By Eric Joyce & YsaBella Licciardi
Advanced Design | Sofia Krimizi and Kyriakos Kyriakou
In the Micropolitan America studio, led by Kyriakos Kyriakou and Sofia Krimizi, we were tasked with researching and visiting a Texas town, working towards developing a series of interventions that engaged with the town and its context. Quoting the studio description, "Students, working in defiance of a conventional academic approach will be asked to identify, analyze and ultimately comment and intervene on the nodes of the Texan town grid system.”For this project we visited Crystal City, a town of 7,000 in southwest Texas. Crystal City is located in an area of Texas called the Winter Garden Region, where winter crops are traditionally grown. Crystal City specifically has a rich history of spinach farming, and self-identifies as the spinach capital of the world regardless of their current spinach production and output. During World War II the town was the site of one of the largest Japanese Internment camps in the United States. In 2016, the town was subject to corruption of its local government when the mayor, city attorney, and two city council members were arrested by the FBI for their involvement with bribery and facilitation of illegal gambling in the town. In 2018, the town's largest employer, a Del Monte spinach processing plant closed. The history of Crystal City is inherently tied to global policy decisions and its position within a global food network. It was our task to work within the logic of the town to develop a series of interventions that challenged the town's identity and its engagement with modernity on the global scale. We built upon the town’s desire to put itself back on the map by proposing the development of high-speed internet in the region that would facilitate modern farming reliant on robots on data transfer. Though the internet is implemented for agricultural use, the project takes advantage of the technology to augment social and cultural experiences for the residents of Crystal City. The creation of a full-size race track for holographic horses along main street was spurred by a loophole in the Texas gambling laws, which allows gambling and betting to occur only in locations where a physical track exists. A public piazza was designed to livestream both the Pope’s Easter sermons and Cowboys games. A theater-less opera house projects videos on the building's facade, allowing patrons to circulate and mingle in the multi-story lobby throughout the duration of the performance. In response to the programs attracting tourists, a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the town was erected adjacent to city hall. The response of the city to develop these programs as a series of borrowed facades represents the ways that the town moved quickly to retain its autonomy and worth in an age of rapid modernization and globalization. While Crystal’s culture and history is aggressively local, it’s existence is the consequence of decisions made to benefit people who don’t know it exists, and the referential expression of the downtown represents their ambition to matter.