Design between architecture’s practice and academy for areas in need.

Design between architecture’s practice and academy for areas in need.
Image by Dwight Cendrowski

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Small Budget Big Impact

It's always great when students take on a cause, and even better when a project has a small budget but big impact.

Monday, May 25, 2009

on gender and race in architecture

Because I (like many of us) find myself un/under/self-employed this summer...I spend hours browsing the [archi]net for my next hit-- potential competition, temporary job opportunity, fascinating imagery or discussion topics. I came across a thread today on the archinect general discussion forum. The discussion (hopefully momentarily) ended today with a commentary from Quibble of Sundog & Halo who stated, "is it really about talk?" when responding to another comment which argued that segregation is still rampant in the architectural community and "perhaps...we are cowards when it comes to discussions of race, and we can't figure out how to talk to one another yet?"

Quibble of Sundog & Halo went on to say.."wasn't nazism a very honest very public and rhetorical disclosure of the racist zeitgeist then? there is more to it than talk..."

Though his reference is extreme, I agree...but of course the solution still baffles me. I'll think on this, during my infinite hours of free time this summer.

Skim selections from the thread listed below and/or check out the full discussion, which begins with a round-a-bout exchange seeking to define success in the architectural field and the word "minority", later arguing for differentiation between race and gender and a dedicated/focused discussion about african-americans and the AIA:


hillandrock 05/24/09 16:00

"Soulbrother...To seriously answer your question--- I think the public realm, architecture and urban planning (although not really unified untile the garden city movement) has been contentious towards blacks for a long time. Since the Reconstruction til the L.A. race riots, control of the public realm has been pretty openly used as a discriminatory tool against blacks and the poor. And now, that's even diversified a little more into religious, ethnic and nationalistic tendencies towards discrimination over a group of individuals-- i.e., baptist [not trying to single anyone out] communities often prohibit the sale, distribution and consumption of alcohol through land use and zoning ordinances. This essentially disrupts the rest of the community and by extension prevents other denominations of churches from being built within the same area.Once Jim Crow was phased out by the Civil Rights Act, CPTED came in to replace it. Instead of taking the word 'black' out of a lot of the property, zoning and ordinance laws... they simply replaced it with "poor." For a long time, poor and black were synonymous. If you can't attack the black legally anymore, it becomes easier to just attack the poor. Well, this is kind of backfiring as the definition of poor is growing and it targets many other people who maybe considered poor (those under the age of 30, those with no credit, those over 65). So, in a sense, I think the perception of the built environment is so heavily tarnished from the decisions of generations past and is relatively so downplayed as a source of causation... that few people are either even remotely interested in it or go on to pursue other more "worthwhile" causes. It probably wasn't until last decade that they could prove with any validity that property can be used as a form of racism, that the quality of an environment can actually cause poverty, that the built environment can actually create crime and that development patterns have a history in our very racist past.So, yeah, I think many disadvantaged and or segregated people think of city government, architecture and development as a source of their woes-- from 40 acres and a donkey to single occupancy rooms to vertical ghettos."

b3tadine[sutures] 05/25/09 9:40

"why? why are we waiting to address this issue at the University level? treekilla points to CHAD as a model, where the design community is engaging the under served at the high school level, this is a start, albeit a minor effort. why are we looking at minorities in terms of race and/or gender? why aren't we more focused on those populations at risk, under served, under represented, and severely challenged areas? poor white kids in the rural areas of the country are no less a minority class than inner city urban kids, but they are just as forgotten. what about kids of military families, they're just as poor - especially when you take into account what they have to go through or suffer through; i should know. go to a local AIA event, look around the room, see how many people look different than you, and that's where it should start, but on a local level we seem less interested in the idea of diversity than we are a national level. i was at the AIA convention in SF this year, and on a national level i have to say i was a little taken aback by the diversity, and i thought perhaps we are more diverse than i thought. then i came home and went to a local event, and i realized no we're not. so, what gives? perhaps the issue is that segregation is alive and well in the architectural community? perhaps, like Eric Holder noted; we are cowards when it comes to discussions of race, and we can't figure out how to talk to one another yet? or, even more insidiously, we don't care and don't want to talk about the past, because the past is past?"

