This research developed an overall outlook of the depiction of Black Death within society today. The goal was to show overbearing injustice towards Black Bodies and highlighted the need for a response to the disparity.
By Aria Griffin and Brayton Gregory, Harvard GSD
Since their forced migration into this country, Black Bodies have been associated in their depiction with pain and suffering. As Black death becomes ubiquitous within our culture, society and the media become desensitized with regards to mourning of death of individuals and the spaces we lay these bodies to rest, which reflect a sense of apathy.
The purpose of this research is to investigate the power of design and its capability of providing a space of solidarity for mourning and grief within these marginalized communities.
This research developed an overall outlook of the depiction of Black Death within society today. The goal was to show overbearing injustice towards Black Bodies and highlighted the need for a response to the disparity. The research looked at a multitude of cultural groups that also faced disparity; this developed a list of organizations and support spaces that were intended to provide aid.
The research also involved studies of design precedents that combated social injustice successfully but providing spaces of solidarity that resonated positively within the surrounding communities. The successful attributes of these design were then compared to the problems that arose from extensive research of specific community needs and social activist movements.
The results of this investigation revealed the need for design interventions that could provide spaces of solidarity that had the capability of giving a sense of peace and comfort to marginalized communities affected by systematic violence and injustice. Architecture as design agency to foster and empower spaces that can promote social and cultural change.
BLACK DEATH + UBIQUITY DEPICTION OF PAIN AND SUFFERING
AUGUST 9, 2014
Michael Brown Ferguson
Mapping Police Violence
“I loved it. There was something very unique and special about the relationships we had. Even though there were many,many fights, there (was) still something unique. It was like a very huge family.....I had a ball growing up in the projects. Just a ball. Given the choice between growing up in Ladue and growing up in the projects, I’d pick the projects,handsdown.” – Barbara West, 2005 (on Pruitt-Igoe)
“The environment is definitely bad. The conditions here are fair. This is a city within a city, and the people make their own laws. To a person who cannot afford the luxuries that a person can have, Pruitt-Igoe is what you might say was forced upon them. This is the last resort. It could be better than what it is. But then again the people help destroy it.” – Mrs. Coolidge, 19 years old, resident, 1963
“We don’t even talk about when Pruitt-Igoe was getting ready to be torn down. I don’t, because it was so bad then. I don’t even like to think about that. I like to think about it when it was just opened up,how it was just like Beverly Hills.” – Rose Jones, 2005
“...Pruitt-Igoe condenses into one 57-acre tract all of the problems and difficulties that arise from race and poverty and all of the impotence, indifference and hostility with which our society has so far dealt with these problems.” – Lee Rainwater, 1970
“Think of how Pruitt-Igoe suffocated this community, attracted crime and sheltered drugs and shattered hope.” – President George H.W. Bush, 1991
After months of preparation, the first building was demolished with an explosive detonation at 3 pm, on March 16, 1972. (Ramroth, p. 165)
“The private, and more importantly, public spaces created in the twentieth century reinforced the nineteenth-century traditions of Jim Crow, determining that separate facilities for each race was the preferred method of exercising control and authority over the city’s blackpopulation” – Craig Barton
CALL FOR ACTION
May 3, 2018Paul Mckee and Company 1001 Boardwalk Springs Place O’Fallon, Missouri 63368
CALL TO ACTION
Dear Paul Mckee,
As students of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, we demand the recognition of the subjugation of black bodies within the new development of Pruitt Igoe. Through extensive research of spaces of solidarity and surrounding issues of Black death and mourning we see the need for racialized sites such as Pruitt Igoe to respond to the ongoing social injustices imposed on Black bodies. We looked at case studies that have successfully created hyper-visible spaces of honoring subjugated histories and memory. We studied the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL as well as the National Museum for African American History in Washington, D.C. as exemplars in a new type of building. We believe that your development of the Pruitt Igoe site should be one of the first of its kind in incorporating these types of spaces of solidarity within St. Louis.
We ask that within the future design of the development of Pruitt Igoe, the past and current injustices of Black bodies are recognized in order to create a sense of solidarity for the Black community. We seek to advocate for the Black bodies that have been subjugated within this country and the city of St. Louis by advocating for the power of design and the agency of architecture. We propose that the new development of Pruitt Igoe should memorialize the injustices that have been imposed on Black bodies and promote restorative justice for the City of St. Louis.
We imagine this to be a space for communities to gather, heal, and reflect on our history.
We are requesting that you incorporate a memorial honoring the Black lives to police brutality that includes:
- Preserving parts of the existing foliage and some remnants left from the Pruitt Igoe housing projects (the manhole covers, lamp post, street names, etc.)-Spaces for individual reflection-Spaces for group gatherings-To incorporate specific names of individuals who have been lost to police violence
As architecture students we believe:
The values we transmit through the built environment will be reflected in how we experience our cities for the rest of time—the spatialization of the future is tragically forever stuck in the past.
Understanding the political power architecture can play in upholding racial traditions, we must learn to create architectural spaces that reflect our modern sensibilities regarding race in order to transcend the deadliness of our present environment. Places that perhaps allow for a hypervisibility of Blackness to manifest and be celebrated might rupture the static layout of our increasingly sterilized conjuncture. We must return to those precedents which have been successful in refusing a White future. A strategy for design as well as a strategy for resisting colonial grounds-keeping for the project is critical for the success of any such project.
Thank you,Aria Griffin and Brayton Gregory
Aria Griffin was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She received her BACHELOR of Science in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis where she minored in African and African American Studies as John B. Ervin Scholar. She is the inaugural Phill Freelon Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where she is pursuing he Masters of Architecture (M.Arch I candidate '21)
Brayton Gregory is a native of Greenville, South Carolina. He recieved his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. Along with a degree in architecture, Brayton also studied psychology and sociology and is a reciepient of the Alpha Rho Chi medal. He is now currently a Master of Architecture I candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (M.Arch I candidate ‘21)