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.
Posts tagged with "African-Americans":
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.
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.