle between ever-greater suburbanization and re-urbanization of cities in the United States polarizes the nation into a culture of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, many public schools have closed either due to shifts toward charter- and private-school education or in response to changing urban and urban-fringe demographics.

This thesis explores the question of what cities and societies can do to redeem failing neighborhoods and urban cores through the adaptive re-use of abandoned public schools.  By analyzing the contextual, psychological, and political factors at play, this thesis proposes how one Philadelphia-area school can address contemporary urban challenges through its re-purposing into a new community asset.

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