The late Petar Perisic: community activist, architect, art critic, professor, and kind mentor initiated the PERI_scope project for art + architecture in 2007 as a public offering. The project was founded “as a means of reconciliation between global humanitarian concerns and fractured interests through transnational dialogues and cross-cultural exchanges.” Petar would exude a frustration for change and develop a critical practice working diligently to counteract the myriad of mechanisms tailoring disenfranchisement and dislocation. His design studio, willing interns, and contagious friendships would eventually form more than just a call to issues, but a call to action.
Initially, the project was comprised of four unfinished shipping containers stacked upon Perisic’s tiny lot. The rough spaces housed alternative discourses that engaged thinkers, professors, and students with each other, as well as including the greater community in larger dialogical happenings. The project space culminated in one large public event before Petar’s death: a street closure and gallery exhibition including such practitioners as Helen and Newton Harrison, Teddy Cruz, and Kyong Park in addition to local activists, designers and thinkers. The space became an energetic source of informally networked students pursuing an uncontested space, new ideas, and transformative conversations post-event. Enthusiasm was peaking through press coverage and attempts to formalize the project’s structure were in the midst.
During the early 2000’s when urban renewal was being planned and executed in San Diego’s East Village, partnerships between city and corporate entities speculated the potential growth of this area: one adjacent to the residential neighborhoods of Golden Hill and Barrio Logan and the commercial districts of the Imperial Ave. corridor and Petco Park stadium (est. 2005, current home of the San Diego Padres) as yielding high-end commercial and residential districts supplanting warehouses, light industry and vacant lots. From the stalled-out real estate market and economic downturn, the detritus of these plans opened up the potential for The Periscope Project to create a self-sustaining organization, based on a rotating group of core individuals that coordinate the exchange of the “brick and mortar” needs of an artist space that in turn, provides physical and aesthetic enhancement of that space fostering a sense of personal and collective investment. Enabled by the aborted gentrification project of the municipal and corporate “master plan” for the area, and harnessing the neglect from the ill effects of urban blight, it serves as a community-initiated rallying point that ameliorates this outcome by a cognizant will, rather than the typical narrative of neglect and monetary outcome.