Posts tagged with "African-American History in Architecture":

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Robots and poetry come alive at Black Imagination conference

On a humid, gray morning at Princeton in a cubic glass pavilion in a robot arm–equipped garage, architect Mario Gooden sat on a stool silently while discordant sounds emanated from two televisions flanking him that played images, barely visible under the sun streaming in through the translucent walls. Us viewers sat on the benches wrapping the room. Gooden moved his stool and sat again. Finally, he began speaking. Reading from a black folder he talked about space-time, general relativity, and black holes, and about the Black Panthers, being age 13, being American, cinema’s star-crossed lovers, the “image-city,” being in the wake, or being the wake. So began the second day of Black Imagination Matters (BIM, so named to “scramble” the usual meaning of the acronym in architecture), a two day conference organized by V. Mitch McEwen, which was the culmination of a month of workshops this past March and April which included prototyping fictive technologies from W.E.B. Du Bois’s recently-discovered short story “The Princess Steel” as well as choreography workshops with drones. This past weekend's events showcased numerous architects, theorists, writers, and artists thinking about “architechnipoetics,” or the intersections between the ways we make our world in bricks and circuits and words and movement. “You’re composing images with your body,” Gooden incanted over syncopated, and at times, dissonant sounds. Eventually he fell back to silence, though the soundtrack continued. At the end of Gooden’s silence, McEwen asked for our own. The sky cleared. Then, a slightly more usual panel with Jenn Nkiru, beth coleman, and Jerome Haferd. coleman began by asking one of the most difficult questions of all: “What would it be to be free?” Many others joined in during the conversation. In response to discourse on the spiritual and celestial, author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, who presented later and then spoke in a panel alongside artist Mario Moore, offered that the many ways of telling and documenting time in various African traditions is something that, to some extent, can be known, and that the archive of such traditions, no matter how troubled, perhaps offers some grounding. The BIM Incubator was incredibly capacious for an event organized by an architecture school, bringing together poets, dancers, filmmakers, scholars, technologists, architects, and others who presented and celebrated inter- and antidisciplinary approaches to thinking about space, building, the future of the city, and the power of Blackness within it. Collaborative and open, BIM was modeled on Donna Haraway’s use of the notion of "sympoiesis," a process of collective making and knowledge production. Science fictions and science presents were blended throughout the event's discussions, most especially by Haferd, whose presentation on his projects in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park began with Ursula K. Le Guin; Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, and Sun Ra all got namedropped throughout the day. Saturday’s events took place between Princeton’s Architecture Laboratory and the robot-outfitted Embodied Computation Lab. Rhythm; the water; terrestrial freedom; celestial freedom; the archive; the body; time; telling time; telling times; (im)permanence; the traps and powers, the uses and uselessness of representation; visibility and its transgression (what is secrecy and sacredness in an era of mass surveillance and documentation?, probed Nkiru); the meaning of “practice”; the problem of authenticity— these all were themes that were returned to throughout the day. The convening of so many people itself was a sort of architectural act, making a space through a day of ongoing interactions of speech, sound, images, and movement. And there was so much movement, especially for a university workshop, not only in Gooden’s multimedia performance but also in poet Douglas Kearney’s listening workshop during which he permitted participants to be as still or move as much as they felt to the music and sound he had created. Amina Blacksher next presented her double Dutch robots, two robot coordinated robot arms, that with the help of a human being, became semi-automated jump ropes. After Blacksher went first, people took turns trying to show off their skills. Despite their supposed “precision,” the robots have difficulty being as accurate, synchronized, and quick as young Black girls who jump rope, showing the incredible complexity of embodied and kinetic intelligence that is so often devalued and overlooked. Also working with robots, Lauren Vasey demonstrated the early stages of robots that used facial recognition to behave differently based on people's features, raising questions about the built-in algorithmic biases in new AI technologies. Then came an especially energetic three-person dance piece choreographed by Olivier Tarpaga titled WHEN BIRDS REFUSED TO FLY. All this motion suggested that perhaps architecture doesn’t stand, but rather, and more accurately, buildings balance. The day ended with sunset as Kyp Malone played his guitar and sang, accompanied by projections he’d designed.

