Posts tagged with "african-american":

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John S. Chase, trailblazing Texas architect, celebrated in two exhibits

John Saunders Chase, FAIA (1925–2012) was a Houston architect who realized a large body of work in the city, throughout the state of Texas, and around the United States. At its peak, his office had nearly fifty employees in four cities: Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Chase, an African American in a profession that has struggled with diversity and discrimination, achieved many historic firsts during his career. His life, as seen via his personal and professional achievements and the work of younger architects who passed through his office, was on display this spring in Chasing Perfection, a two-part exhibit produced by the Houston Public Library. Born in Maryland, John Chase moved to Austin in the late 1940s after receiving initial architectural training at the Hampton Institute in Virginia and serving in the Army during World War II. He applied to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) School of Architecture after the Sweatt v. Painter Supreme Court decision in 1950 that fought the “separate but equal” policy of racial segregation in college education. After graduation, no firm would hire him, so Chase established his own practice in Houston, and in 1956, he became the first African American architect to be licensed in the state. Throughout his career, he designed churches, homes, union halls, libraries, high schools, fire stations, and institutional buildings, including much of the campus of Texas Southern University. He was a founding member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 1970 and received his AIA Fellowship award in 1977. In 1980, Chase was selected by President Jimmy Carter to join the Commission of Fine Arts and was part of that committee during the contentious process of realizing Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. He was the first African American to serve on this commission. During the 1980s, his office was part of a consortium of local architects responsible for the design of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Chase is survived by his wife, Drucie, and their three adult children. According to Danielle Wilson, the exhibition’s curator, discussions about the show began in 2009 with Chase’s participation. At that time, his architectural archive had been donated to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center’s Architectural Archives, and his personal archive was in the process of being donated to the African American Library at the Gregory School. Wilson’s father grew up next to the Chases in Houston, so she was familiar with the family and immediately knew that she wanted to work on a show about the architect when she joined the staff of the Gregory School. After Chase passed away, it took a number of years to assemble the parts for this successful exhibition. On the second floor of the Julia Ideson Building in downtown Houston, letters, photographs, and artifacts were installed alongside photographs of built work, architectural drawings, and hand-drawn renderings. Seen together, Chase’s life and work could be understood through the staging of these personal and professional artifacts, sequenced together to tell a holistic life story. Wilson said, “When I think about architects and their work, everything goes all together. I think it’s great when you have that context of both. I think it makes works more powerful.” The room also included a large–scale model and drawings of the George R. Brown Convention Center mounted on a drafting table. At the Gregory School, the work of four architects who worked with Chase is on display and demonstrates the effect his mentorship had on a subsequent generation of African American architects. “When I was focusing on his work and life, it was hard to tell a comprehensive narrative without talking about these men,” Wilson said. Daniel Bankhead, AIA; Darrell Fitzgerald, FAIA; James Harrison; and Wilbert Taylor all worked at various points with Chase and went on to become professional and community leaders themselves. In February, the library hosted a discussion between these architects, in addition to a conversation with Mrs. Chase and her children. Chasing Perfection offered a powerful portrait of a 20th–century American architect through Chase’s life, work, and impact on the profession. Wall text for the exhibit was excerpted from a manuscript titled The Life and Work of Architect John Saunders Chase: You Can Do More from the Inside, by architectural historian Dr. Wesley Henderson with Andrea Lazar. Both worked for two years to conduct interviews with family members, colleagues, and former employees of John Chase. Henderson and Lazar believe that Chase’s life story deserves to be more widely known since very few biographies of successful black architects have been published. They were very pleased to be able to contribute to the show at the Houston Public Library. Chase’s legacy continues to be explored and celebrated. In February, UT Austin announced that it had purchased one of Chase’s early buildings in east Austin to renovate and use as a community engagement center. While Chasing Perfection closed in early June, Wilson says there are already discussions underway about touring the show at other institutions. She also said a brochure from Chase’s firm and drawing supplies from his office were recently acquired by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. Wilson added that she and Mrs. Chase are “going to go through his personal archives to see what materials might go to the NMAAHC, and the rest will be housed at the African American Library at the Gregory School.” Chase is an important figure among the talented architects who practiced in Houston during the second half of the 20th century. His career opened the door for many architects of color to enter the profession, and he serves as an example of the countless ways in which an architect can effect positive change in the world.

