the BLACK city
BLACK city examines American cities and renders visible the implicit and explicit policies, customs, and beliefs that have affected social structures and power dynamics and shaped the physical spaces of Black settlements. Complex racial histories reveal how the patterns and structures of the past link to and engender the present. The work distills these histories through various media, including buildings, maps, timelines, glossaries, and games, to provide an alternative reading of Black settlements and community-building methods in narratives of resistance, resilience, and transcendence. Collectively, these projects compensate for official records of Black spaces that are often absent, a symptom of slavery and subordination. The projects manifest the traces and lacunae of official records as material and spatial presences and objects of design. They generate a foundation for speculation on future possibilities for Black settlements (and Black life).
This body of research began in the essay black bodies black space: A-Waiting Spectacle which appeared in the anthology White Papers, Black Marks: Architecture, Race, Culture (Athlone Press, 2000). The Black City Editions were originally installed as individual projects in themed group exhibitions.
BLACK City Editions explore both general and specific conditions of Blackness in America by representing socio-spatial phenomena that reflect customs, laws and events at the national and local scales: gentrification in the New York Edition (black city2), 2003-4; restrictive covenants in the Los Angeles Edition, 2020; racial expulsions and sundown towns in the Arkansas Edition, 2022; and in Jim Crow era legal topographies of segregation and integration in de Facto/de Jure | By Custom/By Law, 2006.
The Arkansas Edition: Histories of Negation comprises a house prototype, Totem House, that is inscribed with Histories of Negation, a timeline of settlements and expulsions in Northwest Arkansas that illustrates the negation of Indigenous Nations and African American settlements from 1750 to the present. The events etched on the surfaces of the Totem House can be explored in the website Histories of Negation that expands the inscriptions in an interactive timeline that draws connections between events, people, and places.
Black city: the Arkansas Edition was commissioned for Architecture at Home, a group show of affordable house prototypes curated by Dylan Turk at Crystal Bridges Museum for American Art (2022). The project received the support of the MIT Department of Architecture. Production of the website was made possible through the support of a Fay Chandler the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).
The Los Angeles Edition examines Black settlement from the founding of the Puebla de Los Angeles in 1531 through the American statehood of Los Angeles in 1850 to the present day. The project comprises maps that trace the migration of historic Black settlements within contemporary Los Angeles; a detail model that represents the expanding and contracting forces of integration and segregation; and dictionary plates that feature buildings and spaces central to the narrative of Black settlement in Los Angeles.
Black city: the Los Angeles Edition was commissioned for the Issues in Contemporary Architecture exhibition series’ Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, a group show held at the Museum of Modern Art, curated by Sean Anderson, Associate Curator of Architecture and Design, with Mabel Wilson (2021). The project was published in the exhibition monograph Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America (Museum of Modern Art, 2021). This project received the support of the MIT Department of Architecture.
The New York Edition: Black city2: the miscegenation game is a game prototype that explores the social dynamics of race in Harlem, from the elision of representational tropes on lived realities to the relationships among policies, statistics, social concepts, physical forms, and implicit and explicit policies and statistics at three scales: Neighborhood-to-City, City-to-Nation, Nation-to-World.
Black city: the New York Edition (black city2: the miscegenation game) was exhibited in Harlemworld: Metropolis as Metaphor, a group show curated by Thelma Golden at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2003), and in the open studios at the American Academy In Rome (2004). black city2: the miscegenation game was published in the respective exhibition monographs Harlemworld: Metropolis as Metaphor (The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2003) and Index 2004 (The American Academy in Rome, 2004).
13 Cities Edition: de Facto/de Jure: By Custom/By Law is a game that explores public accommodations and discrimination across state lines by transporting players to thirteen cities on the Southern Crescent Railroad between 1866-1964 (the Jim Crow era).
Black city: 13 Cities Edition (de Facto/de Jure: By Custom/By Law) was commissioned for the Dresser Trunk project, a group show curated by Professor William D. Williams (2007). The exhibition traveled from 2007-2009 to the Extension Gallery for Architecture in Chicago, and galleries of the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Maryland. de Facto/de Jure was published in the anthologies Installations by Architects: Experiments in Building and Design (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), and Beyond Patronage: Reconsidering Models of Practice (Actar Publishers, 2016).
About J. Yolande Daniels
J. Yolande Daniels, associate professor of architecture at MIT, is a co-founding design principal of studioSUMO. She is a National Academician, a Rome Prize fellow in Architecture and a fellow of the Independent Study Program of the Whitney American Museum of Art in studio practice and cultural studies. She received a B.S. Arch from City College of New York and a M. Arch from Columbia University. Her independent design research explores the spatial effects of race and gender in the built environment, focusing on narratives of resistance and autonomy with specific interest in representing subordinate spaces that supplement and maintain dominant spatial and political systems of power.