The University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning presents Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture: Mabel O. Wilson, “Memory/Race/Nation: The Politics of Modern Memorials”

Mabel O. Wilson is a Professor of Architecture, a co-director of Global Africa Lab (GAL) and the Associate Director at the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. She’s currently writing Building Race and Nation, a book about how slavery influenced early American civic architecture. She has authored Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016) and Negro Building: African Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (2012). She is a member of the design team for the Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers at the University of Virginia. She was recently one of twelve curators contributing to MoMA’s current exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Architecture.” She’s a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?) a collective that advocates for fair labor practices on building sites worldwide and whose work was most recently shown in a solo show at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning presents Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium: “Institutionalizing Equity: Radically Restructuring Opportunity in Detroit”

“And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Planning Meeting for the Poor People’s Conference Boldly responding to Dr. King’s call for systemic change, a network of public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders in Detroit is seeking to radically restructure pathways to opportunity in the city’s neighborhoods. Through a first-of-its-kind initiative, a collective of the Kresge Foundation, the Detroit Public Schools Community District, and the University of Michigan will establish a “Cradle-to-Career” campus at Marygrove College on Detroit's Northwest Side. The campus will integrate pre-kindergarten through graduate level programs in an effort to establish a pedagogy of rigor, equity, and social justice at the intersection of public education and neighborhood revitalization in Detroit. As Detroit’s resurgence pushes beyond the boundaries of greater Downtown, a daunting question remains: what about the schools? In conjunction with concentrated public and private investments in the city’s Fitzgerald neighborhood, the Cradle-to-Career initiative signifies the importance of comprehensive community development that acknowledges the place-based nature of residential segregation and systemic disinvestment. With the Kresge Foundation’s $50 million commitment—the largest investment in any single neighborhood in the nation— this partnership seeks to transform access to upward mobility, emphasizing the importance of beginning with Detroit’s youth in an effort to institutionalize equity from the ground up. Opening Remarks: Jonathan Massey, Dean of Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Michelle Bolofer, Executive Director at Century Forward Michelle Bolofer is a native Detroiter and former educator who grew up just north of the city's Fitzgerald neighborhood. She began her career in education, teaching high school on the south side of Chicago and then returning to the Metro Detroit area as a learning specialist and diversity and inclusion advocate. Prior to starting at Century Forward, Michelle worked as a consultant for a financial and business advisory firm. At Century Forward, Michelle is dedicated to working with a wide range of stakeholders to strengthen the existing environmental, economic and social infrastructure in the community. Michelle holds bachelor's degrees in English and Psychology from the University of Michigan and a a master’s degree in mathematics from Wayne State University. Ja’Net Defell, Lead Developer at IFF Ms. Defell is Lead Developer for IFF’s Michigan office. Reporting directly to the President of IFF’s Social Impact Accelerator group, Ms. Defell is responsible for managing all major IFF-driven real estate development initiatives in the Michigan market. Prior to her current role, Ms. Defell launched IFF’s real estate services group in Michigan and was a Senior Project Manager in IFF’s Chicago office. As Director of Real Estate Services, she managed a team of real estate professionals providing comprehensive consulting and development services to nonprofits in the Detroit metro area. Ms. Defell also managed several foundation-funded initiatives related to quality early childhood education (ECE) facilities and schools in Detroit. Specifically, Ms. Defell actively engaged in the development of the city-wide ECE initiative Hope Starts Here, a 10-year framework to reshape the ECE landscape in Detroit. Ms. Defell holds a Master of Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Michigan.  She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and LEED Green Associate. Elizabeth Moje, Dean, George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education, and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture, University of Michigan School of Education Elizabeth Birr Moje is dean, George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education, and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture in the School of Education. Moje teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in secondary and adolescent literacy, cultural theory, and research methods and was awarded the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize with colleague, Bob Bain, in 2010. A former high school history and biology teacher, Moje’s research examines young people’s navigations of culture, identity, and literacy learning in and out of school in Detroit, Michigan. Moje has published 5 books and numerous articles, and her research projects have been or are currently funded by the National Institutes of Health/NICHD, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, National Science Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, Spencer Foundation, International Reading Association, and the National Academy of Education. Together with several partners, including the Detroit Public Schools Community District and the Kresge Foundation, Moje just announced the School of Education’s participation in the development of a cradle-to-career education system in the Live6 neighborhood of Detroit, on the Marygrove College campus. Denise Powell, Assistant Professor, Marygrove College Dr. Powell is the Assistant Professor of  Early Childhood Education at Marygrove College, and has over 40 years of experience in public education. She has taught several courses, including "Professional Partnerships in Early Childhood Education - Child, Family, School, and Community" and "Designing and Managing Effective Learning Environments" that address the impact of community context on children's early learning and lifetime success. Dr. Powell holds a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary and Special Education from Michigan State University, a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from Marygrove College, and a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education from Oakland University. She also holds State of Michigan endorsements in the areas of Learning Disabilities and Early Childhood Special Education. She has presented at local, state, and national conferences. Moderator: Harley Etienne, Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Taubman College and author of Pushing Back the Gates: Neighborhood Perspectives on University-Driven Revitalization in West Philadelphia.  Sponsored by the U-M Office of Academic and Multicultural Initiatives
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Remembering the legacy of pioneering architect David Singler

