Activist Estates: A Radical History of Property in Loisaida

Exhibition now extended through January 31 , 2020.

Visiting hours: Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (EST) and by appointment.

Loisaida Inc. Center – 710 E 9th Street | NY, NY 10009

For special exhibition tours and viewings please contact us or email:

An exploration of buildings and properties in the Lower East Side that are celebrated sites of resistance.


Activist Estates: A Radical History of Property in Loisaida is an exploration of buildings and properties in the Lower East Side that are celebrated sites of resistance. This exhibition curated and designed by the Architect Nandini Bagchee in partnership with Loisaida Center visualizes the narratives of a historic space-based activism via drawings, maps, models, photographs, manuals and posters.

An examination of participatory practices in New York City reveals the critical relationship between real estate, architecture and activism. In cities across the country, in the 1970’s, the devaluation of property created a vacuum of ownership. Vacant lots, storefronts, schoolhouses, factories and abandoned tenements in New York City became havens for experimental, communal practices. Amid current debates about urban justice and access to the city, Activist Estates critically re-evaluates the place of counter-institutional practices that shape the landscape of New York City.

The exhibit is an expansion of some of the themes explored in Nandini Bagchee’s book Counter Institution: Activist Estates of the Lower East Side..

In a three-part strategy which occupies the lobby, the corridor and the gallery at the Loisaida Inc. Center, the Activist Estates are viewed from three different vantage points.The “View from Above” in the entry lobby presents the neighborhood as a historic bastion of immigration, diversity and creative resistance. The corridors map out the “View from the Street” which is a documentation of street actions and the pageantry of occupations that brings visibility to social movements. The different types of activism- pacifist, environmental, anarchic intertwine the collective histories of grass roots activism along a color-coded timeline. In the “View from Within” the main exhibition room is thematically organized to provide a glimpse into the interiority of the movement spaces where generations of activists have collaborated and debated concerns to shape the resistance.

Whether broadcasting against government misinformation, stuffing envelopes, planning rallies, hosting performances or screening films, the activities that take place within the walls of these “Activist Estates” relies on an ethic of solidarity and DIY voluntarism.

At the center of this community room/gallery are four red utility carts refurbished with perforated metal display panels and a sectional map/model of four different Lower East Side catchment areas. These carts along with the large map in the lobby allow for visitor participation. The map locates other selected “Activist Institutions” and asks visitors to add new sites or additional insights to the existing information. Each of the four carts is co-curated by different organizers that have each upload artifacts to communicate and share information about current campaigns for the contested terrain of the city.

The cart is a vessel and a tool to disseminate the fleeting and sometimes invisible histories of counter-institutional practices. It is an open-ended invitation to those who wish to engage and partake in the project to bring the narrative of spatial practices together and create a synergetic environment of exchange within Loisaida Center.

CART 1: Environment, Art and Community
Curated by Loisaida Center
Model of 9th street spine with El Bohio building and Christadora buildings.

CART 2: Community and Housing
Curated by Becky Amato from the Urban Democracy Lab, NYU on behalf of the Cooper Square MHA and Mary House.
Model of 4th Street with buildings owned by the Cooper Square MHA and the Mary House.

CART 3: Cultural Survival
Curated by Miguel Trelles on behalf of The Clemente and Borimix Festival
Model of Rivington Street with the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center building.

CART 4: Art and Protest Against Displacement
Curated by Minju Bae and Linda Liu on behalf of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities and the  Chinatown Art Brigade.
Model of two Bridges Neighborhood.

The exhibit features the intimate portraits of pacifists by David Mc Reynolds, the Nuyoricans by Marlis Momber, and punk/ performers by Chris Boarts. Ed Hedemann and Marlis Momber’s archival documentation of the movements through time and Jade Doskow’s series of interior architectural photographs of the Peace Pentagon and ABC No Rio capture the domestic anarchy of two beloved counter-institutions. The work of collectives such as CHARAS, PAD/D, REPOhistory, Paper Tiger TV, COLAB and other dedicated artists/organizers is highlighted within the show. It is a celebration of the posters, banners, buttons, newsletters and films that advocate for social justice, housing, community and the environment within the Lower East Side. All these bits and pieces of movement histories are pieced together in the cartographic drawings of the curator/designer Nandini Bagchee.


Nandini Bagchee is an Associate Professor at the Spitzer School of Architecture at CCNY (CUNY) and principal of Bagchee Architects. Her research focuses on activism in architecture and the ways in which ground-up collaborative building practices provide an alternative medium for the creation of public space. Nandini is the author of a recently published book on the history of activist-run spaces in New York City entitled, Counter Institution: Activist Estates of the Lower East Side (Fordham University Press, 2018). Her built-work and writing has been published in the New York Times, Interiors Now, Urban Omnibus and the Journal of Architectural Education. She is the recipient of grants from the Graham Foundation, New York State Council of the Arts and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Her research-based design work involves an ongoing engagement with politically active organizations such as the South Bronx Unite, Sites of Conscience, Interference Archive, Cooperation Jackson and the Loisaida Inc. Center.

Relevant programming and past events:

Activist Estates: A Radical History of Property in Loisaida

Exhibition Open: Monday – Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and by appointment.

Exhibition dates: October 12 – January 31, 2020.

“Opinions like those expressed while in a panel, presentation, performance or through artwork are expressed by the author in their personal capacity and are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Loisaida Inc., its affiliates or staff.”