Statement and Resources on Race and Architecture

The murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis—and the murders of Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others—lays bare, yet again, the pervasive and enduring racism that disfigures American society. 

Simultaneous with these deaths, systemic racist violence shows itself as part of all of the converging crises of this moment: the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant economic collapse; climate change; our ongoing “everyday” crises of police brutality, housing insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, radically unequal and unjust education and criminal legal systems, and overarching economic inequality. Each of these sources of oppression in American society has had and is having massively disproportionate impacts on Black and brown Americans. 

Every system, every institution in American society, including the discipline of architecture, is implicated. The built environment—our public, private, and civic spaces, and the ways we design, construct, and inhabit them—reifies lopsided power relationships, economic inequality, and thwarted opportunity. Through inadequately examined design, planning, and land-use decisions; through the negligent or malevolent location of infrastructure, “renewal,” and noxious uses in poor and minority neighborhoods; through embodying and failing to challenge the aggrandizement of Whiteness and the depreciation of Blackness and all other cultures in aesthetic, technological, and historical norms and values; through our inadequate commitment to helping provide the human right of adequate shelter and other basic needs, we perpetuate the status quo and the unjust world it has created.

Dismantling and rebuilding these systems and practices—and the very structures of American society—is not the work of a month or a year; it is work that must engage all of us, immediately, continuously, for a lifetime.

We commit The Architectural League to ongoing action for change.

Paul Lewis, President, Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director, and the board and staff of The Architectural League

Resources for reading and viewing on race and architecture, compiled by Mario Gooden, with Mabel O. Wilson and the Architectural League staff

Books and Articles

Aggregate Collaborative Black Lives Matter project
     Introduction: Black Lives Matter Jonathan Massey, Meredith TenHoor with Sben Korsh
     Is “Justice Architecture” Just? • Raphael Sperry
     Schools and Prisons • Amber Wiley
     Fair Policing for the Fair City? • Researchers for Fair Policing
     Defensible Space and the Open Society • Joy Knoblauch
     Designing the Great Migration • James D. Graham and Michael Abrahamson
     The Invisible Brother with a Brick • Brian Goldstein
     Race, Planning, and the American City • Joseph Heathcott
     The Rights to the Suburb • Dianne Harris
     Air and the Politics of Resistance • Derek R. Ford
     Black Spaces Matter • Charles Davis II
     Toward a Black Formalism • Darell Fields
     Farming the Revolution • Mike Carriere, Antoine Carter, and Fidel Verdin
     Valuing Black Lives Means Changing Curricula • Héctor Tarrido-Picard

James Baldwin, “A Letter to My Nephew,” Progressive Magazine, 1962

James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son” (Beacon Press, 1955)

Craig Barton, ed., Sites of Memory: Perspectives on Architecture and Race (Princeton Architectural Press, 2001)

Adrienne Brown, The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019)

David Brown and William Williams, Row: Trajectories Through the Shotgun House (Rice School of Architecture, 2004)

Simone Brown, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Duke University Press, 2015)

Anne Anlin Cheng, Second Skin: Josephine Baker & the Modern Surface (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Irene Cheng, “Race and Architectural Geometry: Thomas Jefferson’s Octagons”  J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2015

Irene Cheng, Charles L. David, Mabel O. Wilson, Race and Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,The Atlantic, June 2014

Kimberly Dowdell, “Racism is built into US Cities,” Fast Company, June 2020

Darrell Wayne Fields,  Architecture in Black: Theory, Space and Appearance (Bloomsbury, 2015)

Thelma Golden, ed, Harlemworld: Metropolis as Metaphor (Studio Museum in Harlem, 2004)

Mario Gooden, “Appearances and (Non)Erasures: Mapping Confederate Monuments and the Racial Conditionedness of Liberation,” Chicago Architecture Biennial, 2019

Mario Gooden, Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2016)

