Symposium: "Diversification of the scope of Architecture"

okay we’re gonna get started thank you all for coming tonight um i’m michael speaks i’m dean of the school of architecture i’m very happy to welcome you all here for a continuation of our celebration of black history month we opened on the 2nd of february with a kermit j lee exhibition curated by nomas down in the marble room which has been renamed the living room uh and in honor of professor lee and tonight we’re gonna we will have a two lectures a small symposium also uh celebrating professor kermit lee i just want to tell you a little bit about the evening events because we’re going to this is not the only thing we’re going to do we’ll have a two presentations here and then we will go immediately upstairs just outside the library to open a show of drawings by professor lee called left it’s called left because the 1994 professor lee had a stroke and he was right-handed thereafter he used his left hand to draw these drawings and made many many paintings and in some ways didn’t lose a step to work as as exquisite uh post 94 as it was before so we’ll open that show and then we will go downstairs and have a panel discussion um with our speakers and with uh george um who is kermit’s daughter so um with that i’m going to give it over to dj butler who is the president of nomas the our local chapter of the national organization for minority architecture students who this year were the winners of the national design company when dj o’reilly came to me he said i want to restart the nomas chapter here i want to do the competition and i want to win it and i said that’s all great dj i’ll help you we’ll support you but you got it you’ve got to win it and they did so fantastic so dj’s going to talk a little bit about some of the other events that we’ve done that we may be doing and talk a little bit about i think our students work on some issues around black history month and with that i’ll give it to dj butler um thank you dean speaks um and the school of architecture for coming out and supporting the national organization minority architect student chapter here at syracuse man this is this has been a lot to us a lot of work has been put into uh all of the efforts that everyone has seen going forth this month i also want to thank dean speaks of staff who has worked with our e-board as well and in this in that same might i want to give a shout out to our e-board who has been tired tirelessly working together to execute everything that you have seen um this month um it’s been a diligent effort um it’s been a heartfelt effort to understand that our inspirations have come from those who came before us which is why we decided to honor and pay tribute to professor kermit lee i mean having his daughter karen george come even made that moment even more impactful and to understand what that means to us as individuals of color and to see the support of individuals of color i just want everyone to know how much this means not only to us but i can speak personally to myself um and in that we understand that there are so many things going on within our society and within our campus we can’t turn a blind eye to that but in doing so we give honor and pay tribute as we talk about the diversity and not only within the cultural environment but within our profession of architecture so with that being said i will pass on the mic to professor seiku cook who will be our moderator for this evening and the discussion of the diversification of the scope of architecture without further ado thanks cj um hey everybody bye all right i’ll do it good um so i have been here since 2010 um which is scary to

to think that um that’s 10 years ago when i first started here and i’ve seen many different groupings of different versions of the nomas group the minority architecture group here i’ve seen it be very active i’ve seen it be virtually non-existent and i have to say that this group of students has really knocked it out of the park this year not just winning the competition but all the organization that they’ve done over the last year and i meet with them sporadically here or there and when they last sat me down and told me all the different events that they have planned and all the different things that they’re doing i was absolutely blown away and i couldn’t believe they could do all that and still be active architecture students so they deserve a lot of respect for all the things that they’ve been able to accomplish this month and all the things that they continue to do to keep this this strong so it’s it’s up to us from the administration and faculty side to really support all the work that they do and make sure that they um continue to have solid numbers so that they can con create longevity and continuity within the structure of their organization i have the pleasure of inviting or introducing our two speakers tonight we’re very lucky to have both two really amazing female architects with us that have come back to the school the first is rene camp rotan and she happens to be the first african-american female graduate of syracuse architecture um she did that in [ __ ] laude in 1975 and uh which is really appropriate given that this symposium is in honor of kermit lee who was the first african-american male african-american period to to graduate from the school of architecture and to think that the school of architecture is over 100 years old and the first african-american male graduated in 1957 and the first african-american female didn’t graduate till 16 years after that or 18 years after that um so renee is also also continuing her education at the aaa in london she got the diploma a diploma and received the riba the royal institute of british architects level 2 distinction she continued on with her education had a master’s degree in planning at columbia university and um has worked in new york city with urban design group has taught at howard university in urban design history of history of architecture and something called tropical architecture which i’m very interested to know more about um she has done many other uh played many other roles in maryland with the national capital park planning commission with atlanta part of the 1996 olympic development team there and running the the helping to run the civil rights street museum project she is currently the ceo of studio ro 10 and she has also been working on a really amazing project for africa town that she’s going to tell us more about later and i first met renee several years ago at noma conferences she came back to syracuse a couple years ago to do the coming back together that they do here every three years i met her there and most recently at the brooklyn noma noma event where the syracuse students won the competition um our after that we’ll have another short presentation from tayawin who um what you know when i’m look going over her cv with her i was asking which one of these things is is current she’s like they’re all current wow doing all these all these things that’s amazing um she’s the director of project planning at habitat for humanity in philadelphia um she’s an adjunct professor at thomas jefferson university and temple university she was she’s founder of jumpstart west philly she’s the chair of housing subcommittee and on the executive committee at west philadelphia promise zone she is the board of directors of aia philadelphia she’s a past president of of of philanoma and she’s also a conference advisor for the east coast project pipeline um she’s a project advisor

