Still Life

In 2017, my interests in architecture began to shift towards real estate activism, housing justice, land sovereignty, and drop-in centers / third spaces. I began self-directed research and conversations with individuals and organizations practicing in the field.

In 2020, I named this project “Still Life Extension”, in loving reference to my best friend Katherine Hreib’s “Still Life Farm” project at the time. Manifesting a near-future land(back) project with enough escape velocity to catapult out of the renter class into an exurban homestead, where the site of life is the site of work. Dodging the Whiteness, Escape, and reproduced settler-colonial harm of intentional communities, communes, eco-villages. Inspirations at the time included the Strange Foundation and Activation Residency, and the book “Radical Suburbs”. I wrote “Love Letter to Noncompliance” (Avery Shorts) and House of Commons (PIN-UP Magazine), which explored underground approaches to spatial justice and alternative models of property ownership.

In 2021, I commissioned a wider database of case studies (see - Still Life Extension) with research assistance from Alexander Kohel, the Manifesting Mutuals conversation club, and Jessa Carta of Land Land (whom I’ve been meeting with regularly since). That year, I moved away from South Carolina after two years, and became nomadic in order to test my research in the field, primarily in the Mohawk Valley of New York.

In 2022, I presented Cooperative Land Projects” with Manifesting Mutuals for Woodbine’s Building Solidarities conference in Ridgewood. I made a site visit to Common Place Land Trust, opened conversations with the Kanatsiohareke community and Sustainable Economies Law Center around legal apparatus of landback, and hosted free DJ and electronic music youth workshops in Fort Plain, Little Falls, and Redmond. I taught a seminar at Kent State University titled “Noncompliance: Activist Design Approaches”, which pushed forward this research. I also began a slow return to Hawai’i Island (after 3 years away), to explore this place as a potential base for this work.

In 2023, myself and three friends formed a group called Mudhole, dedicating several meetings and two site visits to exploring the prospect of co-purchasing a property in the foothills of the Catskills, with the idea of founding a housing cooperative with growth potential. I also published “9 Profiles: Real Estate Activists”, a condensed version of my findings over the years.

In 2024, after two years of intentional visits to Hawai’i grounded in volunteering, teaching, and community-building, Still Life has found fertile soil, rooted in local movements of aloha ʻāina, Hawaiian sovereignty, and housing justice. I am currently in the research ( - hawai’i ʻāina) and community building phase, meeting with aligned individuals and organizations with the goal of joining or establishing a permanent organization that can carry out this kuleana. 

Image credits: Crip Camp, Strange Foundation, Azule, Mad Duck Pond, Activation Residency (via Outlier Inn), Arcosanti, POWRPLNT