The David C. Singler Foundation was established in 1994 to promote career development and offer internships to students of color entering the architecture and design professions. The New York City–based foundation recognized that African Americans were underrepresented in the design fields and set out to address the impediments to entrance into the profession. The foundation was named after David C. Singler, an African-American architect whose own life represented these challenges—and the attempts to overcome them—that face African Americans hoping to become architects in this country. Singler, a life-long resident of Harlem, attended City College of New York (CCNY) and earned a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia before beginning a 30-year career as an architect. In 1965 Singler took the New York State licensing exam but failed the design portion of the test. Both Lewis Kwit and Jim Howie, who were colleagues of Singler and helped establish the foundation and served on its board, highlighted the unfairness of the New York system and how it systematically kept African Americans out of the profession. In New York, applicants for licensure were required to appear in person before the board and could be turned down for practice. Singler, like many young designers in New York, took the Connecticut test, which many believed was fairer and which, through reciprocity, allows one to be licensed in New York State. By all accounts, Singler was extremely talented as a designer, manager, and businessman in the profession, but because of prejudice towards African Americans, had to take lesser jobs than his skills would allow. He nevertheless had a long, successful career, beginning in the 1970s when he worked first for Western Electric and then for Nigerian entrepreneur T.I. Nwamu, planning and designing new towns in the plateaus of Nigeria. In the early 1980s he co-founded the company Construction Support Services with Jim Howie, who said that Singler was excellent at finding and completing work for their corporate clients. But in a meeting in 1992, Singler suddenly had a heart attack or stroke (no autopsy was performed) and died. The architect had made such a profound impression on his colleagues that, in 1993, several of them decided to create the foundation to honor his memory. Its mission was to help young design students of color with a mentorship program and a mechanism for placing the best students in summer internships in major offices. The foundation went to the Pratt Institute and asked Dean Sidney Shelov to forward the best African-American students to receive the internships. They then asked important professionals like Juliet Lamb, head of interiors at HOK, if she would take interns. She did, as did Perkins Eastman, Gensler, Taylor Clark Architects, and SOM. Architects Andy Jordan and Shaneekua (née Bent) Henry both received internships in this way and believed it helped them advance in their careers. Jordan, who now owns his own firm, AMPED Architecture, said that though he had a strong background as a student at Art and Design High School and did well as a student at Pratt, this experience as an intern at HOK opened up a whole new world of experiences for him. Furthermore, Juliet Lamb served as a lifelong role model and mentor, and the internship gave him the “psychological edge” to advance in the profession. Henry, an intern at SOM for three years, likewise praised the Foundation for helping her get an advantage in the workplace while she was a student at Pratt from 1995 to 1998. The Singler program lasted about six years, or until the foundation believed they were no longer getting qualified students for these important positions from Pratt. The program, which received support from Morgan Freeman, jazzman Chico Hamilton, and Mayor David Dinkins, sent many young African-American students into the workplace, including: Henry, Julio Colon, Carlyle Fraser, Jr., Celeste Lane, Lashford Lowe, Steven Morales, Damian Ponton, Joseph Warner, and Brian West. Architectural internships today are often criticized for being exploitative of young workers, but this is an example of how this foundation used this system to give people a push forward into a career.
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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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VOA to design artist housing for Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood

Chicago's VOA Associates will design artist housing and community studio space in the Pullman, community group Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives announced last week, signaling another step in the resurgent neighborhood on the city's far South Side. President Barack Obama in February named the area a national monument, citing its historic significance as a formative environment for American industrial might and organized labor, including the country's first African-American union. In spite of economic decline over much of the 20th century, the neighborhood retains a handsome collection of Romanesque and Queen Anne–style architecture, as well as a strong sense of community. The new project, dubbed Pullman Artspace, includes 45 artist apartments at 111th Street and Langley Avenue near the new McDonough + Partners-designed Method manufacturing plant, a forthcoming community center, and the Walmart-anchored shopping plaza that in 2010 became the first major development there in years. Artspace is a nonprofit, national chain of art galleries based in Minneapolis. VOA's involvement is the latest news in a long process of revitalization. Earlier this year The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and AIA Chicago mulled the changing neighborhood's future in a design charrette titled "Position Pullman." Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and others have been working for years to turn around the neighborhood, successfully rehabbing dozens of historic row-homes and inviting attention—along with new investment—to the area.
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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.”