Tag: black architects

FEATURE: Gabrielle Bullock, Architect and International Interior Design Assn. President, Drew Lines and Then Crossed Them

Gabrielle Bullock, 56, is the Los Angeles-based head of global diversity for the international architecture and design firm Perkins+Will, an 83-year-old company with a workforce of more than 2,000 professionals. Bullock is also something of a pioneer, one of only 404 African American women who are licensed architects in the U.S. In 2017, Bullock was appointed as president-elect of the International Interior Design Assn., which has more than 15,000 members in 58 countries.

“I’m an architect, so I lead projects 50% of my time,” Bullock said. “The other 50% of the time I’m the firm’s director of global diversity. I lead the strategy, monitor it, lead the diversity council that we have and try to build a more inclusive culture for the firm.”


Natural talent

Bullock said she discovered her natural artistic ability early on. “I always drew. I used to make my own stationery when I was 9 or 10 years old. I believe I had some talent from my mother, who was an artist. Art was my thing.” It was also what earned her a coveted spot at the Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in her hometown of New York City.

Listening well, Part One

Mentors were few and far between, but Bullock was careful to listen intently when she heard someone give important information. One was a teacher named Mrs. Kravitz. Even though Bullock preferred drawing portraits and album covers, Mrs. Kravitz said, “‘You could be an architect.’ I only needed to hear that once. I went home and told my mom I was going to be an architect.” Bullock switched gears and began drawing buildings that she liked.

Painful inspiration

Bullock was a very observant child growing up, noting the differences when she traveled from the relative comfort of her family’s home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx through other parts of the borough that were stricken by poverty and blight.

“I had friends and family who lived in public housing,” Bullock said. “I saw how the black community was living, and it was an embarrassment. I wanted to change that. I thought about how I could redesign the housing environment for low-income people. If the windows were really small, I’d make great big windows. Everybody loves sunshine, right?”

Diversity driven

Bullock attended the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, becoming only the second African American female graduate, in 1984. Not only did it help buttress her belief in more livable architecture, she got a reverse course in diversity when it became clear that the school’s professors didn’t know how to reach out to her. “Few seemed to know how to tailor their instructional approach to people of different cultures.”

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Madam C.J. Walker’s “Villa Lewaro” Estate in New York Protected as National Treasure with Preservation Easement

Madame CJ Walker; Villa Lewaro, exterior and interior (photos: David Bohl; Walker Family Archives)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

On the heels of launching the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the largest preservation campaign ever undertaken on behalf of African-American history, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced a preservation easement on Madam C.J. Walker’s estate, Villa Lewaro. A powerful preservation tool, the easement prevents current and future owners from making adverse changes to or demolishing the estate’s historic, cultural and architectural features.

Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867–May 25, 1919), America’s first self-made female millionaire, commissioned Villa Lewaro, her “Dream of Dreams,” at the height of her wealth and prominence as inventor and entrepreneur of haircare products for African-American women. Constructed in 1918, alongside the Hudson River in Irvington, New York, Madam Walker’s elegant residence was built to inspire African-Americans to reach their highest potential.

Designed by Vertner Tandy—the first African-American registered architect in the state of New York and one of the seven founders of  Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.—the 34-room mansion served as the intellectual gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

“On the 150th anniversary of her birth, we are delighted to have played a lead role in the lasting protection of Madam C.J. Walker’s tangible legacy,” said Brent Leggs, director of the National Trust’s African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “The legal protection of irreplaceable historic sites like Villa Lewaro, one of the most significant places in women’s history, is essential in telling the full American story and inspiring future generations.”

Since designating the site as a National Treasure in 2014, the National Trust has worked with Villa Lewaro’s current owners and exceptional stewards, Ambassador and Mrs. Harold E. Doley, Jr., to recognize its architectural and historical significance and secure long-term protections before the property changes hands. The easement marks a successful culmination of those efforts.

Villa Lewaro stands as a living monument to Madam Walker’s entrepreneurial spirit and remains central to understanding her unprecedented achievement during an era when neither women nor African Americans were considered full citizens. Soon to be portrayed by award-winning actress Octavia Spencer in a series produced by LeBron James, Madam Walker’s story of persistence continues to inspire a growing number of African-American women taking leadership roles in business, politics, philanthropy, and other industries.

To learn more about the National Trust’s commitment to expand America’s view of history and bring attention to centuries of African-American activism and achievement, please visit: www.savingplaces.org/african-american-cultural-heritage

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:

Architect Everett L. Fly and Historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham to Receive National Humanities Medals

photo of Everett L. Fly
Everett L. Fly (Photo by Rosalinda Fly)

Architect and preservationist Everett L. Fly, who in 1977 became the first African American to earn a master of landscape architecture degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), and Thomas Professor of history and of African and African American studies at Harvard Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham are among the 10 recipients of the 2014 National Humanities Medal announced yesterday.

The National Humanities Medal honors an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history and literature or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources. Fly’s medal citation praises him:

for preserving the integrity of African-American places and landmarks. A landscape architect, Mr. Fly has worked tirelessly to win historical recognition for Eatonville, Florida, Nicodemus, Kansas, and other sites central to African-American history, preserving an important part of our broader American heritage.

Higginbotham’s citation honors her:

for illuminating the African-American journey. In her writings and edited volumes, Dr. Higginbotham has traced the course of African-American progress, and deepened our understanding of the American story.

