|Reservoir Hill neighborhood|
If you spend enough time in architecture and urban design schools, you come to the realization (one of many) that race and justice are not factored into the design process. In fact there is (are) no course(s) taught on the design, race and justice, if such a thing can be taught. On November 17, 2013, rapper Kanye West paid a visit to the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in Cambridge, Massachusetts and shared with the students his passion for architecture and his design company DONDA. Mr. West's appearance was hosted by the African American Student Union, who sponsored a social justice centered urban design conference on May 12, 2015. Mr. West told the students, I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be architected. (http://www.dezeen.com/.../the-world-can-be-saved-through-design-says-kanye-w...)
|Kanye West at Harvard Graduate School of Design|
|Layfatte Street in West Baltimore|
It seems strange, especially in light of current events, that the subjects of race and justice are omitted from architecture and urban design syllabi. In blogger's opinion, race and social justice seem to have no place in the design process. However, one of the skills taught in design schools is problem solving and part of problem is considering all the variables, including race and justice. Brentin Mock observes, "For students trained as problem solvers, it has to be frustrating that their profession seems to have little impact on the prevailing problems of communities of color today. Part of the problem is that thinking about how race should intersect with design too often becomes the burden of citizens, if it becomes anyone's burden at all."
Bryan Lee, the winner of NOMA's Member of the Year award and place+civic design director for the Arts Council of New Orleans (http://www.artscouncilofneworleans.org), has been steadily working to raise awareness for these types of issues since his college years-where he divided his undergraduate time between the historically black college Florida A&M University and Ohio State University. The subjects of race and justice in the built environment were not broached at each school. Mr. Lee told Mr. Mock, The issue is an ideology that finds its roots in architectural modernism, which eliminates ethnocultural and even sociocultural conditions from the variables that define quality architecture...When we eliminate these essential considerations, we lose the ability for architecture to respond to the colloquial design languages of the people it serves.
The National Architectural Accrediting Board sets the requirements that validate these architectural programs but...they lack the representation of any group that potentially speak to the cultural variables that are necessary in the buildings we design.
This is a fascinating statement because in the field of art history, the cultural variables that go into a particular painting or sculpture are part of the discussion yet, in architecture and urban design, they seem to hold no resonance. This seems odd to blogger because architecture, like any art form, is a product of its time and culture. Therefore, divorcing cultural variables from a building seems an at odds with the idea of architecture as a historic document.
Brentin Mock concludes, "Which means the NAAB determines whether race and justice merit any weight in the development of these emerging urban design leaders. Still, as Eley references, there are architects who are thinking through these things." Blogger would like to return to the question of whether or not race and justice in the built environment can be taught at all. The answer is inconclusive. However, there are scholarly texts available on the subject of race and justice in architecture and urban design. If you click on the link at the top or bottom of the post and scroll dow to the end of the article, you will find an excerpt from a syllabus provided to Mr. Mock by Dana McKinney. The discussion of race and justice in the built environment is a long overdue discussion. Perhaps the next step in designing and planning communities of color is to begin talking about in architecture and urban planning schools.