From the Notebook of Teddy Cruz
As architectural activists go, Teddy Cruz is a firebrand. His passionate sermons begin with the observation of injustices along the Tijuana–San Diego border, but in his broad geopolitical gloss, urban inequality divides along a global north-south axis associated with immigration between richer and poorer countries. His presentations could be boiled down to a protest against the imbalances created by the restricted flow of labor between nations. But the spirit of his message is revolutionary rather than reformist, calling for a restructuring of the entire social, political, and economic order instead of better immigration laws. “As architects, we could be designing the ways in which institutions, jurisdictions, bottom-up grassroots organizations, and top-down political power can be redeployed,” Cruz says.
But if Cruz’s rhetoric is reminiscent of Latin-American liberation theology, the pragmatic side of his work is local, small-scale, and specific. Estudio Cruz’s ongoing pilot project for an immigrant neighborhood in San Diego confronts common constraints on affordability. The standard lot size in the San Ysidro neighborhood requires a scale of building that exceeds the ability of poorer residents to get loans, so Cruz has been advocating revised zoning guidelines and working with community-based nonprofits to rethink lending practices. “I can design the coolest-looking building, or I can engage the fact that the minimum parcel size is huge and the economic and political logics have been inflated to benefit privatization,” he says. “Without advancing housing and lending policies and subsidies, we cannot advance design.”