It’s no revelation that Black Americans have been underserved by architects and urban planners. Systemic racism pervades the built environment–from segregated communities and freeways built on top of Black neighborhoods to prejudiced housing practices and a lack of Black representation in the development process. It doesn’t help that just 11% of architects identify as a racial minority.
The question is not how this happened, but what to do about it.
Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America is a new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that seeks to bring this question into new light. It focuses less on what has gone so wrong for so long, but how architecture can begin to better reflect and represent people it has neglected and abused.
The exhibition was organized by Sean Anderson, an associate curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, and Mabel O. Wilson, an architecture professor at Columbia University. About three years ago, Anderson was doing research on some of the most well-known mid-century Black architects, including Paul Revere Williams and Max Bond, and was surprised to find that neither had been included in any of the museum’s exhibitions over the years. “And the more I started digging into that, I realized that no Black architects had been shown,” Anderson says.