2023 CFA Lab Residents: Kholisile Dhliwayo, A.L. Hu, and Karla Andrea Pérez
courtesy CFA Lab 2023 CFA Lab Residents: Kholisile Dhliwayo, A.L. Hu, and Karla Andrea Pérez

In 2021, New York's Center for Architecture launched its inaugural Lab, aiming to provide a platform and exhibition venue for underrepresented voices in design. This year, the CFA Lab has selected three fellows—Kholisile Dhliwayo, A.L. Hu, AIA, and Karla Andrea Pérez—from a pool of more than 50 applicants to participate in its "multi-month, multi-disciplinary residency program," according to a press release from CFA. For the 2023 cycle, Dhliwayo, Hu, and Pérez will take on themes of home, refuge, and domesticity, investigating "for many communities, especially marginalized groups, the boundaries between home and the outside world have always been in flux," the same release states.

The residents will develop their work into installations that will be on view throughout CFA Lab: Seeking Refuge and Making Home in NYC, an exhibition opening on Nov. 16. This year's exhibition will be curated by by Vyjayanthi V. Rao, visiting professor at Yale School of Architecture, and editor-in-chief at Public Culture, with Matthew Bremer, AIA, 2023 President of AIA New York. Dhliwayo, Hu, and Pérez will also have opportunities to integrate their installations into public programming, furthering the reach of their work.

“In 2021, the CFA Lab’s inaugural year, the Indigenous Scholars of Architecture, Planning and Design and the Community Design Collaborative created digital exhibitions and took over the Center for Architecture’s digital platforms,” said Jesse Lazar, interim executive director of AIA New York and CFA, in the release. “We are excited to continue and expand the program in 2023, allowing our residents the opportunity to create physical installations in our home at LaGuardia Place.”

You can read more about the residents, and their forthcoming work, below. You can read more about the CFA Lab here.

Making Home: Affirming Black Diasporic Agency
Kholisile Dhliwayo

From CFA Lab: "New York City is a vibrant tapestry of diasporic and Indigenous cultures. As individuals migrate here, they bring with them their cultural practices and knowledge systems. We often acknowledge the impact of diasporic cultures on the culinary landscape, but we rarely consider their profound influence on shaping the physical spaces around us. Making Home is a counter-narrative oral mapping project that celebrates the creativity and ingenuity of BIPOC communities as active agents that shape the city, often by circumventing and subverting Eurocentric top-down hierarchical approaches and structures. By centering BIPOC voices across the five boroughs, the project prompts conversations about how to collectively create more inclusive and equitable cities—fostering relationships and frameworks that look to new ways of practice beyond the lack of diversity in built environment professions and making New York City a home that is reflective of the diversity of its the people.

Kholisile Dhliwayo is an African-Australian creative working between Naarm-Melbourne and Manahatta-NYC. His work explores the symbiotic relationship between diasporic cultures and the built environment. His research and practice focus on modalities and frameworks that affirm community agency in place and space making. Dhliwayo works across multiple disciplines, including oral narrative, filmmaking, exhibition, interior design, the built environment, and mapping. He is in the final year of the Master of Design Studies research program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is a registered architect in the District of Columbia and Connecticut State, as well as New South Wales and Victoria, Australia."

Queeries: Designing Reality Equitably and Madly (Q:DREAM)
A.L. Hu, AIA

From CFA Lab: "Queeries: Designing Reality Equitably and Madly (Q:DREAM) will leverage the Center for Architecture’s physical and virtual properties to enact an emergent research-creation process that asks queer people: “What are your definitions of ‘home’?” The project will spotlight NYC’s queer architects, designers, organizations, and places at different scales, with a participatory component for folks to recognize and celebrate the spaces they call “home.” “Designing Reality” refers to the creation of space for imagining worlds where queer folks have autonomous agency over their lives, while “Equitably and Madly” expresses parallel principles of equity of access, pride, and extraordinary imagination. Multimedia storytelling and queer data analysis will expand the frame of “home” to encompass queer families, support networks, spaces of one’s own, privacy, security, and stability. Through the course of the residency, Q:DREAM will begin to build a living archive that documents and celebrates queer designers, their work, and their desires.

A.L. Hu, NOMA, AIA, NCARB, EcoDistricts AP, is a transgenderqueer Taiwanese-American architect, activist, and organizer. Their interdisciplinary practice synthesizes organizing for racial, class, and gender justice with world-building and spatial planning; queers the architect’s role in facilitating accessible spaces; and manifests in design, visual media, cartographies, events, and collaborative cultural work. Hu was a 2019-2021 Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow and they are currently Design Initiatives Manager at Ascendant Neighborhood Development in East Harlem. They are a core member of Design as Protest and Dark Matter U. Hu provides brainpower and energy for Queeries, an ongoing community-building design-queering initiative for and by LGBTQIA+ architects and designers."

Karla Andrea Pérez

From CFA Lab: "For undocumented immigrants, home has always been a complex reality rooted in politics, identity, and architecture. This population lives with the threat and expectation of removal and violence, where trespassing is legal because you’re not. To be undocumented is to live between worlds, in a where fear becomes normal, knowing you cannot exist here. How is this reality reflected in the interiority and spatialization of the home, if at all? This project will document the existing homes of individuals who live with the status of “undocumented” in the New York City area through video, photography, and interviews. It aims to assist in recognizing these spaces within an architectural discourse that doesn’t pretend to aestheticize or romanticize their homes, but rather to serve as a platform for self-advocacy.

Karla Andrea Pérez is a first-generation Mexican-American designer, researcher, and folkloric dancer. She received her BFA in Interior Design from the New York Institute of Technology and is currently pursuing her MS in Critical Curatorial and Conceptual studies in Architecture at Columbia University. Her work acknowledges the gaps in historic archival representation of overlooked, often misrepresented minority community spaces, with a particular focus on the Mexican immigrant and Mexican-American communities in New York City, drawing from her upbringing in Queens. She has focused on community programming experiences that reclaim public space by using dance and installations as tools of empowerment. Pérez is always looking for ways to collectively bring forward these narratives through active collaboration, community engagement, and cultural organizing."