Visiting Lectureship of the Theory of Architecture
Dr. Rebecca Choi
About Us

How can we narrate an architectural history that takes seriously the structures of race and power that inhere in architecture? How can we critique and unsettle the archival grain by foregrounding what Lisa Lowe and Ann Laura Stoler call “historical traces” that point to uncover “that which is not written or that which is not visible in the archive”? Lowe calls this act a first step toward building an “archive of liberalism.” Lowe’s words can be taken as a provocation for architectural history to deal with the entangled relationships between architecture and race at various historical junctures. An architectural “archive of liberalism” does not simply consist of tracking the contestations between the empowered and the disenfranchised, but seeks to trouble this binary. This work entails investigating those projects that worked countered the institutional establishment, in favor of what Robin D.G. Kelley has called “Black people’s dreams of a new society.”

In thinking about the Black radical tradition, we take up an expansive epistemology of Blackness that departs from linear or fixed notions of Black identity in the United States. In the 1960s, Black freedom struggles in the U.S. took cues from Third World revolutionary movements, which in turn were amplified by a new sense of global interconnectedness, whether through warfare, telecommunication, or the jet engine. Understanding such epistemologies of struggle—of knowing and inhabiting multiple lifeworlds and possibilities—is a project less concerned with identifying how architecture housed particular, stable categories of racial identity, but rather to explore the ways in which possibility itself was constructed by Black, Indigenous, or otherwise displaced peoples. To do this, we re-arrange the “whens” and “wheres” of Blackness in non-linear, non-causal ways.

In contrast to the existing historiographies of architecture that, until recently have typically excluded social histories of Black lived experience and radical forms of resistance, we highlight architects who were in but not of architectural institutions. We foreground obscured histories, overlooked proposals, the disavowed imaginings of Black architects or architects-in-training, and cultural producers of color who wanted to design the world anew and developed otherwise ways of doing architecture.