Tag: architecture

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.

Continue reading “Harvard Design School Graduate Dana McKinney Merges Architecture and Social Justice”

Top 10 Afro-Smart Buildings and Interior Designs

North Island Lodge in the Seychelles

From the Great Pyramids of Giza to the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia; the Swahili stone houses of Kenya to the Bedouin tents of Morocco — indigenous African design bespeaks grace, style, imagination and verve. Over hundreds of years, the continent has also absorbed layers of influence from other cultures through explorers, invaders, soldiers, stonemasons, merchants and missionaries hailing from such far-flung places as Turkey, India, Europe, China and Arabia. Today’s architecture and interior design draws on this variegated past, often fusing local, hand-crafted elements with modern technology to create an aesthetic that is absolutely African.

One example is pictured – North Island Lodge (www.north-island.org).  The Lodge opened 10 years ago on a private paradise island in the Seychelles and caters to the ecologically-minded. The entire place was built after extensive coordination with the government to make certain the environment was not only undisturbed, but preserved. The owners’ philosophy is to rehabilitate habitats and reintroduce the critically endangered flora and fauna of Seychelles.

To see and learn more about this and other indigenous African constructs, click on Africa.com‘s full article and slideshow  Top 10 Afro-Smart Designs.

original article by Africa.com‘s Peggy Healy

Go-Go Music Godfather Chuck Brown To Be Honored with City Park Memorial and Ampitheater

(D.C. Department of General Services)

(D.C. Department of General Services)

Washington DC city officials released renderings of the city’s recreational tribute to go-go godfather Chuck Brown — a $1 million steel-and-wood music pavilion on the grounds of Langdon Park in Northeast Washington.  The bandshell faces outdoor seating built into an earthen berm and surrounded by magnolia trees and backed by a copse of evergreens. Beside it stands a “timeline tower” listing Brown’s most famous songs in chronological order.

The architects, Marshall Moya Design, said the pavilion “follow[s] the ancient design concepts that the Romans used to build open-air amphitheaters.” In any case, it’s a lot more impressive than the initial plans for Chuck Brown Park.

It will be an all-too-rare locally oriented memorial, Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Thursday. ”A lot of our monuments, which are iconic, are really a tribute to people who have national significance,” he said. “We have so many of those, and we just want to make sure we recognize that we have over 600,000 people in the city, many of whom made an important contribution to the city. … Chuck was one of those.”

Continue reading “Go-Go Music Godfather Chuck Brown To Be Honored with City Park Memorial and Ampitheater”

Tate Modern Gallery Opens the Door to Africa

Meschac Gaba's Museum of Contemporary African Art

Meschac Gaba’s Museum of Contemporary African Art. Photograph: Nils Klinger

Since the building of the great modern art museums in New York, Paris and London, the narrative of 20th-century and contemporary art has been told, by and large, through the stories of the great European and North American cities.  But the Tate has announced it is time to look further afield. “There is not a crisis in British or European art,” said the Tate director, Sir Nicholas Serota, “but we are conscious art is being made across the world and those areas outside Europe and North America cannot be regarded as the periphery.”

artist Otobong Nkanga

Tate will reflect its new international focus through a two-year programme of activities focused on Africa, beginning on 24 November. Events will include performance works in the new Tate Tanks by Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga and Angolan Nástio Mosquito. Next year, Tate Modern will show an extensive work that it has recently acquired by the artist Meschac Gaba, from Benin. Titled Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997-2002, and in 12 sections or “rooms”, it acts as a playful, questioning museum – while highlighting that there is, in fact, no such thing as a museum of contemporary African art.

Continue reading “Tate Modern Gallery Opens the Door to Africa”

David Adjaye Tops Britain’s PowerList 2013

David Adjaye is hailed as the UK's most inspirational black figure by the 2013 PowerList

David Adjaye is hailed as the UK’s most inspirational black figure by the 2013 PowerList. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

David Adjaye, the architect chosen to design Washington DC’s $500 million National Museum of African American History and Culture, has topped a list of Britain’s most influential black people, ahead of double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah and “The Wire” star Idris Elba.

In the sixth edition of the annual PowerList, the top 100 people regarded as role models in their fields, the Tanzanian-born founder of Adjaye Associates is hailed as an inspirational figure who saw off financial crisis during the recession to become one of the country’s most high-profile architects.

Continue reading “David Adjaye Tops Britain’s PowerList 2013”