sorry national conference advisor for noma and works with the east coast project pipeline and if you don’t know what project pipeline is that’s the the main tool for getting more african-american students into architecture programs across the country um and uh she is also working with advisory board for street box philadelphia and um with something i hesitate to mention the hip-hop architecture camp so without further ado we’ll start with renee okay thank you it’s quite an honor and pleasure to be here you have no idea thanks for putting me up to sheridan by the way i got up this morning and i called seiku and i said well how do i get to slocum he said well you should know you were a student here i said that was 50 years ago i was here 50 years ago i was 17 years old at the time i was talking to karen i said boy time really flies when you’re having fun right so thanks for inviting me especially on this occasion to celebrate the lifetimes and generosity of professor emeritus kermit lee my pleasure absolutely i actually took a picture of the staircase i was on when kermit offered me an opportunity to go to columbia university that changed the trajectory of my life so they were my presentation and i had 99 slides here so i’ll go fairly fast is do not be afraid what i wanted to do was really share with you the trajectory of my going to institutions of higher learning we can talk about the institutions of laura learning later but of course here at syracuse campus entered in 1970 an honor to even be here at the time there were 100 kids in my freshman class five black kids and dick richards gave the orientation lecture and he said i just want you to know that of the 100 students who are here 20 of you will not graduate and he was looking at the five of us huddled and i said i don’t even know these other four people had nothing to do with them and actually i did not know them but he was more than right because at the end of five years i was the last one standing huh so statistics but starting here at syracuse university the reason that i had the opportunity was because of a lecture that was given in 1968 imma pass little things around by whitney young to the aia national convention in 68 and at that time martin luther king had just been assassinated our cities were burning dc was burning i’m from d.c watts was burning detroit was burning aia invited whitney young national director of the urban league to address the architectural profession he said a couple of things there one of the things that he said was as he looked out into an all-white male audience do you realize how totally irrelevant you are to the building of inner city communities and aia said and then whitney young said i’m going to make a challenge it’s time for aia to diversify you all have got to go across this country and find black students that you can engage in the profession of architecture so aia put a commercial on television and in that commercial it said if you’re smart and if you’re creative if your left brain and if you’re also right brain we invite you to apply for a once-in-a-lifetime scholarship to the university of your choice to pursue architecture now i wanted to be a painter i was salutatorian in my class and my parents and grandparents said no way here are your choices doctor lawyer indian chief no room for starving artists in this family so that commercial saved my life huh it hit all of the buttons to check all of the boxes so i applied got accepted

chose syracuse not because i knew anything about syracuse but because i was dating the captain of the football team in high school and he wanted to come to syracuse because he wanted to be the next jim brown jim brown’s a graduate of syracuse right so i was following my heart i got in he did not and i said smelly later okay so that’s how i got into syracuse program i love telling that story because it’s so doggone true but in terms of the money i got here because the money to attend this august institution was paid for by aia and the ford foundation the first minority disadvantage scholarship program thank god that whitney young shook them up at that convention words are things words can make things happen so did my five year trek here parenthetically because two of those five years i spent at the architectural association in london changed my life completely and we’ll talk about that in a minute and then from there i came back my fifth year i spent two years in london came back my fifth year and accidentally bumped into karen george’s father kermit lee on the staircase out there who offered me an application to go to columbia in planning and that’s where life really took off for me we’ll talk about that for a minute this last picture is a picture of the architectural association okay so kind of fast forward i landed the architectural association and i have the honor of working with arcogram for two years now these guys were off of the chain all right they were at the top of the fantasy routine and in fact i remember one of our first projects was to design housing on the planet mars and when they came into studio to announce that as the design problem they came in dressed in space outfits as astronauts and i said to myself now these are my kind of people right so that was extraordinary i worked with him for two years my next big hit again at the aaa was this guy right here paul oliver you’ve got to look him up i hope you’re taking notes because some of these intersections have happened to me you need to know about some of these people who have made a mark and gone on to wherever great people come but paul oliver was the european expert on african architecture he took me under his wing i took world architectural history from this great man for two years had it not been at the aaa had it not been for paul oliver i would not have sought the aaa’s third year travel fellowship which sent me to africa to do a fellowship on 101 ways to build housing out of mud i went to villages that were not on the map i went to cities that no one had heard of segregated komasi tamale bogantenga navrango by myself i would never do it again i’m not that crazy but i went with a super 8 camera and produced a number of photographs of building housing out of mud at that time i saw myself being the condoleezza rice of the united nations housing development i wanted to do housing in africa that’s what i wanted and so i came back from africa i talked to paul he says you have any idea what you’ve done you have done some anthropological work that no one has ever seen and years later i bumped into paul in paris he says i’m going to offer you a contract with cambridge university press because he produced the atlas of vernacular architecture of the world also the encyclopedia of world vernacular architecture that was published by cambridge press with 700 contributing all the architects in the world that have been produced architecture without architects better than sir banister fletcher right we had the sir banister fletcher bible when i was in school and it did not talk about the architecture of non-european cultures so i had an opportunity to work with paul and this book actually ended up getting the sir banister fletcher uh award

from the royal institute of british architects another very important part of my education has been world travel i’ve been to 33 countries and counting i’ve written on the backs of elephants in nepal i’ve flown over the arctic to actually see the ice cap melting with my own eyes i was in cuba i’ve been to morocco is one of my favorite pictures here at the top i spent a day in a yurt a goat-haired tent in morocco at the base of the atlas mountains after being driven on all the curvy roads at the base of the mountains as i went from fez to marrakesh and this picture here is one of my personal favorites i’ve been on six safaris from east tanzania to west tanzania then charted a plane to go to rwanda to spend days with the silverback gorillas in their natural habitat so do not be afraid lots of education because of paul oliver i was that student who went to ghana to see how traditional habitats were put together in mud and then years later i go to serengeti and i get to see the inside of a mud hut that is now one of the most expensive hotels in tanzania the ngoro goro lodge eleven hundred dollars a night per person and it sleeps 10 people bring the entire family so do not be afraid to visit faraway lands and also make some friends along the way i’ve worked for 10 mayors as an urban policy advisor one of them was mayor bell in birmingham and then i picked up some really cool friends along the way not architects you’ve got to diversify in terms of the folks that you make professional friendships with but i became very good friends with tracy martin her father world-class photographer spider martin who took all those famous photographs selma alabama the march to selma and the crossing of the edmund pettus bridge came great friends she then introduces me to ron froelich a white south african defected from south africa during apartheid but was president of the world games for 20 years became one of my best friends we now of course in birmingham are getting ready to have the 21 world games because of ron and these two with this mayor gave me a challenge to put together an exhibition that compared living conditions in segregated alabama with living conditions in segregated south africa so for an entire year i got to work on images produced by spider martin and also with peter mugabani who was the private photographer for nelson mandela magubani sent me 200 photographs he’s in his 80s of all of the photographs he had taken of apartheid in south africa over the last 60 years he sent 200 images to me with no text and no descriptions so it took me a year to research each one of those thumbnails in order to design an exhibition aside from working married two kids aaron ty taught at howard university organized the first national conference for black women in architecture forget what year 83 my keynote was norma sklarick first woman to be licensed state of california had it not been for this conference many of you would not know her name i was given a challenge while teaching at howard by dean harry robinson who had gone to lunch with someone at aia and came back plucked a one thousand dollar check on my desk and said do something for black women in architecture what can you do with a thousand dollars you can do a lot with a thousand dollars what i did with that one thousand dollars was to call norma on the phone and ask norm if she’d be kind enough to be the keynote speaker once she said yes i got 22 other women to come and speak for free because they wanted to meet norma’s claric