Nikole Hannah-Jones, “The 1619 Project,” The New York Times Magazine

Dianne Harris, Little White Houses (University of Minnesota Press, 2012)

Le Corbusier, “The Spirit Of The Machine, And Negroes In The USA,” When the Cathedrals Were White,  pp. 158-164 (McGraw-Hill, 1964)

Bryan Lee, Jr., “America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress,” Citylab, June 2020

Lesley Lokko, White Papers Black Marks: Architecture, Race, Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2000)

Joanne Merwood-Salisbury, “Western Architecture: Regionalism and Race in the Inland Architect,” Chicago Architecture Histories: Revisions and Alternatives, ed. by Charles Waldheim and Katerina Ruedi Ray (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Vintage, 1992)

Melvin Mitchell, The Crisis of the African-American Architect: Conflicting Cultures of Architecture and (Black) Power (iUniverse, 2002)

Jimmy Robert, “Imitation of Lives” , interview with Mario Gooden, Performa 17 Magazine, November 2017

Sarah Schindler, “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Yale Law Journal, April 2015

Sharon Sutton, When Ivory Towers Were Black: A Story about Race in America’s Cities and Universities (Fordham University Press, 2017)

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Race for Profit (University of North Carolina Press, 2019)

Huda Tayob and Suzanne Hall, “Race, Space and Architecture: towards an open-access curriculum” (London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Sociology, 2019)

Dell Upton, What Can and Can’t be Said: Race Uplift and Monument Building in the Contemporary South (University of California Press, 2015)

Paul A. Wellington, Black Built: History and Architecture in the Black Community (2019)

Mark Wigley, White Walls, Designer Dresses (MIT Press, 1996)

Craig Wilkins, Diversity Among Architects: From Margin to Center (Routledge, 2016)

Craig L. Wilkins, The Aesthetics of Equity: Notes on Race, Space, Architecture, and Music (University of Minnesota Press, 2007)

Mabel O. Wilson, Begin with the Past: Building the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

Mabel O. Wilson, “Black Bodies/White Cities: Le Corbusier in Harlem” ANY: Architecture New York, No. 16, Whiteness: WHITE FORMS, FORMS OF WHITENESS, 1996

Mabel O. Wilson, “Carceral Architectures,” e-flux

Mabel O. Wilson, “Mine Not Yours, e-flux

Mabel O. Wilson, Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (University of California Press, 2012)

Mabel O. Wilson, “White by Design” Among Others: MoMA and Blackness,” ed. by Darby English and Charlotte Barat (MoMA Publications, 2019)

Whitney M. Young, 1968 AIA Convention Speech

Films and Performances

13th (dir. Ava DuVernay, 2016) — 

Black and Tan (dir. Dudley Murphy, 1929) –

Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent at Youtube, Google Play, iTunes

Do the Right Thing (dir. Spike Lee 1989) — Available to rent at Youtube, Google Play, iTunes

Eyes on The Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 (dir. Henry Hampton, 1987) – Available to purchase at PBS. All interviews from the series are available for free viewing and reading at the Washington University of St. Louis Film and Media Archive. 

Fruitvale Station (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2013) — Available to rent at Youtube, Google Play, iTunes

I Am Not Your Negro (dir. Raoul Peck, 2016) — Available for free viewing at PBS until 6/21/20, available to rent at Youtube, Google Play, iTunes

Imitations of Lives (performance by Jimmy Robert, 2017) – 

I Wanna Be Ready, (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, 2018) –

Killer of Sheep (dir. Charles Burnett, 1978) –

Modern Living: Villa Savoye (performance by Gerard & Kelly, 2019) – Read a write-up of the performance by Alexander Gorlin and watch an excerpt here.

Selma (dir. Ava DuVernay, 2014) — Available for free rental at Youtube, Google Play, iTunes for the month of June

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (dir. Stanley Nelson, 2015) — Available for free viewing at PBS until 7/4/2020, available to rent at Youtube, Google Play, iTunes