99% Invisible is a consistently brilliant podcast. The recent episode Pagodas and Dragon Gates is particularly recommended, a look at the history and relationship between Chinese immigrants and San Francisco, focused around the city’s Chinatown.

Following on from the Great Fire, the city looked at how it could make “the perfect city”, and how this led to an unprecedented victory for the city’s Chinese people and the pursuit of “attractive foreignness”, “wrong in all the right ways” for the white middle class Americans. Architectural revenge. It’s fascinating stuff.

Without wanting to spoil the final stretch of the episode, there’s a poignant reminder of why Chinatown exists even today, especially given Chinatown as a popular tourist destination and San Francisco’s rep as the city an expensive city to live in.

Real people live there… It’s for poor people. It’s a portal of entry.

Well worth 24 minutes of your time. You can listen to the episode of 99% Invisible here.


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