right so that’s what you can do with the penny in a dime i also started a newspaper at howard called stone that i produce on a monthly basis so students would know what was going on in the architectural world outside of that limited space that you call the studio you become so studio prone you forget to look and see what’s going on in new york chicago paris lusaka mombasa i also had the opportunity to ghostwrite this book how to save your own street which tallied all of the work i had done with the urban design group in new york because i was in new york because of your dad so i worked with jacqueline robertson and jonathan barnett but most especially i got to work with jacqueline kennedy onassis for an entire summer because she was the editor of this book and the only reason that i got chosen to participate in that project the urban design group was an architectural firm that literally was embedded inside of the planning commission 20 people i worked with from all over the world were kel ramati was the director and she says to me you’ve got to ghosts write the book i said why me i’m just a college kid she said because out of 20 people in urban design group you’re the only one who speaks english and writes english as your first language so that’s how i got that opportunity moving forward lived a lot of places in my life and time one of the places that i moved to was atlanta from dc originally done a whole bunch of stuff but i got a cold phone call one day from a friend of mine who used to go to syracuse university who dated my best friend while here he now is a chief operating officer for the mayor of atlanta he calls me up he says i’m going to ask you one question are you interested in working on the olympics as a master planner because we’re looking for one i says i don’t know let me think about it he says you have 24 hours so 24 hours later i called him and then became a member of the corporation for olympic development in atlanta we’ve put together 18 neighborhood plans in anticipation of the circus coming to town olympics comes with all of the athletes and all of the coaches but each city is responsible for master planning so they can accept the construction of new facilities this was a plan that i worked on that was called the memorial drive master plan olympic park i worked on olympic park designing construction of olympic park and then i was given a special project all to myself which was called designing hawk walk we were also working on the construction of phillips arena at the time and we had to figure out a very clever way of getting people out of the building onto parking and into the subway so i came up with the hawk walk then i was made direct of economic development for the city of atlanta and i had a really big headache of a problem we had millions of people coming to atlanta and of course they were going to walk up and down peachtree street and then they were going to go to the king center well the only way that you can get from peachtree street to the king center is to walk auburn avenue which was a total blighted nightmare so i started to think of creative ways how do you host people all these visitors pastor blight to get to this ml king center i came up with an idea that what if i turned auburn avenue into an outdoor street museum that you could only visit at night i couldn’t reconstruct the buildings but what i could do was project the dreams of what those buildings could look like in the future on buildings at night and turn it into an electric avenue as part of that project i also had an opportunity to design the facades of new buildings that were up and down auburn avenue these are some of the problems that i had to confront luckily as director of economic development with an urban design background anytime a project crossed my desk that had to do with the economics of the city i started drawing ideas as to how we could improve the situation so here was an issue in order to get from pete’s tree

to the king center you had to walk under a dark viaduct in atlanta plus a whole bunch of blight so i held a competition a film competition from diversified neighborhoods to send in all the films of their neighborhoods we got films from vietnamese from indian community people that we didn’t even know existed and the idea was to turn that darkness into an enlightening situation by showing films underground in the viaduct then i did something that all of you always need to do and that’s enter international design competitions i forget what year it’s probably 20 some years ago now but i entered the grand egyptian museum competition and whoever won this competition in fact would get the opportunity to actually construct there were more than two thousand architects who participated in this program the competition ran for about six months nine months i found out about the competition six weeks before it was due put a team together legaretta and also abdul haleem abdulhalim who was director of the architecture school at university of cairo was one of my partners long story we’ve met in paris the rest is history we put this team together and literally came in 21 out of the 2000 entries and i’ll tell you some of the moves that we made here first of all the museum was underground and was at the base of the pyramids in giza so so as not to distract any architecture from the grandness of the three pyramids everything was underground and all of the circulation was in alignment with the stars then what i did was i took the entire program which was this thick this museum was to have contained all of the king tut collection i’m talking about hundreds of thousands of objects and one of the questions in the competition was how can you ensure that museum visitors will come back time after time for repeat visits because that’s really how museums make their money and i came up with two ideas one idea was when you come to the lobby of the museum you pay for your tickets you get a backpack then you become an explorer in the museum but you look at all the artifacts on the menu board just like when you go to mcdonald’s and you have a palm pilot in your hand and you check off all of the objects you want to see while you’re in the museum and then you put the time in how much time you want to spend and the palm pilot would basically print out for you a path to navigate through the museum other big idea curatorial wonder was i created exhibition spaces or boxes that the curator could control the box had six sides so in this competition i designed these curatorial boxes where the curator could decide whether the sides the top or the floor were going to be transparent or whether they were going to be opaque so literally the space would morph around the objects that were being shown and then i shuffled it all like a deck of cards the united nations decided that the best entries in fact would be published publications are very very important moving on to birmingham alabama the only reason i got to birmingham alabama was because after 10 years in atlanta i get a phone call from the mayor of birmingham that says we will beat your atlanta salary if you come to birmingham and run my 200 million dollar capital bond program for me well 200 million dollars was a lot of money for the city of birmingham but my god i had been the city’s liaison to the construction of the phillips arena that was a 200 million building i worked on the design of the atlanta aquarium that was a 200 million dollar building atlanta built a new symphony hall that was a 200 million building so the idea of me going to birmingham making more money working with a 200 million dollar budget for an entire city was quite the payday so i go to birmingham and i’m given the title director of capital projects

