Mabel O. Wilson: Bulletproofing America’s Public Space: Race, Remembrance, and Emmett Till

The 2020 Eleanore Pettersen Remote Lecture.

April 29, 2020
6:30 p.m.

Image credit: Debbie Elliot / NPR

Presented by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union and The Architectural League of New York

Compelling architectural and urban designs like the recent Memorial to Peace and Justice by MASS Design Group have been erected to aid the public in remembering the historic and geographic scope of America’s legacy of racial violence. As architects, planners, urbanists, and historians, how do we commemorate America’s fraught history, when recent protests by the white nationalist group Unite the Right at historic sites like the University of Virginia, or the need to bulletproof a historical marker at an important site of the Civil Rights struggle, tells us that violence still simmers and erupts in the nation’s public spaces? 

Mabel O. Wilson is the Nancy and George E. Rupp Professor in Architecture and also a professor in African American and African Diasporic Studies at Columbia University. She also serves as the Associate Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies and co-directs Global Africa Lab. She has authored Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2017) and Negro Building: African Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (2012). She co-edited with Irene Cheng and Charles Davis the recently published volume Race and Modern Architecture: From the Enlightenment to Today (2020). With her practice Studio &, she is a collaborator in the architectural team that recently completed the Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers at the University of Virginia. For MoMA, she is co-curator of the forthcoming exhibition Reconstructions: Blackness and Architecture in America. She’s a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?) a collective that advocates for fair labor practices on building sites worldwide.

The Eleanore Pettersen Lecture Series
The Eleanore Pettersen Lecture, established through a generous gift to The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, is dedicated to the voices of women in architecture as a lasting tribute to Ms. Pettersen’s significant impact in the world of architecture and her love of The Cooper Union. Pettersen, who had worked as an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright and would later design the post-White House home of Richard M. Nixon, was one of the first women to be licensed as an architect in New Jersey and developed a successful practice there that spanned over fifty years.

Lectures in this series have been given by Toshiko Mori (2005), Phyllis Lambert (2006), Elizabeth Wright Ingraham (2008), Billie Tsien (2009), Francine Houben (2011), Sarah Wigglesworth (2013), and Farshid Moussavi (2014).

This event will be introduced and moderated by Nader Tehrani. The remote lecture and discussion is free and open to the public.