Stephen Fan is a designer and adjunct assistant professor in the Art History and Architectural Studies department at Connecticut College. His latest project is a traveling exhibition and book called Sub-Urbanisms: Casino Urbanization, Chinatowns and the Contested American Landscape. The project studies the ways that immigrant Chinese casino workers in Connecticut have converted single family homes into multi-family communities. In his project, we see how the social and aesthetic norms of American suburban living are transformed and re-interpreted to suit the cultural beliefs and lifestyles of immigrant workers. For example, in these homes, a patio space becomes an extra kitchen for communal cooking, extra walls are added to the living room to create new bedrooms, and front lawns are repurposed as gardens for growing Chinese produce.
Last week I got a chance to speak with Stephen Fan about his Sub-Urbanisms project which is now on view at the Museum for Chinese in America in New York. In our interview he describes the expansion of resort casinos in suburban Connecticut, some of the tensions between immigrant Chinese workers and their neighbors, and how Sub-Urbanisms invites all of us — immigrant or not — to reflect on the ways we use and inhabit private and public space.
Stephen with be speaking about Sub-Urbanisms at NYU on December 2nd.
Installation view from Sub-Urbanisms exhibition: A seemingly quotidian doorway holds symbolic meanings in Chinese culture.
This architectural plan overlays the traditional uses of the suburban floor plan with those of immigrant Chinese casino workers
Two doorways lead into a single room, an uncanny remant of the room’s former configuration as two bedrooms
Neighbor’s Trimmings are Repurposed into an Adirondack Craftsman-style Gate
Existing kitchen peninsula provides demarcation for inserting a bedroom wall into the open plan of kitchendiningliving area, which allowed the multi-tasking housewife to cook clean entertain and watch children
Suburban front lawn converted into a vegetable garden
Sheets are hung in bedroom doorway thresholds
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