Chasing Perfection: The Work and Life of Architect John S. Chase Houston Public Library Julia Ideson Building

Chasing Perfection: The Legacy of Architect John S. Chase The African American Library at the Gregory School

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NYC Landmarks Commission designates a new historic district in central Harlem

On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated a stretch of Harlem between Lenox and Seventh Avenues the “Central Harlem –West 130th -132nd Streets Historic District.” The historic district consists of approximately 164 buildings, most of which are row houses, which were cheap and fast to build in the late 19th century. The houses, most of which are intact, reflect the late 19th century preference for the neo-Grec, Queen Anne, Renaissance Revival and Romanesque Revival styles, featuring uniform materials of brick and brownstone. Some of the district’s most prolific architects include Cleverdon & Putzel, William H. Boylan, Anthony McReynolds, and Charles Baxter. The district consists largely of residential buildings, but they serve as much more. The LPC notes that as many Harlem residents during the Harlem Renaissance and through the 1960s could not afford to make clubs and institutional buildings, they adapted many of their homes to accommodate “a variety of cultural, religious, civic and political uses.” Thus, besides the built architecture, the historic district designation is intended to mark the social and cultural history of the area and its many social institutions. In the late 19th century, Central Harlem was predominantly occupied by a middle and upper middle class population, who viewed Harlem as a new suburb of New York City. In the first decade of the 20th century, quickly following the collapse of real estate market in Harlem, African American realty companies started to sell houses to African American families. By 1930, African Americans made up 70 percent of Harlem’s population, compared to around 10 percent in 1910. The district has since flourished as one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in New York City. Besides arts and culture, it has also been the base of the civil rights movement during the 20th century, with landmarks such as the National Headquarters for the March on Washington. These and other histories can be found on the interactive story map that the LPC has launched alongside the designation. Users can explore the history and culture of the district alongside archival images, photos, videos and 3D maps here.
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Obama Library proposal calls for an enormous park over Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway

A lush green park reaching over the Eisenhower Expressway. Bus rapid transit connections. Economic invigoration for the North Lawndale neighborhood. Those are some of the visions outlined in the University of Illinois Chicago's proposal for the Barack Obama Presidential Library, made public Monday. AECOM, Isaiah International and Morphosis consulted on the proposal, which splits its ambitious plans for the nation's 14th presidential library across two sites: a vacant 23-acre city-owned site in North Lawndale and an institute on UIC's Near West Side campus. The Lawndale plot is bound by Roosevelt Road and Kostner, Kildare, and Fifth avenues. Among the benefits the authors say their proposal will bring to the community—predominantly Black, with nearly half of residents below the poverty line—are a linear park and bikeway, as well as commercial development in the surrounding area. UIC's 85-page proposal invokes a history of progressive politics and urban planning in Chicago, from Daniel Burnham and Jane Addams to Walter Netsch and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The plan calls for establishing a social service center named the O-4 Institute (the O's stand for “one world, opportunity, optimism and outreach) on UIC's existing campus, which would serve as a hub for academic research, fellowships and activities for university students and community members alike. In a video outlining the proposal, UIC positions its plan as a continuation of Obama's social service, which began when he worked as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. “UIC offers an expansive plan that prioritizes social and economic equity. This is a rare and extraordinary opportunity: a presidential library and museum reimagined, to not only celebrate history but to make it; to preserve Barack Obama’s legacy and expand it,” reads text accompanying the proposal video. UIC's proposal is up against plans from Columbia University and Hawaii University. Closer to home it's competing with the University of Chicago. UIC's hometown rival, where Obama taught law, submitted plans for three possible sites in and around South Side parks. You can download the full proposal here.
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Perkins + Will folds in Freelon Group Architects, expands North Carolina practice

  Design giant Perkins + Will has swallowed up Freelon Group Architects, one of the country’s most prominent African American–led firms. The firms announced Tuesday that North Carolina–based Phil Freelon will help lead Perkins + Will’s design efforts in the region and globally. The local head of the combined practice will have nearly 80 professionals, creating one of the largest architecture and design practices in North Carolina. Freelon started his firm in 1990, growing it from a single-person practice to 45 employees. P+W will combine 18 staff members at an office in Morrisville, NC with Freelon’s office in Durham, as well as a 15-person staff in Charlotte. Freelon Group is best known for its work on the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, which they designed with David Adjaye, Davis Brody Bond Aedas, and SmithGroup. The museum is targeting a 2015 opening. Freelon’s firm also worked on the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore, and the Atlanta Center for Civil and Human Rights. “There’s a sense that we’re contributing to society as a whole, and making people’s lives better through our buildings in my firm, and Perkins + Will—there’s a lot of public sector clients there,” Freelon told the Durham Herald-Sun’s Laura Oleniacz. “We feel good about creating design excellence and beauty for everyday people.”