which meant that i got to advise the mayor on what to do with every single piece of publicly owned property for an urban designer that is a wonderful dream so the mayor asked me one day i have 20 acres of vacant land in downtown birmingham there’s some folks that want to turn it into a dog park i said wait hold up the most expensive land in any city is the land right in the middle right it can’t be a dog park you have your choices it’s got to be a central park it’s got to be a high park it’s got to be a millennial park long story short i hired tom leader to come and work with me to create the railroad park a 20 million dollar park the mayor gave me 2.5 million dollars to get started his political enemy gave me 5 million only if the mayor would put in another 5 mil so i had 12 million dollars 12.5 million dollars to build a 20 million dollar park and the private sector put in the rest of the money and this is the first park that had been built in birmingham since segregation at one time in birmingham during the time of o’connor he closed down every single public park in birmingham there were rules on the books in birmingham that a white and a black could not go into a public park together they could not play chess together check us together baseball in any other sport you can think of so the building of this park was a big idea next the mayor comes to me and he says we have 40 acres of vacant land that used to be the alabama state fairground what do you suggest we do with this land well i had just come from atlanta so i suggested that we turn that 40 acres into an olympic village for children i take the plan to city council i show them slides of the olympics world-class facilities president of city council ben zegaville how much do you think it’s going to cost well maybe 50 million for starters bangs the gavel i have 50 million dollars just like that so crossplex was built because of those ideas another mayor comes in in birmingham and says we’re trying to build a birmingham civil rights heritage trail what do you suggest the white business community had no interest in a civil rights trail that looked back at birmingham’s history the past 50 years it was not a pleasant history for everyone so they’re really two birminghams there’s the white community that doesn’t want to talk about it and then there’s the black community the kids that you see that got hit by the water hoses and the dog bites they were heroes they wanted the story to be told so i was given this project and came up with some really great ideas we have 200 signs in birmingham it’s the only city in america where life-size photographs of a protest movement you might want to take notes on this are reinserted in the places where those dog attacks in fact occurred so you can actually come to birmingham and actually see the signs marching down the street with the life-size photos on them some interior shots of crossplex going to be one of the sites of the world games by the way some other sharks at the railroad park then i wrote a grant to the national government for the arts this top picture is like bethlehem steel but it was slos furnaces i wrote an outtown grant and got 250 000 to attempt to turn this city-owned property into a new arts tech hub for millennials and the underserved and brought in cirque du soleil as my partner for circus training this is more of sloth got to convert a church in birmingham owned by a white congregation that ran to the suburbs in the 60s and left the church behind to the city i love city property and we converted that into the alabama gospel center and now i want to talk about what i’m doing like right now right now i’m working on the africa town international design idea competition last slave ship was found in mobile bay just a year ago and i was brought into mobile alabama to help the citizens there think of what to do not just about the boat but what to do about africa town itself

for many of you who do not know in 1860 110 africans were brought from benin on an illegal slave ship and deposited in mobile for five years enslaved pit cotton built buildings and five years later they are emancipated what do you do with 110 emancipated slaves they have two choices work hard make pennies lease a boat to take them back or they could work hard collect pennies by their own land to make their own town they chose the latter this is where these people came from whatever your concepts are about africa you really need to know that in the empire of benin these are the statues that were being built in the 15th century you also need to know that on that ship of 110 there are still descendants on that last slave ship that are still living in africa town mobile alabama 12 families my partner and i went through all the planning studies we invited bill bates down president of aia we invited natalie robertson down prolific writer had done her phd and then my ace in the hole was we brought michael blakey down bio-archaeologist who was responsible for all of the interred bones of the new york burial ground these are other people that i brought to the fore wayne coleman head of archives because a lot of these families still have artifacts that were given to them by their great great grands what do you do with that wrote in quasi-daniels and also brought in jack pyburn leading preservation architect these are all the groups that we had to with in order to basically host the competition and i want you all to participate because the competition is going to be formally announced juneteenth 2020 it will run for a solid year this is me talking to the elders of africa town about hosting the competition these are all of the other people around the world that are interested in the preservation of traditional environments including iasti which was at berkeley international association for the preservation of traditional environments and of course we’re working with the people of benin we’re working with acsa they’re going to help us launch the competition to 130 schools of architecture i hope syracuse wins again and so we were asked in putting the competition together could we do this and of course the answer was yes we can because we know that design in fact can have a great social impact these are all the other things that are going on while we’re launching the africa town competition that you need to know about the clotility discovery the smithsonian has the slave wreckage project we just finished celebrating the 400 years of american slavery the book barracoon was published how many have heard of zora neale hurston oops keep raising buy the book zora neal hurston an african-american anthropologist actually interviewed cudrill lewis in 1928 he had gotten off of the slave ship in 1860. that book was just published ghana has his decade of the african diaspora the smithsonian symposium i’m passing the book around now colombia has a global africa lab harvard has the just city tuskegee is about to offer a joint degree program in architecture and african american studies and we also just had the movie black panther so we know that africa town is going to be a model we’re producing a book a prototype book i’ll pass this around quickly we’re going to have 16 jurors most of them are really heavy hitters that are going to answer these questions why now why benin why wakanda we have jack travis if you don’t know who he is look him up he’s going to be chair of the jury and these are all of our other jurors heavy hitting black folks in architecture internationally david hughes medelli i want you to write this down quickly go to youtube and plug in international atlantic slave trade in two minutes and you’ll see all of these dots or slave ships an animation over a 400 year period and when you push the button it’ll tell you how many slaves were on the ship and under whose flag the ship was running so in order to win the competition you have to know what were the voices

