Posts tagged with "Black in Design":

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GSD’s Black in Design conference discusses design as resistance

This weekend, architects, artists, educators, activists, scholars and students convened at Harvard for the second Black in Design Conference: Designing Resistance, Building Coalitions, an event that recognizes the African diaspora's contributions to the built environment and discusses how designers can dismantle institutional barriers within the profession. The Harvard University Graduate School of Design's African American Student Union (GSD AASU) organizes the three-day event, which was last held in 2015. This year, the conference engaged design in its broadest sense to discuss design as resistance and explore how the designers' activism, particularly the work of black and brown designers, is building "more radical and equitable futures." At the 2015 conference, architect and planner Justin Garrett Moore highlighted a speaker's comment to underscore how Black in Design creates a necessary space for dialogue and debate: "[Black] designers do not yet have the weight of influence seen in other creative fields, such as music or fashion, that shape and inform our larger culture and everyday lives." On Friday, attendees convened to hear LAXArt Executive Director Hamza Walker open the conference with his keynote speech, while Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson closed the event with a Sunday keynote that delved into design's role in combatting injustice. T he Architect's Newspaper (AN) spoke with conference participants Daphne Lundi and Emma Osore of BlackSpace, a New York City group for emerging black professionals whose work shapes the built environment. This weekend, the group hosted a lunch and discussion around the conservation and preservation of black spaces, where participants from all stages of their careers networked and shared resources. Both attended Black in Design in 2015, but this time, their group came as a collective, 12 strong. "The conference was still a space for us to learn about black practice in design," Lundi said, "but this year it was a more intentional space for black designers to figure out how to incorporate social justice into their practice and move it to the forefront of their work." For Lundi, an urban planner at the NYC Department of City Planning, and Osore, the most energizing presentations were by landscape architect Walter Hood and Diane Jones Allen, the program director for Landscape Architecture, the College of Architecture Planning, and Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington, who spoke about her work in New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward. "One thing that's fulfilling about the Black in Design conference is its focus on people," said Osore, an artist and program coordinator at the Arts & Business Council of New York. "The conference really elevated black creators across the spectrum of the arts." She said artist and writer Brandon Breaux's session as well as poet Roger Bonair-Agard's talks were particularly interesting. Hosting the conference at an institution like Harvard is important to centering and revering black people and stories, a point Osore relayed from a BlackSpace lunch participant. To that end, the GSD's Frances Loeb Library is assembling the African American Design Nexus, an online archive that will survey the history of black architects practicing in the U.S. Missed this year's event? The next Black in Design conference will be held in 2019, but in the meantime, readers can visit blackindesign.org for more information on the conference or search #BlackinDesign #BiD2017 on Twitter for the weekend's real-time program highlights.
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Architecture’s Two Percent: Black in Design conference at Harvard tackles complex social and economic issues

In recent months there has been increasing awareness and discussion around the built environment's impact on a number of complex social and economic issues that also intersect with race and class. Architecture critic James Russell has written about Ferguson and even New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman has written about Eric Garner. This momentum for a long-overdue public conversation on these issues among those in the design and planning disciplines is also being fostered by a group of predominantly black and predominantly women students at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

The GSD's African-American Students Union (AASU) has challenged themselves, their peers, their institutions, and the built environment disciplines at-large to seriously engage the real differences that race can make in design practices. This led to the Black in Design Conference—organized by AASU and held at Harvard GSD this weekend.

A range of ideas, projects, and provocations by nearly 30 speakers from different disciplines were organized into panels according to scales of impact: buildings, neighborhoods, cities, and regions. There were also sessions on the role of race in the pedagogy of design and global design practice.

But this was not your usual design conference. Beyond the presentations and discussions, there were collective breathing and dance exercises, throwback Goodie Mob music video clips addressing urban conditions, and even a choir performance with many participants singing along to anthems for social equality and progress. The conference lunch was programmed as a workshop around the issue of food access and quality that affects many black and low-income communities. The conference's structure created a space to share and question what it means to attempt to address the difficult issues that affect black communities as a designer—and further, what it means to be black in design.

Phil Freelon, an award-winning architect of the new Smithsonian African American museum, asked who was going to be the "Miles Davis of Architecture" to provoke the notion that in the built environment design fields black designers do not yet have the weight of influence seen in other creative fields, such as music or fashion, that shape and inform our larger culture and everyday lives.

More than once, speakers raised the need for more people of color to get into the design fields and increase the number of licensed black architects which today stands at a paltry 2 percent. Architect and planner Maurice Cox advertised to the audience 30 new urban designer and planner job openings in the predominantly black city of Detroit, underlining the need for black designers to work in black communities. The discussions at the two-day event highlighted that the personal and professional contributions that black designers make to their fields, and by extension to the global and local contexts and populations that they serve, is all too rare.

More information about the conference can be found at blackindesign.com and some of the ideas and images from the event can be found on social media using the #blackindesign and #blackdesignmatters hashtags.

Justin Garrett Moore is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture at Columbia University's GSAPP and was a speaker at the Black in Design Conference.