SoulBrother#1 05/25/09 10:05

"perhaps the issue is that segregation is alive and well in the architectural community? perhaps, like Eric Holder noted; we are cowards when it comes to discussions of race, and we can't figure out how to talk to one another yet?"I think this is the problem

Quibble of Sundog & Halo 05/25/09 10:56

"or you've figured how to talk to one another but you just don't want to talk to one another. maybe when we drop the "we", we'll no longer even have to talk to one another to get along. why should anyone talk to someone from another class, culture or ethnicity just to prove a point? is it really about talk? i've met people who meditate a lot and talk very little get on very well with each other and others.

and does the freudian/catholic notion that talking brings the bad things to surface and exorcize them really work all the time? wasn't nazism a very honest very public and rhetorical disclosure of the racist zeitgeist then? there is more to it than talk..."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Gag Order on Race in Architecture

A classmate kindly forwarded an article written by Anne Lui for the Cornell Daily Sun on April 21st. The article highlights the relative acceptance of culture (certain cultures) in architectural discourse versus the distractive qualities of race and related experiences.

Lui references David Adjaye, a London based Architect who was recently awarded the commission to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as
a student’s proposal for "a Meier-esque home-cum-crematorium" situated on the border between Mexico and the United States.


"Race is a painfully awkward topic in architecture, while culture remains the go-to book for, uh, copying. David Adjaye, said in an interview with New York Magazine in 2007, “If a Japanese architect talks about Shintoism, everyone goes, ‘Wow.’ If an African architect talks about an African village, it is somehow weird in the Western context.

...there’s something notably missing from all those glossy photos: the controversy. Before Adjaye’s win, some minority architects criticized the panel for the fact that most of the final firms were predominantly white (the special six were: Foster + Partners, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Moody Nolan, Moshe Safdie and Associates and Adjaye’s team.) Adjaye, after building the Stephen Lawrence Centre, which commemorates a murdered black architecture student, was accused of having won the competition because he too was black. Both controversies, however, remained mostly in the blogosphere; The New York Times did not mention it, and The Architect’s Newspaper relegated race controversy to a puny last paragraph.

Why the silence? Why is it OK to talk about what age-old African architecture influenced the new Museum (“Yoruban” columns) but it’s not OK to talk about how David Adjaye’s experiences as a black Brit influences his work?

...It has already become reasonably in vogue to hire Jewish American architects to design Holocaust museums and memorials; it is understood that their backgrounds and their experiences, as well as the stories and legacies of their families, inform these designers’ work. But still modern architectural discourse shies away from personal experience, from race and identity, in favor of weaker references to alien cultures — like water for chocolate, we draw the works of ancient builders instead of speaking about the stories that mean the most to us."

An anonymous comment read:

"Architecture should be about the work. Adjaye is a great architect and his background is very interesting as well, but that is a different subject. The work is the product of many factors but the Idea is the main thing and one needs no experience to have a great idea... Race and gender can inform idea consciously or unconsciously but detract, in my opinion, from the main story. This article assumes that members of an ethnic group share values and influences and I find this similar to stereotypical thinking, which should be vigilantly eschewed."


To read complete article and related comments visit:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Unspoken Borders 2009: ECOLOGIES OF INEQUALITY

Beyond Pruitt-Igoe 4.08.09 From the Architects Newspaper Blog covered by Julia Galef

"The University of Pennsylvania School of Design sought to bring social equity back into architectural discourse last weekend with a conference called “Unspoken Borders: The Ecologies of Inequality,” hosted by the Black Student Alliance. Architects have been skittish about addressing large-scale social issues ever since the profession’s notorious Pruitt-Igoe-style failures in the 1960’s, said presenter Craig Wilkins. Since then, he added, the predominant attitude among architects has been, “‘We’re not doing that again. They got mad at us the last time we did that!’”

"Amidst the discussion of what designers can do about social inequities, a related question emerged: should design education address the root causes of those inequities? “There’s no lack of design-build studios going out to poor neighborhoods to build houses, but there’s no discussion [in architecture school] of why those neighborhoods exist,” said architect Kian Goh. But isn’t there a trade-off between expertise and generalism? Some participants thought so, and urban designer Felipe Correa countered: “It is important that we not overextend the net, that we bring it back to what we know how to do best,” he argued. “Allow sociologists to deal with the sociology.”

Visit for complete article.


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