of the slave trade where you had the american slaveholders and the shipbuilders you had the chiefs in benin that basically sold the folks into slavery you had the voices of the africans in america and their descendants and the plantation owners and the boat itself has a voice we had to look at plantation economy in alabama these are just some of the pictures of plantations in alabama that are on the national trust it’s not all of the plantation houses so we’re talking about a really big economy here when you’re talking about slavery in the state of alabama not only that but the slaves were responsible for building their plantations and they were also responsible for building their own slave housing so we’re bringing john michael blacks to the fore who wrote back the big house the architecture of plantation slavery this is a picture taken in 1928 by zora neale hurston of cudrill lewis’s house coach lewis was one of the founders of africa town got off the boat in 1860 emancipated in 1865 is in his own home in mobile alabama africa town in 1928 that he built himself zory neal hurston took these photographs what i like about this picture is boyfriend has wood floors huh that’s really part of the irony of emancipation we just got a grant from the alabama historical commission to literally use all of her photographs to put blueprints together to literally build his house these are the tribes that captured him in what kind of the movie black panther the women were these imaginary fantasy generals but in real life they were the amazonian warmonkers of benin who were responsible for dragging kujo and his family down to the coast for sale so those are real live people also when we talk about black panther the movie which is fiction it also makes us think of the black panthers who are non-fictional community builders when we think about the movie we think of fictional wakanda without realizing that africa has at least 15 or 20 great empires other than egypt just things we need to know how do we see ourselves this is the barricoon book barricoon basically means barrack or barricade and this is where the slaves were held as they were brought down the coast you can’t talk about wakandan utopia unless you talk about max bond one of my teachers from colombia is no longer with us but when i did that mud hut thing on the fellowship i accidentally ran into one of max’s buildings in bulgartenga on the transistor radio it said that it’s 120 degrees in the shade and i remember seeing this little building on the horizon the middle of the desert and i went there and my clothes started blowing do you have fans or air conditioning they said no the architect built it to scoop up the winds from the desert so maxa created this unbelievable vortex max built the civil rights institute in birmingham he built the martin luther king center in atlanta and of course just before he died he was one of the leaders for the team for the black museum on the mall so the architectural competition will require you to know something about africa before you can rebuild africa town and with jack travis says we’re looking for african forms for african communities make a long story short the africa town competition will require you to select one of four sites whichever site you select you’ll have to design a series of four buildings so we get an ensemble so you have an opportunity to put together multi-disciplinary teams and multicultural teams for the rebuilding of africa town and we would when we connect all of those dots together we will have accidentally on purpose created what we’re now calling the africa town cultural mile we have two basic sites to start a historic africa town you’ll have to design the welcome center at the cemetery a communiversity and 30 units of infill housing as well as a gateway to ancestors for the second site which is covered in red it’s in a flood plain the mayor of mobile said you can’t build there it’s in a flood plain i said fine let’s flood the flood plain on purpose and make that the habitat for the rebuilding of the clotilda slave ship replica you’ll have to build 30 units of info housing

you’ll have to develop welcome center this was the first welcome center for africa town a double-wide trailer katrina came and blew it away no longer exists so we put the welcome center into the competition said you know we aren’t talking about double wides here you need to look and see what they did at the new york city burial ground with robbie leon for the second site the josephine allen site this is what we’re suggesting could happen with the floodplain you purposefully fled the floodplain you put the clotilde replica in it you come up with a very intricate way that you can take people underwater to look at the ship in its habitat and then you might even want to put in some underwater public sculpture because of the 24 million slaves that were brought over 12 million were lost at sea and then after that happens we’re manipulating zoning in the background we’re asking for maritime residential zoning so that housing can be built for the descendants the same way that you have in nantuckets and all of the seashore cities especially on the east coast maritime residential housing for site 3 30 sites along estuaries 15 sites along estuaries are being planned by the national park service as the african town blue waves connection so in the competition we’re going to ask you to design a fleet of water worthy boats to take tourists around and to also keep in mind what those boats need to look like at night these are some of my travel pictures for the designing of the fleet of boats you can look to nepal you can look to the boating industry and fishing industries in benin and italian cheek found out that a little boy drowned in africa town five years ago he couldn’t swim most black kids don’t swim something about blood memory i suspect but if you google you’ll find seventy percent of black kids don’t swim i heard this story and i said well here we have it in this competition you’re gonna have to design the africa town yacht club which is quite tongue-in-cheek because africans weren’t delivered here on a yacht right but at the african town yacht club inner city kids will learn boat making they’ll learn swimming and once they pass the swimming test this guy here kamal siddiqui president of the black scuba association will teach inner city kids from africa town how to scuba and he will take them underwater to see the vestiges of the ship that their ancestors came over on site four almost finished site four thirty years ago three black legislators in the state of alabama got the state to donate 160 acres of land to discuss africatown in some way as a cultural educational site in the competition you will have to design four buildings one is a luxury spa hotel the second is a genealogical center so you can come and basically spit on the cotton and find out where you come from and then a museum that talks about slavery from the african point of view and that last but not least gateway of no return while we’re doing this competition here country of benin is also launching a competition to design five museums on slavery that will be situated in each of the five cities that participated in the slave trade one of them was wieder so for this fourth site we’re asking you to design an african museum in this 160 acre park so we’re saying what if what if you designed a museum in this africa town usa park where the exhibition boxes were made out of glass and they were literally sprinkled throughout the park but they contained some of the colossus images of the benin sculpture you would figure that you were really being introduced to history through the trek and journey of an enchanted forest and then we also shared some of the museums of which there are quite a few dedicated to african

slavery throughout the world many of them done by phil frelon here this one is the last one that they did in senegal a colossus man woman child colossus the museum is contained on the inside of the statue not a big surprise this is our statue of liberty in africa right so i’m asking you when you’re going in to uh do the competition that you’re aware of a number of things we cannot promise that any of these submissions will be constructed because we don’t own the land but as part of our due diligence of the 16 sites all of them are publicly owned isn’t that good to know they’re going to be some officials that have to go through re-election in order to make this african town cultural mile a reality so in order to implement you have to have a great vision the competition will do that you have to have site control political champions community consensus which is what we do have master plan is architects and also money we know that competitions can make sure that things get built this is what they finally built in egypt as a result of the grand egyptian museum competition we’re talking about african futurism at a mega scale this was what it looked like wakanda in the movie smaller scale of course for for mobile but all competition entries at the end of the day will go into the book so the book will become a catalog for the community to start making their deals on the 16 sites not just a single idea but multiple so this competition is our love letter to africa we’ve branded everything for the competition including our stationery to sponsors jury kits press kits brochures another spin-off in working with craig wilkins the af the architectural league of new york is hosting a grant they’re looking for 10 editorial teams across the country that can do a case study on a rural community i put together a team in six days we got it in under the wire we’re looking at africa town we have to look at health we’ve got to look at infrastructure we’ve got to look at work and economy we’ve got to look at environment but this competition is only interested in identification of the gaps those problems and obstacles to not being able to move the town forward we took it on wholeheartedly and we have to turn in a 20-page final report one of the things that we realized in putting all of the components of the final report together as a designer we said wow by the time we finished doing all this research for all these categories we will have accidentally created a magazine so now the final report will be turned into a magazine that magazine will feature the 12 families of the descendants pictures taken by a professional photographer of course and then we will turn that magazine into a quarterly the first one will be our final report the second could be about descendants third about the cultural mile the fourth about the competition and so throughout this experience i realize that almost all of my education has really been branded around the topics of architecture and cultural identity another spin off five more slides and i’m done one of the spin-offs in working in africa town is looking at the relationship between kajo lewis and zoranil hurston the anthropologist and someone said i wonder what that conversation was like and i started thinking about it and i said wow talk about hip-hop architecture what if we turn this conversation between the two of them into an opera hey so i’m now working with the editor of bear [ __ ] and looking at what would happen if i put lonnie holly look him up at alabama folk artist and then i got brittany howard lead singer for alabama shakes both alabamians what if i put them together to help to create the music about this conversation and the beauty of all of it is that lonnie holly is an alabama folk artist these two chairs side by side were in his portfolio from

