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Charles L. Davis II: Workshop 1 (October 1, 2020)02:09:55

After being welcomed by Mira Henry, Charles L. Davis II proposes the workshop to begin with a presentation by him on past and present concepts of race—stressing historic intersections where architects have assimilated these concepts into their work. He reviews how in the eighteenth through late nineneenth centuries the typology categories that emerged in biology, anthropology, ethnology and other natural sciences evolved from a way of making sense of human variety into narratives that supported nationalism and colonialism. The concept of racial type was appropriated by architects like Viollet-le-duc to generate narratives of vernacular and regional styles. Davis argues that these typologies still condition how we see buildings, especially the tendency to dismiss the elements of a building are essential to inhabitants. He illustrates this with a discussion of the Shotgun house.

Davis continues with a review of more current concepts of race, stressing the social construction of difference, a cultural process which serves political purposes. He reviews writers and concepts, including W. E. B. Du Bois on double consciousness, Edward Said on orientalism, Michael Omi and Howard Winant on racial formation theory, Critical whiteness studies within the broader field of cultural studies, Stuart Hall on race as the floating signifier, critical race theory, and phenomenological approaches to racial embodiment.

At 56:24, the workshop participants break up into smaller groups to discuss Lisa Findley’s essay, “Building Presence: The Southern Poverty Law Center,” from her book Building Change: Architecture, Politics and Cultural agency (Routledge, 2005), focusing on Erdy McHenry Architecture’s 2001 Southern Poverty Law Center headquarters in Montgomery, AL. The participants regroup, and discuss the article, and the main issues of their conversations.

At 1:09:52, David analyzes the SPLC headquarters, stressing “different moments of spatial embodiment” in the city of Montgomery, in the activities of the SPLC, and the aspects of the design. He proposes that Findley’s essay as a model for students to reassess canonical precedents (Monticello, The White House) using race as a critical lens.

From 1:39:48 to the end, Davis and workshop participants discuss issues of white hegemony raised in the workshop, including architectural education, institutions, and power structures.

From the Media ArchiveMedia archive link