Village People: Mike Rogers Wants Public Housing to Be Remembered Right

Sunday, November 5, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Not everyone was born and raised in the suburbs. Some current suburbanites, like Maywood resident, former village trustee and retired architect Mike Rogers, were formed in the pressure cookers of the projects (which were more than the chaotic, crime-filled havens many people would reduce them to). Most of Chicago’s public housing projects have been torn down, but, thankfully, the memories of those places didn’t get razed with them.

Next year, a museum dedicated to those public housing projects, the National Public Housing Museum, will open in Chicago. Rogers, who sits on the museum’s board of directors, is among a group of residents who want the nation’s collective memory of public housing to be contoured by what the projects actually were and not what those who didn’t live in them mythologize them to be.

Currently, the museum is running a test exhibit of sorts ahead of its official opening at the end of 2018. “Housing As a Human Right: Social Construction,” will run at Archeworks, 625 N. Kingsbury in Chicago, through Jan. 8 as part of the Chicago Architectural Biennal. For more info, click here.

Three years ago, Rogers spoke about the forthcoming museum in a roughly 7-minute Vimeo clip. Rogers’ interview has been transcribed. To hear from other former public housing residents, watch the Vimeo video below:

I grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes, which to my knowledge was the largest public housing that existed in the United States. Sixteen floors, about 10 apartments per floor. That’s about 160 apartments in a building. Living in that dense of a setting, you develop a resiliency — to be able to emerge from that, to adapt to so many situations.

Now, I’m an architect and have certainly learned a lot about housing and the things that it takes to make a community vibrant.

On the need for the National Public Housing Museum

[The museum will be a] place where some of the myths are dispelled. And in fact there are some very real truths that may be even more intense than what rumor would have it. People can learn all that it was, all that it is today and all that it can be.

Actually saving one of these buildings to house the museum is important. Having a museum and apartments laid out the way they would have been in any particular era is going to be interesting to a lot of people. [It will explore] Who came from public housing? What were they able to do? What were some of their triumphs? How did they emerge?

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