like 1980 something and he labeled it him and her hold the root and i said this is fantastic we can use lonnie’s own imagery his own sculpture this is lonnie here close personal friend to actually recreate this story in the form of an opera to tell the story and the backdrop for the telling of the story could come from an entire collection of alabama folk art such as slave ship that was done by thornton dial some of the these been quilts done by alabama weaving women and then a joe mentor folk artist and last but not least we could even bring in radcliffe bailey to help design the set look these people up i realize that so many african american artists have a great deal in their portfolio about slavery so make sure that as you diversify your education you really start making friends with people in other disciplines artists aren’t a bad place to start we want you to enter the africa town competition and i think that’s the end of what i have to say are you guys still awake all right it’s always amazing to share a stage with renee the good thing is that she’s had a little bit more life than me so i can have a little bit less less to talk about um one of the interesting things that i always notice whenever i hear renee speak is like a lot of the synergies in our in our stories and i sometimes wonder like yeah we’re both you know black women architecture started off here in syracuse and i see so many commonalities throughout our path which is really interesting so when i first got asked by dj and the nomas team to kind of come and talk about this diversification of the field i was like oh you want me to just come and talk about what i do it’s so much it’s so crazy and it wasn’t all like this like mission that i kind of started off on a path and i often think of my career as this and or right like and you could do more or you pivot in a different direction and kind of understanding all of the ways that my time here and my interests kind of melded uh to kind of drive me into direction so uh this is the syracuse university school of architecture class of 2009. uh we started here in this building there was 110 of us there were three african americans in my class at the time i was the only black female in the entire building grad school and undergrad there’s me and uh to say that that was something that was tough is no small feat i had never been to a place where i was the only one i’d grown up in chicago pretty diverse high school i came here and it was absolutely flabbergasting how isolating it felt in a room full of people um but when i applied to school unlike renee i did not follow someone here i knew i wanted to be architects uh since i was a child and syracuse was ranked number two when i applied to school so it was like a no-brainer i was like oh yeah i applied early action i didn’t tell my mother and i got in and you know that was that so interestingly when i was here you know to be a black female in this program uh i’m sure it’s no secret i’m doubt it’s changed much like there’s not a lot of history about african-american architects that’s taught in architecture school this was the only project that we covered in a class when i was here that talked about anything that had to do with african americans and so for those of you that don’t know what this is this is adolf los unbuilt house for josephine baker um in one of my second year history classes we were supposed to be excited right los is one of the founders i’m sure all of you know right we went to syracuse we talk about khan we talk about korb we talk about lost those are like the three godfathers of syracuse program and here was this black woman that was being objectified that was the whole project um and so i often thought like how often that was part of my daily life uh in the building um which you know had pluses and minuses so you have to find your own heroes uh i worked in the architecture reading room barbara oppar is here she’s here she is a treasure if you guys don’t go to the reading room go to the reading room i worked in the reading i guess it’s not the reading room anymore it’s the king and king library but when it was the architecture

reading room i worked in the reading room from probably day three in this building until the day i left i even worked sometimes in the summer and i came across a magazine back when metropolis was like 24 inches long it was this big magazine it would come in it’d always be at the front of the reading room i was flipping through it and there was a story um in march 2006 so i would have been a sophomore about phil frelon and it was called beyond black and white and the picture this is not the picture they used it was a washed out picture of him it was almost grayscale you almost couldn’t tell he was black and i was looking at his face and looking at his nose and his lips and i was like this man is black so i went to like barbara and i was like barbara do you know this guy is this man black and there was this one book called african-american architects in the reading room i think it’s still in the reading room um and she goes oh i have this book you have to read this book and she got me this book almost everybody renee already mentioned who’s in the book and so i flipped it a book and i was like oh i learned about phil frelon so ironically there was a guy on campus at the time named pierce frelon that kind of looked had the same nose as the guy in the book he was a grad student he was a new grad student studying african american studies in case you didn’t know it’s the building next door and my friends and i got ourselves invited to a party at his house uh one of the few nights that we weren’t in studio and we ran up and everybody was like oh you guys because he was kind of cute so everybody was like oh you guys are just trying to talk to the cute guy we literally like ransacked we were like is your dad phil frelon and he was like yeah we were like oh my god oh my god he’s our favorite architect he called his dad every time his dad came to pick him up he would take us out to dinner on marshall street so i think to remind everybody like some of the folks that seem amazing to us they are amazing people but they are people uh get in touch with them because they are always happy to reach back and hear from you unfortunately phil died last year which is why i keep him in almost every slideshow that i’ve done but he was a great resource and because of our connection to him we got him on he was on reviews the next year for super jury even though it was in our class and actually our nomas chapter brought him to speak when i was abroad but you know juxtaposed with these really great moments there are also some not so great moments i put this up here because also while i was here a person i’m not going to say who it is they are not here anymore there’s no one in this room so don’t worry drew in trace paper on my desk a picture of a black pawn and cross-hatched it and it was like this is you and your career and in this building this is what you are and you can’t un-think that you can’t unhear it and it always made me question am i supposed to be here um looking around i’m there’s not that many african-americans in the field there are less than 500 licensed african american females today in the united states so much so that they’re counting to try to figure out when we get to 500 they’re going to do a book we are two percent african americans total of the architecture profession that number has never changed whitney young came and did this great speech and the number never changed and then black women are .003 percent we are not even a whole percent so often times no matter how good i was in studio or how many scholarships i got how well my review was i often question should i still be in this field but i went to pretty prestigious universities i got my br care in syracuse i then went on to the university of pennsylvania and they did a masters of architecture and a certificate in urban design and so kind of that fight made me realize yes i can be here i can be here um but at the same time it was juxtaposed with this when i graduated from grad school because i went straight through it was 2010 i don’t know if you guys you guys are kind of young so like 2010 was like the height of the recession uh and one thing that happens in a recession is people stop building buildings because buildings are really expensive and so a lot of architects are out of business a lot of firms don’t survive many firms did not survive the recession many people in the room that are older are probably having ptsd right now but this was architect magazine in july 2009 why is this important this have you seen me this is tessa tesla was in my class she was in that first picture of 2009. um an article said that 13.9 of new graduates were going to be unemployed which was a lot um and so typically women and minorities were the ones that were going to have the hardest time trying to find a job trying to get the pay that they needed and it was interesting because the article wanted to call us the missing generation they said you they were projecting us to be the missing generation and they got a quote from my classmate tessa who was a friend of mine and she said that she worked hoped to work for a product design company sustainable architecture farmer community development organization uh this was kind of

