Harvard Design School Graduate Dana McKinney Merges Architecture and Social Justice

Architect Dana McKinney (photo via news.harvard.edu)

article by Christina Pazzanese via news.harvard.edu

When Dana McKinney was a girl, her family drove every week from their small town in Fairfield County, Conn., to Sunday dinner at her grandmother’s home in Newark, N.J. To a child who loved dance and art, the changing scenery on those trips revealed stark contrasts that stung of economic inequality.

“I was going back and forth between a very comfortable lifestyle in Connecticut to a very depressed environment in Newark and became really inspired to look at how people can affect the built environment,” McKinney said. “I want to be able to fix this! — That was my immediate reaction — I’ll be an architect!”

After studying architecture at Princeton University, McKinney went to Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) to earn master’s degrees in architecture and urban planning. It’s an unusual and demanding course of study, but one McKinney felt would merge her design work with her interest in social change, social justice, and the power of architecture to transform people’s lives.

“I want to make beautiful spaces and buildings, but I don’t want … the pitfall of only working with elite clients, and I think a lot of times architects end up serving a very high-income population. A majority of housing is done by developers in the U.S., [so] good architecture barely reaches outside a certain economic class,” McKinney said.

Much of her academic work has focused on institutional change: improving elderly housing and studying the effects from the abrupt closure in 2014 of a large homeless facility in Boston. But with one in four Newark residents likely to spend some time in prison, McKinney’s thesis focused on “sensible and sensitive” design alternatives to prison that would help break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

It was an unconventional choice. When she put her idea before her faculty advisers, “I could hear the crickets in the room,” she said. But “by the end of it, they were all about it.” While McKinney doesn’t believe architecture alone can end homelessness or poverty or incarceration, she does believe the field has something important to offer.

“Everyone has a role in social development and in making sure that our society is a reflection of what we want it to be.”Indeed, though “spatial justice” is often thought of as an enterprise in the public realm, like the construction of parks and community centers, it’s not as frequently addressed in the private realm. Because housing is essential to well-being, McKinney hopes to eventually create spaces that promote not just equality, but equity. “Your self-worth and what you need to do well as a person starts with the safety and comfort you feel in your own home,” she explained.

Outside the classroom, McKinney has been active in bringing together African-American students at GSD and shining a spotlight on black women and men in a field where only 1 percent of architects are African-American. Having sometimes found herself one of only two black students in a class of 80, McKinney was among the earliest members of the African-American Student Union five years ago, serving last year as its president.

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Duke University to Further Honor Julian Abele, the Black Architect Who Designed Much of Its Campus

Julian Abele (photo: wikipedia.org)

Julian Abele (photo: wikipedia.org)

article via jbhe.com

In December, a JBHE post noted that Duke University was contemplating how to best honor the memory of Julian Abele. A Philadelphia-based architect, Abele designed many of the Gothic buildings on the campus of Duke University.

But because of his race, the university did not originally celebrate the architect of many of its most important structures. Abele died in 1950 having never visited the Duke campus where he had played such an important role. Abele’s role in designing the Duke campus did not become widely known until 1988. That year the university hung a portrait of Adele in the main administration building and another portrait was placed in the Rubenstein Library.

But now the university has announced that the main quadrangle with the university’s initial academic and residential buildings will be named Abele Quad. A plaque will be placed at the center of the Quad. In addition, a plaque honoring Abele will be placed in Duke Chapel. The university also announced that it will purchase the rights to the mural “Shadow and Light (for Julian Francis Abele).” The mural will become part of the permanent collection at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art.

A video exploring Abele’s contributions to Duke University can be seen below:

Duke University to Further Recognize Julian Abele, the Black Man Who Designed Many Buildings on Its Campus

Julian Abele (photo: wikipedia.org)

Julian Abele (photo: wikipedia.org)

In 1902 Julian Frances Abele was the first African American to graduate from the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. He was hired by the Horace Trumbauer architectural firm and spent his entire career there. He was responsible for the design on the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Widener Memorial Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Abele also designed many of the Gothic buildings on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. But because of his race, the university did not originally celebrate the architect of many of its most important structures. Abele died in 1950 having never visited the Duke campus where he had played such an important role.

Abele’s role in designing the Duke campus did not become widely known until 1988. That year the university hung a portrait of Adele in the main administration building and another portrait was placed in the Rubenstein Library.

Now Richard Brodhead, president of Duke University, has called for the formation of an advisory board to come up with a plan to give proper recognition to Julian Abele by February 2016. President Brodhead said that “Julian Abele envisioned the physical world of Duke University. It is time to ensure that his legacy is clearly known so that future generations of students and faculty can be inspired by his genius.”

article vie jbhe.com

Former NBA Champion Devean George Developing Affordable Housing in North Minneapolis (VIDEO)

deveangeorge

Former NBA Star Devean George (YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)

Former Los Angeles Laker Devean George is no longer worried about free throws and the hardwood, but is now focusing on giving back to the North Minneapolis community where he grew up.

George, whose career started with the Lakers but ended in 2010 with the Golden State Warriors, has teamed up with a former classmate, architect Jamil Fordto build an affordable-housing building in his hometown.

The 47-unit building will be located on Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road, and George hopes the building will be a positive change for an area known for crime and violence.  “Housing, I believe, is the foundation to doing whatever you want to do,” George said.

“If you don’t have stable housing, you’re not worried about education, you’re not worried about eating healthy, you’re not worried about anything else,” George said.

George is also making it easy for residents who’ll live in the building. Instead of having to travel miles to a grocery store, residents will be able to take advantage of a grocery co-op that George is also developing in the building.

“That’s what people look for when they go live in a neighborhood,” George said. “Where’s my grocery store? Where is my movie theater? Where can we go eat? Where can our kids go play at a park? And this was just a place where there is just housing.”

And this is just the beginning for George and Ford. After this initial building is finished, they plan to build another one.

“This is just the start,” George said. “This is just the catalyst of everything that’s going to go on.”

article by Yesha Callahan via theroot.com

USPS Honors Architect Robert Robinson Taylor With Stamp

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.00.31 AMSince 1940, the United States Postal Service has paid homage to the countless achievements made by African-American men and women through stamps that immortalize those individuals who had an impact on this country’s history.

Now Robert Robinson Taylor (pictured), the first academically trained black architect in the U.S. and, coincidentally, the great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, was honored on USPS’ 38th Black Heritage stamp, issued yesterday, February 12.

Taylor was born in Wilmington, N.C. 1868 to a middle-class family.  Taylor’s grandfather was a white slave owner, who freed his son, Henry Taylor, in 1847. Robert’s mother was descended from free blacks since before the Civil War. Upon graduating high school, Taylor worked for his father a bit but then attended the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where prejudice awaited him and the other handful of blacks who dared to attend.

During his four years at MIT, Taylor worked hard and managed to maintain an above average grade point average. He went on to graduate from MIT in 1892 becoming the first black person to receive a degree from the university.

Upon graduating MIT, Taylor married his wife, Nellie and landed a job at Tuskegee as an architect and educator through a close relationship he forged with Booker T. Washington. Taylor designed most of the university’s buildings built before 1932.  He retired from his university posts in 1935.

Taylor collapsed and passed away in 1942 while attending a service at the Tuskegee chapel which he had designed.

Last year the USPS honored the meritorious works of such African-American greats as Shirley Chisholm, Ralph Ellison, Jimi Hendrix, C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, Edna Lewis and Wilt Chamberlain through stamps.

article by Ruth Manuel-Logan via newsone.com