According to the biography of Fly provided by the NEH, when he noticed that his GSD classes rarely mentioned buildings and places significant to African-American culture and heritage, he began a career-long study of the origin and evolution of historic black settlements in America. Ever since, he has been unearthing and saving historically significant but forgotten or unrecognized Native- and African-American settlements, more than 1,200 to date. “If we want our American cities to be healthy and sustain them in the future,” he says, “we have to find ways to value not just new office buildings and developers that have the most money and political clout. You find collective history in places where everyday people worked and made contributions that are just as valuable as a big businessperson or landowner. If you can find those connections to their history, people can have a closer relationship to their community.”

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Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (Photo via of Harvard University)

Higginbotham “knew from childhood” that she “wanted to teach, research, and write about the history of African Americans,” according to her biographical sketch. She moved from learning the stories of her family’s history to uncovering and sharing the stories of “individuals, groups, and institutions left out of the traditional American narrative” through her own works and as editor in chief of The Harvard Guide to African-American History and as co-editor of the 12-volume African American National Biography.

At Harvard, she has also fostered social engagement among students in the department of African and African American studies, seeking “a curriculum that said you could be socially responsible and engaged, and yet still be intellectually rigorous—that those two things could be wed together.”

Higginbotham and Fly will receive their medals from President Obama in a White House ceremony on September 10, as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) enters its golden anniversary year.

article by Jean Martin via harvardmagazine.com

Architect David Adjaye Designs Notable Buildings Worldwide, Including Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture

David Adjaye
David Adjaye photographed at his London office in Marylebone by Suki Dhanda for the Observer New Review.

I am looking at plans of the presidential palace in Libreville, Gabon, as existing and as proposed. The first shows gates, walls, guardhouses, accommodation for the president’s elite soldiers. The second shows public space, welcome zones, trees, landscaping, the elements of enlightened contemporary city planning. It is a diagram of liberalisation, of a new era assisted by design.

I am also looking at an image of a business school in Moscow, an unabashed work of oligarchic bling, that pre-empts its future rediscovery as a piece of ironic-lovable kitsch. There is a cool, white, slatted structure in an idyllic Mediterranean landscape, apartment blocks in Doha, and a composition of 10 inverted cones, to be arranged in a giant circle in Kampala. These are works of a realigned world, where the distribution of money and power ignores former distinctions of third and first worlds. They collectively offer the same reorientation as those world maps that dispense with the Eurocentric bias of Mercator’s projection.

David Adjaye’s Buildings in Pictures

The location is a black-floored, black-walled office on the edge of Marylebone, London, with shelves of black files with small white lettering. Galvanised steel shelves denote work, but a black, oblong pool of water, bright green curtains, and an impressive bunch of lilies suggest more an exclusive club or hotel. Possibly the lair of a Bond villain, only more benign. Architectural models are displayed like artworks, although inopportune beige printers puncture the stylishness. The entrance to the office, as often in David Adjaye’s projects, is barely perceptible.

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David Adjaye with his wife, Ashley Shaw-Scott. Photograph: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Design Miami

Adjaye is late, as he often is, but is then generous with his time, as he also often is. He says something nice about my personal life, as I make to sit down in the Eames chair by his desk. “Er, that’s mine,” he then says, directing me to a plywood seat opposite, which turns out to be a touch excruciating, in front of shelves bearing a discriminating selection of architectural books, and opposite a wall of inspirational images – great buildings, beautiful bodies, maps of Africa, the former model Ashley Shaw-Scott, whom he recently married. “Do you mind if I eat?” he asks, as he uncovers a late lunch from a local curry house, “I have to eat.” He is on the move, as usual. Where has he come from? “Just New York.” Diplomacy and charm are at work here and a tiny assertion of status, which have helped get him where is, but the warmth is also genuine.

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The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

New York is where he has another office, a more informal, light-filled place above an old bank on Canal Street. He has a third in Accra. This tri-continental practice is not bad for an architect in his 40s who seven years ago, when the credit crunch hit, nearly went bust, but the nature of the commissions is more impressive. He has a knack for projects freighted with significance, the foremost of which is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the highly charged turf of the National Mall in Washington DC, just across from the Washington Memorial. (To be more precise, Adjaye is one of a team of four architectural practices working on the museum, with his role described as “lead designer”.) It is due to open next year, a century after the idea of such a museum was first mooted by some black veterans of the civil war.

He also has a knack for associating with conspicuous and interesting people. In the early years of his practice these tended to be creative types – the artists Jake Chapman, Tom Noble and Sue Webster, Ewan McGregorAlexander McQueen. Now it is more people like Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, for whom Adjaye has designed a house in Ghana. Or the new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who recently toured Adjaye’s housing development in Sugar Hill, Harlem, or Barack Obama.

He doesn’t want the latter connection to be exaggerated – “I am not on his speed dial” – and he scotches rumours that he is to design Obama’s presidential library: the choice of architect hasn’t been considered yet. But the Smithsonian museum will be the most significant architectural project of Obama’s presidency, and Adjaye has had more contact with the White House than most architects.

Adjaye’s friends praise the range of his influences and interests. “I was incredibly, incredibly inspired by the breadth of his vision,” says Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, of the time she first heard him speak. “There’s Bauhaus in it,” says the artist Lorna Simpson, for whom Adjaye designed a studio building in Brooklyn, “but also the places where he grew up as a child – ornament, pattern, the way light comes in, different things from different places.”

Adjaye was born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, his father a diplomat, so these formative places included parts of Africa, Saudi Arabia, and eventually London. It was in London that he studied architecture, launched his practice, and designed his first projects.

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