indicative of my class to this day about 40 of my classes not working traditionally as architects um including myself and one thing that this kind of always allowed me to look back and think about was what drove me to even apply to architecture school i grew up in chicago and i grew up very upper middle class but this was my neighborhood or next to my neighborhood right this is the robert taylor homes it’s a housing project in chicago they got torn down my second year at syracuse they sat vacant until very recently they just started rebuilding them and realizing that when i was here in architecture school my studios my classes did not talk about the urban conditions that i was used to and the ones that i wanted to change the whole reason i wanted to architect was because i was like i need to fix this i need to do things in these communities and i got to school and we kind of didn’t talk about it at either of my schools um but there are architects that are doing some of this work this is amanda williams from uh she went to cornell and she’s doing work in chicago in some of these neighborhoods this is an example of one of her projects and so it made me realize to exist in this field you have to exist at two levels right the first one is like you are ever the protester i you know it you it’s in you there’s a famous quote from james baldwin that says to be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all of the time and it’s the quote whenever people ask me give me a quote about your field that it comes to mind the most because you always look around and you’re kind of forced to remember that you’re black you’re always going to be black first before you’re an architect um and you still have to be this consummate professional that everybody likes that is you know putting themselves forward in a certain way and they’re often in a very tight balance so i knew i wanted to work in community development it was a recession i did work as an americorps and i got a job at a local community development corporation in philadelphia which is what led me to philadelphia that’s what caused me to move back after grad school and so one of my first projects was a city grant and i asked my boss were they okay with us you know doing this grant and they had no clue what i was talking about had to do a sketch it was like ideas competition and they were like do whatever you want i don’t know what you’re talking about and i was like great and i won with a sketch this is not my sketch this is a sketch that was done later um and we won and it’s like okay now you got to make this project happen they’re like great well you got to figure out how to pay for it so i reached out to some professional networks i got a team of pro bono architects and designers i was project managing it and we were able to create this logan parklet it’s about a 14 000 project and it did all sorts of wonderful things it was written up in the newspaper and from the design community standpoint everybody was so impressed that i had found a way to stay connected to the field but the hardest thing which no one talked about right is what happened next the thing was built the organization owned it i am now in charge of running this parkland that i had built and who was paying for it how was it being managed what was going to happen who was managing it this became my job i was going and meeting with the head of walmart to try to get walmart to pay for this thing in perpetuity i was sitting there trying to figure out in the future how are they going to know how to put the thing back together because i had been working with all these architecture students to like you know build this model and that was the hard work it was translating architectural concepts and ideas to regular people and so through that um kind of led to another project i did so well on that my boss was like well you seem to be good at this let me give you another project so there was 40 acres of vacant city land in our neighborhood that had been blighted since like two weeks before i was born so it’d been a long time at the time that i worked they’d been over 25 years and they were like okay well we want you to do one of those things because you know i still use my architectural vocabulary the thing was a charette with the folks in the neighborhood once you do one of those things you like to do and i was like oh okay but you know they cost money you need design volunteers they’re like well call all your friends figure out we’ll give you 250 and a staples gift card go to staples and figure it out and so you know we spent weeks and weeks trying to put together a program put together documentation put together design books we got some design students to come in and help and run these community meetings and for many of the design students they were coming in and saying this is the first time i’ve ever done this like i don’t get an opportunity to do this at school so moving on to there i got an another job at the housing authority and this was my first site so when i was at the housing authority you know they were doing large light tech deals these were like 60 million 100 million dollar projects uh we had four architects the head of the housing authority at the time or the head of capital projects was another licensed architect which is why i went to work there um and so there was a team of architects in the office i was actually hired as a project manager but because i was new and i had an architecture degree they said we’re going to give you all small projects small to them meant anything under 30 million dollars

