A newly formed collaborative brings together designers Zena Mariam Mengesha, Rekha Auguste-Nelson, Farnoosh Rafaie, and Isabel Strauss.
Architecture of Reparations
The Architecture of Reparations started with living in the neighborhood of Bronzeville, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. While its streets are dotted with many beautiful and ornate stone row houses, there are gaping holes in the landscape—why are these buildings missing? This question led to two years of research that uncovered a known history: in the middle of the twentieth century, the South Side Planning Board, a collection of private institutions with an urgent need to acquire centrally located land at a bargain price, capitalized on a “slum” clearance program, engineered by the city and state governments, which facilitated land condemnation and subsequent land acquisition for private gain. As a result, twenty-six thousand families in the Black Metropolis were intentionally displaced; Black residents affected by these atrocities have not been compensated for the physical, financial, and psychological trauma inflicted upon them. Although documented by many historians and remembered by many Chicagoans, few architects learn the history that lies directly beneath the foundation of Mies van der Rohe’s S.R. Crown Hall on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus.
Research into the history of The Black Metropolis and its relationship to the Illinois Institute of Technology fueled the first phase of this project, a public Request for Proposal (RFP) entitled Architecture of Reparations that tells the story of erasure in Bronzeville and proposes Reparations in the form of housing as an “both/and” response to this known history. The second phase of this project involved responding the RFP as a group of designers using vacant land, available land, owned by the city. In turn, this project of trying to imagine alternate futures in spite of the past, without ignoring all of the beauty that is present, demanded that we ask both our colleagues and the general public to share their own stories and potentially, their own Architecture of Reparations.