Virtues of Proximity

The Coordinated Spatial Action of Community Land Trusts


  • Gabriel Cuéllar University of Minnesota
  • Athar Mufreh



Whereas real estate-driven development tends to invest in singular and concentrated sites, resident-led development thrives in scattered patterns. The properties of community land trusts (CLTs) — one of the foremost models of resident-led development whereby land is claimed and used by a community without landlords — are almost always dispersed in a context where every property line is a potential obstacle to development. What these populist landholdings lack in terms of economy of scale is compensated for by virtues of proximity. This article examines the historic phenomena of property scattering and spatial patterns of CLTs across the US, articulating the possibility of designing patterns of scattered landholdings that support the values of resident-led development.

Author Biographies

Gabriel Cuéllar, University of Minnesota

Gabriel Andrés Cuéllar is an architect and educator. Gabriel completed studies in architecture and urban design at Carnegie-Mellon University and the Berlage Institute. Prior to establishing Cadaster, a design practice with Athar Mufreh, he worked in the offices of Gramazio & Kohler, Philippe Rahm, Anne Holtrop, CDR Studio and Enter Architecture. Gabriel has contributed to exhibitions in the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the House of World Cultures, The New School Parsons School of Design, and the University of Michigan. Gabriel is a member of NOMA, The Architecture Lobby, and AIA. He was the Oberdick Fellow at the University of Michigan in 2018–19 and is currently an Assistant Professor-in-Practice at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. His interests include the spatial implications of real property and architecture’s role in mediating claims to land.

Athar Mufreh

Athar Mufreh is a designer, urbanist, and educator. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from Birzeit University and Master of Integrated Urbanism and Sustainable Design from Stuttgart University and Ain Shams University. Athar worked as a designer and researcher at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, and the Bethlehem Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation. In 2018–19 she was a lecturer at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. At present, Athar is a lecturer at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. She is focused on multi-generational housing, kinship relations mediated by ecology, and emerging modes of citizenship.


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