so my first project was 12 units on this blighted street in philadelphia it was like a 16 million dollar project had to do both the project management had to hire the architect how to manage the team had to go out and manage ca and do all of our kind of in the field stuff that related to architecture and this is where i really learned everything about the field um and i was on the other side right i was managing the architects and that was it and to me it was fascinating because when people don’t know you’re an architect and you walk into the meeting as a project manager and you start to speak the language or you’re marking up their drawings terrifies them which is really funny uh so i got another project this one was 30 million dollars it was 33 units same neighborhood down the street working with a new architect team and this kind of led me on this journey to kind of understand and question public housing so i don’t have a slide on this but i then uh got a grant from the aia to go research public housing abroad so i spent a year and a half traveling it’s about nine different countries so i’m not quite at the 33 that renee’s i got 10 to go before i touch her but i was studying social housing uh in other countries to try to understand why in the united states we don’t value design in public housing and through that i was able to kind of secure a new job working for habitat for humanity philadelphia uh at the time when i came to habitat they had already started construction on this project but it was their largest project to date they had phased it they were only like at the very beginning of phase one they started hitting all these city hijinks they had underground storage tank they didn’t know how to navigate and all of my project experience from my previous project i was like these are easy hurdles like i’ve done all this before and this project was 21 units near temple university which is interesting because in philadelphia there’s 106 000 people on the public housing waiting list today like right now that have inadequate housing and cannot afford to live in the city and philadelphia is known to be one of the most affordable cities on the east coast and in philadelphia for a household of four most people are living on less than twenty seven thousand dollars a year which is about half of your tuition for those of you that are young and have not had to make money and understand it is not a lot of money and so working at habitat we sell uh homes to low-income families and so the cost of the house the design of the house the simplicity of the design all things become really really really important to habitat so they’re embarking on their next project which is in conjunction with the housing authority which is why they hired me they needed a partner that understood the inner workings of the housing authority and their restrictions on grants and we are currently under construction on this project but it is their largest project to date now what was a small project for me is the biggest thing this company’s ever embarked on and it’s 20 units of affordable housing in a neighborhood that’s rapidly gentrifying in philadelphia and so we have finished three houses we sold the third about three weeks ago um the next three are scheduled to be done next month uh but it is on budget on track on time this project became really important because the organization had never done a total development budget which you guys don’t study in architecture school but becomes really important when you’re in the field because that’s all the cost that it costs to do the project including the architect’s fees and the hard costs in the project habits had never done it they were a non-profit agency that lived off of like benevolent donations they would start building a house and they would keep raising money and they would kind of raise money as they built the house and the house would get finished and they would sell it they would get some more money and they would kind of cobble it together just enough to keep it going doing like you know four to six houses a year 20 houses you need construction financing you need to show proof of funds this was on city land and they just had never had to do it before which makes me to like sometimes the things that are really remarkable in a project are not the sexy images that everybody comes to show you at their lecture right this is a red line i did of a water department drawing about how storm water was going to get from the street to the inlet in not really interesting this took six months to get cleared um this is our zoning plan we were just rezoning it fighting with the council person i had to go to council get a whole law just to change the zoning of the site because we’re january from multi-family to single family so that we could sell single family homes this on the bottom was because no one in my office understood how storm water worked and this was me doing diagrams to try to explain to them the difference between the two the three systems that we had we ultimately chose green roofs but they just didn’t understand how they worked and what that meant in terms of affordability because this system which was the cheapest is a shared system triggers an hoa and in pennsylvania hoas have very unique powers that allow the hoa to take your house if you are behind on hoa fees when you’re doing affordable housing you don’t want another thing out there that’s going to make it harder for a person to stay in their home long term

and so on this project kind of putting together all the things i had done previously these are all the reviews in the city of philadelphia that you need for building permanent approval this is how many i triggered on this project and because our organization’s trying to keep costs low i am managing all of this so like i’m the coordinator i’m coordinating the architect i’m running things down and getting permits to try to take as much off of their plate as we can so this became really important to have a person that kind of understood the process of making a building and how to get it done and like what that opened up was opportunities for new projects so this was us working with two other non-profits in west philadelphia to kind of propose a hundred unit plan we’re working with a private developer we have been working on this project for two years we’re still trying to get financing nobody is in a position to hire an architect before the project is ready so like what happens because most projects which they didn’t teach me in architecture school either like the architect doesn’t get to pick the project right this like utopia of studio that you guys get enjoy it while it lasts because after this the client rules everything they’re paying you they’re hiring you their contract is what you will live and die by all of the decisions get baked before they even hire you because they’re telling you the program that you’re bidding on you’re telling them how much it’s going to cost for you to do what they ask you to do and having architects on that side is really really really important because we get to shape the project and so this is us trying to kind of shape the project in lieu of not wanting to pay architects it’s me and a rose fellow that’s one of the other companies working on this trying to do about 100 units in west philly and actually i did this yesterday i presented as council person about two hours before my flight to syracuse um so this was me sitting in illustrator by myself proposing 58 units because i’m trying to make an argument that they need to give us a larger site and more land and everybody can’t see what i’m talking about when i’m like i just need this box in this this neighborhood here so now all that to say is that the skills that you get as architects are like they’re so so so useful about all aspects of your life even when you know your family asks you to do a baby shower invite that they’re trying to send out as an evite and so one of the most important things that i’ve done and sorry this picture is really really blurry i hate pixelated pictures but this is the only one they had is working uh with this group jumpstart philly saku mentioned it earlier it’s an organization in philadelphia that’s working to try to combat some of the issues around redlining and get more african-americans uh kind of as developers and so it’s a training program we train local residents in certain zip codes to flip houses and then we have a loan product that’s really easily accessible that gets them into their first kind of construction project and i started the west philadelphia kind of section of it we’ve done 120 students in the last year we floated five loans which is about seven projects so like to me this is super important work that you know as a traditional architect i wouldn’t have really been able to engage and all that to say is like all of these things that i do this is kind of that long list it looks like who is going down these are all the other organizations that i’m kind of involved with either as a board member as a committee member as an advisory board member across my time and so architecture is this broad thing that you can kind of stay active with all the time and part of why i did this was because i wasn’t working traditionally in the field kind of being involved in all these different organizations allowed me to stay connected to the field and it’s interesting because now in philadelphia every kind of spokesperson for the field so much so that this isn’t out yet so you guys are kind of getting a preview this is an article that’s celebrating the 150th anniversary of uh the philadelphia chapter of aia it’s the second chapter of ai in the country and it’s coming out in the winter but they wanted me to talk about my perspective on the 150 years of the organization as well as kind of commemorate the 50 year of the uh of the whitney m young speech and so i just kind of want to close with one of the lines from the whitney m young speech because it always scares me how relevant it still is and renee kind of did her she did a remix of it earlier but one thing he said was as a profession you are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights and i’m sure this has not come to any of you as a shock you are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance so my challenge is how do we change that how do we change that in school how do we change that in practice and it starts with individuals like your teacher can’t teach it to you you can’t expect it to come from the school it has to come from within and so my challenge to each of you as your students when you’re sitting here is figure out the thing that drives you it could be anything right but figure out the thing that drives you

and while you’re here while you have this space while you have the time and the support and the resources around you to learn something about it do it because there’s always going to be a million things to keep you from doing it and we all know studio takes up your entire life it doesn’t change but there’s no more time when you get out of school the time does not like magically appear the day you graduate from architecture school it keeps getting worse as you get adulting is not fun so figure it out and learn about it because you’re in the best place now when all these books are free they’re not free once you graduate you have to pay for them and my amazon account will let you know like i buy so many books and i’m like when i was in school i had this every day for free and here i am paying 250 on amazon just because i remember this one picture from like 2006 that i’m trying to find uh that’s what’s going to get us to the next step and kind of circling back like i was called upon right but checkmate the pawn can take the queen so always remember have your own goal in mind because you got the rest of your career so