A pop-up exhibition showcasing the little-known history of civil rights movements within architecture is on view at the Pratt Institute through Friday. Now What?! Advocacy, Activism and Alliances in American Architecture since 1968 shines a light on the work of the architects and organizations who have advocated for equality and social justice in the profession over the last 50 years. Organized by ArchiteXX, a nonprofit that promotes gender equity in the architectural profession, the exhibit covers groups that have sought racial, gender, and LGBTQ equality. ArchiteXX’s primary initiatives revolve around highlighting the roles women play in the field, but for Now What?!, the group wanted to take on a broader series of issues including gay marriage, Black Lives Matter, and feminism in modern America. The show moves in chronological order, starting with civil rights leader Whitney Young Jr.’s influential speech at the 1968 AIA National Convention in Portland, Oregon. Angry at the scant attention the nearly all-white, male-dominated profession was paying to the civil rights movement, his powerful words challenged the attending architects to speak up and serve as leaders within the heated political climate. The exhibition connects that exhortation to the present day. While the industry has made great strides toward the inclusion of people of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds, it still remains less diverse than the general population. Sarah Rafson, an architectural editor and curator who serves on the board of ArchiteXX, says the exhibit was inspired by Susana Torre’s 1977 exhibition for The Architectural League, Women in Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective. “That was the first comprehensive history of women’s achievements in the built environment,” said Rafson. “It radically opened up the topic of how feminism could impact architecture and design. For this exhibit, we thought, how can we replicate it in 2017? So we decided to include many marginalized groups, not just women, and show that their struggles in architecture have been quite common.” The exhibition includes never-before-seen content that is rarely taught in architectural education. One of ArchiteXX’s core goals is to bridge the gap between the study and practice of architecture, and the group looks at the exhibit as part of an expanded curriculum that engages both students and practitioners with historical and contemporary activism. “We saw an opportunity to create a program that forces the discipline to acknowledge these different groups that have had incredible impact within architecture and design,” said Rafson. “It’s also become a chance for us to collaborate with other organizations and groups who are working towards solving social justice issues,” said ArchiteXX founder Lori Brown, “and it’s becoming a really important venue to build solidarity across many different areas of architecture.” Now What?! can be seen at Pratt’s Robert H. Siegel Gallery through Friday and is scheduled to appear in at least four more cities across the U.S. and Canada. New content will be added as it stops in each city to reflect the local people and events within those architectural communities. Its first stop is at Woodbury University in Los Angeles.
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The Institute for Public Architecture has announced their 2016 fellows for the Live/Work for the Workforce residency. The program gives architects the opportunity to research and design concepts for potential live/work spaces in a former industrial building in New York City. The program is in part a response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ten-year Housing New York plan, which includes mixed-use live/work spaces for artists and entrepreneurs. The residency has been offered to 11 architects and designers, who will work in two teams of two, two teams of three, and one solo team. They'll formulate separate projects but are encouraged to collaborate among themselves and with the community. The teams' projects will examine a range of potential solutions for live/work spaces; some of the fellows plan to publish their research throughout the residency. Two teams, Team Move Matter and Team The Media is the Neighborhood, focus on individual industries, like affordable housing for those in the food and beverage industry and the use of real estate by the film, television, and media industries, respectively. Others, like Stephen Fan and Team AJX, are researching existing live/work arrangements in Los Angeles’s “Hybrid Industrial” zones and New York City’s Loft Laws. Find more information and biographies of the fellows at the Institute for Public Architecture website.
Pratt Institute was founded in 1886 by Charles Pratt, who had sold his family’s Astral Oil works to Standard Oil in 1874. It was Pratt’s original intention that the school train industrial workers for the changing economy of the 19th century, and this it did for many years before growing into one of the leading art and design schools in the country. Like any institution, the school has had its stellar moments and its sleepy periods. The art department has been a training ground for dozens of important American artists, and its architecture school once had faculty like Sibyl Moholy-Nagy and experimental designers like John Johansen, Michael Webb, and Raimund Abraham. Pratt even spawned this country’s most important community advocacy organization: the Pratt Center, founded by Ron Shiffman, a legend in the world of community planning. Having weathered a rough stretch 15 years ago, when it was nearly bankrupt, the institute has undergone a transformation under its current president, Thomas Schutte. He has built a sizable endowment, upgraded the campus buildings and grounds (including a Steven Holl-designed school of architecture), strengthened its academic programs, and turned the institute into a design powerhouse with many of its programs rated in the top ten nationally. Typical of its notion of itself as a New York-centered institution, tonight it will honor Marc Jacobs, David Rockwell, and Patti Smith at a special scholarship benefit party. If you want to see how far the school’s industrial and product design departments have come, though, you can visit the new Rogers Marvel-designed townhouses at 115 Third Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Under the direction of Professor Anthony Caradonna, the institute has cleverly used both faculty- and student-designed furniture and household objects to furnish the residence, and has thrown in pieces by famed graduates including Eva Zeisel, Giovanni Pellone, Harry Allen, and William Katavolos.