Current Work: Walter Hood

The architect discusses his work in a conversation with Mabel O. Wilson and Mario Gooden.

December 15, 2020
7:00 p.m.

Hood Design Studio | Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park, Jacksonville, FL. In progress. Courtesy Hood Design Studio

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

Walter Hood is the creative director and founder of Hood Design Studio. Based in Oakland, California, the studio defines itself as a cultural practice, working across art, fabrication, design, landscape, research, and urbanism. Hood combines “architectural and fine arts expertise with a commitment to designing ecologically sustainable public spaces that empower marginalized communities.” Throughout his career, he has transformed traffic islands, vacant lots, and freeway underpasses into spaces that challenge the legacy of neglect of urban neighborhoods. Through community engagement, his work investigates the natural and social histories of a place as well as the aspirations of current residents.

Hood is a recipient of the 2017 Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award and in 2019 was awarded the Knight Foundation Public Spaces Fellowship, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.

He is also the David K. Woo Chair and a professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley. He was recently the Spring 2020 Diana Balmori Visiting Professor at the Yale School of Architecture.

Hood is the editor, with Grace Mitchell Tada, of Black Landscapes Matter (University of Virginia Press, November 2020).

Recent and current projects include:

  • The International African American Museum Landscape + Memorial in Charleston, SC, which takes cues from “hush harbors”—landscapes where enslaved Africans would gather, often in secret, to freely assemble, share stories, and keep traditions from their homeland alive.
  • The Broad Museum Plaza, a space that, floating adjacent to downtown Los Angeles’ Upper Grand Avenue, includes 100-year old Barouni olive trees transplanted into an offset grid that imbues the new plaza with presence and scale.
  • Green Valley Town Square + Freed Sculpture, a landscape project honoring the history and lush woodlands of Nauck, a neighborhood in Arlington, VA. The project includes the design of a sculpture built from interconnected “slave badges” to validate the presence of freed Blacks who occupied the landscape and whose descendants still live there.

The lecture will be followed by a conversation with Mabel O. Wilson and Mario Gooden.

Mario Gooden is an associate professor and co-director of the Global Africa Lab (with Mabel O. Wilson) at Columbia GSAPP, a research associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD) center at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, and principal of Huff + Gooden Architects. His practice engages the cultural landscape and the intersectionality of architecture, race, gender, sexuality, and technology. Gooden is the author of Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity (2016).

Mabel O. Wilson is the Nancy and George E. Rupp professor in architecture at GSAPP,  a professor in African American and African Diasporic Studies, and the director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia. She is the co-editor of Race and Modern Architecture (2020) and has authored Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016) and Negro Building: African Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (2012).

Hood and Gooden are currently collaborating on the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. They, along with Wilson, led Making History/Building Visions, a 2019 symposium organized by Gooden, discussing the future of the museum and the history of African Americans in St. Petersburg. Gooden, Hood, and Wilson are also working on the Clinton Church Restoration project in Great Barrington, MA, a heritage site and cultural community center dedicated to interpreting African American life and history in the Berkshires.


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 the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The event is co-sponsored by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union.



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