The Deborah J. Norden Fund 2020
Alicia Ajayi: “We Call It Freedom Village: Brooklyn, Illinois’s Radical Tactics of Black Place-Making”
Chris Starkey and William Doran: “Sheltered: Evaluating the Potential for Design to Shape Policy Toward the Goal of Inclusive, Intentional Communities for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities"
The Deborah J. Norden Fund, a program of The Architectural League of New York, was established in 1995 in memory of architect and arts administrator Deborah Norden. The competition awards travel grants of up to $5,000 to students and recent graduates in the fields of architecture, architectural history, and urban studies.
This year, the League awarded two grants. Alicia Ajayi will pursue her research project “We Call It Freedom Village: Brooklyn, Illinois’s Radical Tactics of Black Place-Making,” which explores placemaking tactics used in the first Black incorporated village in the United States.
Chris Starkey and William Doran were awarded support for their project “Sheltered: Evaluating the Potential for Design to Shape Policy Toward the Goal of Inclusive, Intentional Communities for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities.” They will visit and study enclave communities for adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities across the country.
“We Call It Freedom Village: Brooklyn, Illinois’s Radical Tactics of Black Place-Making”
Alicia Ajayi will study the town of Brooklyn, Illinois, which sits directly across from St. Louis, Missouri, on the east bank of the Mississippi River. As Ajayi describes her project: “Brooklyn is a small Black town with 700 residents, and the town motto of “Founded by Chance, Sustained by Courage.” Local oral histories claim that in 1829 eleven families led by Priscilla “Mother” Baltimore left Missouri and crossed the mighty Mississippi [from] a slave state, into Illinois, a free state….Once on the promised land of freedom, the group settled in a secluded wooded area near the riverbanks in what is called a “freedom village” by scholars and local historians. Brooklyn, thought to be involved in the Underground Railroad activity, became a place for Black agency and self-realization. In 1873, Brooklyn became the first Black incorporated village.”
Black town-building was an important tactic deployed during the Black protonationalist movement that emerged in the nineteenth century and lasted well into the Jim Crow era (1877–1950s). Brooklyn, IL is an example of how Blacks pursued freedom and eventually power with tactics of place-making. In other words, making Black space was and continues to be a radical act. Ajayi’s research is an ongoing effort to fill in the gaps of architectural history and history at large while exploring the complicated nuance of Black participation in the same capitalist system that oppressed them. The research will include extensive mapping and spatial studies, material culture studies, and documentation of oral stories.
Alicia Olushola Ajayi received a master of design research from the School of Visual Arts and a master of architecture and social work from Washington University in St. Louis. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental design from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
"Sheltered: Evaluating the Potential for Design to Shape Policy Toward the Goal of Inclusive, Intentional Communities for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities"
The Baddour Center is a 150-person enclave community in North Mississippi for adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs) that affords freedom of movement, self-expression, a broad social life, close connections to the local community, and a degree of safety that is difficult to achieve in most communities. Since the 1950s, U.S. legislation governing federal funding for care for the disabled has followed a major attitude shift away from institutional settings toward community inclusion. Chris Starkey and William Doran argue that deinstitutionalization, and the federally directed shift in funding to home and community-based services (HCBS), have distorted the market for care, limiting choices available to individuals with IDDs, and stigmatizing communities like the Baddour Center. Dialectical arguments for or against “institutionalization” have obfuscated a more complicated reality: every individual has unique desires and needs that must be balanced with the needs of their families, their supporters, and their communities within society.
Doran and Starkey will document and study spaces for individuals with IDDs across the United States – both privately and publicly-funded enclave communities and their “in-community” counterparts. The team has spent the last four years working with the Baddour Center on the creation and execution of their master plan, and, through this work, has discovered a rich set of common issues across the care provider network. Though urban design and architecture play a major role in policy, there is a paucity of architectural research on the impact of the federal definition of HCBS settings and deinstitutionalization. A study of these policies and places is a starting point for an important cross-disciplinary dialogue.
Chris Starkey received a master of environmental management and a master of architecture from Yale University. He holds a BArch from Rice University.
William Doran received a master of architecture design-build from the University of Kansas and a BArch from Louisiana State University.