Current Work: Inwood Sacred Sites

The Inwood Sacred Sites project design team discuss their evolving collaboration on a former burial ground for enslaved Africans and Lenape ceremonial site.

November 15, 2023
7:00 p.m.

Image credit: Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee Libraries, courtesy JAKLITSCH/GARDNER Architects

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

In 2023, the Current Work series will look at collaborative design processes across scales, from urban design to individual buildings. In an effort to reflect the many disciplines that are involved in the processes of design and building, rather than focusing on individual practitioners or firms, each event will instead explore a single project or instance of collaboration.

In 2020, the Bowery Residents’ Committee learned that the Inwood lot on which they planned to build a shelter for those experiencing homelessness had been a burial ground for enslaved Africans and a Lenape ceremonial site. Leveled by city contractors in 1903 as the area was developed, the burial ground was destroyed and the remains exhumed and discarded.

The Inwood Sacred Sites project emerged from “a need to acknowledge and honor the history of the land as a site of colonial violence,” according to the project group. Made up of a design team, a community advisory group, BRC, and The Dyckman House, the Sacred Sites project is dedicated to creating a space to honor and make visible the lives of those who were lost. 

The design team, JAKLITSCH/GARDNER Architects; Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architect (EKLA); and Joe Baker, artist and executive director of the Lenape Center, is working in close collaboration to craft a spatial narrative for the new center that recognizes those who once inhabited the land, reflects the site’s complex history, and fosters community interaction.

Mark Gardner of JAKLITSCH/GARDNER, Elizabeth Kennedy of EKLA, Joe Baker of the Lenape Center (prerecorded), and Peggy King Jorde, activist and cultural projects consultant will present the project individually, then convene for a conversation moderated by Quilian Riano, dean of Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture.


Joe Baker is an artist, educator, and curator with three decades of experience in the field of Native Arts. He is an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma and co-founding executive director of the Lenape Center. Baker has collaborated with institutions such as the Brooklyn Public Library and Farm Hub in the Hudson River Valley to create exhibits, programming, and projects that promote and protect the ancestral history and contemporary culture of the Lenape people. Baker’s work, spanning multiple mediums, is included in the permanent collections of museums across North America, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mark Gardner founded JAKLITSCH/GARDNER with Stephan Jaklitsch in 1998. Based in New York City, the Black-and-LGBTQIA+ owned practice is dedicated to “designing buildings that celebrate people and communities,” in the firm’s own words. JAKLITSCH/GARDNER Architects has received nine American Institute of Architects Awards, including a National Honor Award. Formerly the Director of the Master of Architecture program at Parsons and a current professor at the school, Gardner teaches and writes about the nexus of art and architecture, a central focus of his practice. He is a member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA).

Elizabeth Kennedy is the founder of Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architecture (EKLA). Kennedy directs the Brooklyn-based studio, whose projects include working landscapes and the development of cultural sites that engage a critical understanding of place and identity. Kennedy is the 2022 recipient of the Landscape Architecture Foundation Medal, which honors a career of distinguished work in landscape sustainability, and recognizes her efforts to intersect cultural heritage and ecology in socially just ways. She is a member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA).

Peggy King Jorde is an activist and cultural projects consultant with a practice in cultural heritage protection, memorialization, and advocacy. King Jorde led early efforts to protect the New York African Burial Ground and served as Director of Memorialization for the National Memorial. In 2020, she was a keynote speaker at the United Nations’ forum on Slavery Remembrance. King Jorde is currently leading the campaign to memorialize thousands buried in an African burial ground on the island of Saint Helena. A film about the project, “A Story of Bones,” premiered in 2022 at the Tribeca Film Festival.


This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

The event is co-sponsored by Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture.