First installment of lectures on Anti-Racism and Global Architectural History

By Anita Bakshi

Starting at the scale of infrastructure, policy, and land acquisition, this lecture examines how the groundwork has been laid for ongoing exploitation and slow violence against communities of color in the United States.  It explores the impacts of industrial pollution and contamination by highlighting the connections between the built environment and public health in light of the history of industrial zoning.  Acknowledging the connections  between race and contaminated environments, it grounds an examination of contemporary lived experiences with a history of zoning laws in American cities and federal policies that stripped Native Americans of their lands and led to high rates of environmental pollution near their communities.  The lecture links to other educational resources and videos to explore how contamination has affected the built environment and cultural practices and connections to urban and natural landscapes. 

 

By Bryan Clark Green & Kathleen James Chakraborty

Named for the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, one of mid-century America’s leading African American newspapers, the Robert L. Vann Tower of the Belgian Friendship Building rises substantially higher than any of the Confederate statues on Richmond, Virginia’s nearly Monument Avenue ever did.   Although prominent on the city’s skyline, the Belgian Friendship Building has been overlooked in histories of the importation of European modern architecture into the United States, and in particular, onto American campuses, in part because the architecture of historically Black colleges and universities has been too often overlooked, but also because of the problematic relationship of the building, which originally served as Belgium’s pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, to Belgian colonialism in the Congo.

 

By Peter Makachia
 

The lecture, based on theoretical positions, is reliant on archival spatial data as well as case-study material sourced directly from the field and through studio-based programmes with architecture students. The site of Eastlands was the ‘African Location’ of the racially-segregated colonial Nairobi and became the laboratory of various quasi-experiments on African residential spatiality. Three case-study schemes represent key housing delivery strategies of: (a) employer-built (Muthurwa) (b) self-building (Majengo) and (c) public rental (Bahati) estates as realized during British colonialism. The initial reluctance to accommodate the race in the city was thus succeeded by these strategies albeit heavily-laden with racism and segregation. The reality today of dire and unseemly environments is self-evidencing not atypical of un-convivial neighbourhoods of the African city of the post-colony.  The contemporary African city remains unrepentantly informed by the racist segregationist architecture of its origination, albeit now substituted by an economic parlance of poverty. What is discerned is that to create a more equitable urbanity one shall invoke more social engagement and participation of the dwellers in the housing process. Sadly, this opportunity was never appropriated by the postcolony, and this constitutes the core virus that afflicts African urbanity and residential space. 

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