Studio Brief | The rediscovered Pine Street African Burial Ground in Kingston, N.Y., prompted exploration into what the brief calls “time-released architecture within a very different spatial context.” Students worked with the Kingston Land Trust and community coalition Harambee, which are leading an effort to memorialize the erased history of the site and to reimagine it as a community hub. Student designs supported this process of restorative justice through architecture.
Investigation | “Is our discipline primarily interested in the heroic composition of a building, or are our tools also in service of other cultural questions, other architectures?” asks Jerome Haferd, an adjunct associate professor at CCNY. He argues that defining architecture as a cultural project requires learning to speak the languages of culture, history, law, punishment, and property ownership, among others. “You can’t ethically or conceptually do the work without touching on those other discourses,” he says.
Prior to engaging the project, the class analyzed speculative fiction, reading work by Black, feminist, and Indigenous writers. Looking to science fiction and new forms of Black historiography prepared students to engage these discourses in their own investigations.
The Pine Street African Burial Ground is nestled in the backyards of a residential area of a regional town center in the Hudson Valley. Students not only engaged with the ongoing community design process, but they also used proposed alternative models of ownership, care, and stewardship of the site provided by the Kingston Land Trust as points of departure for their own speculative projects.
At its core, this studio asks about the role of an architect. “The imaginative nature is paramount to world building and speculation,” Haferd says. “It is a skill that is underdiscussed.”
The jury appreciated how students used Sci-Fi and historiography as lenses through which to consider architecture and history and project the future. “The students were really engaged and took wholesale the brief, which was so imaginative,” Juror Weihan Vivian Lee said. Victor Body-Lawson appreciated the studio’s effort to “work on the memory of the site and to reclaim the images that were erased,” adding that “the fact that it was a mid-block project that tried to tie-in the community made it powerful.”
Student Work |
How It Came About | Kari Kleinmann’s project is a series of drawings that reflect a “personal account of a family’s role in the gradual unraveling of what came to be described as the social death of the African Diaspora” as well as what W.E.B. DuBois described as the “phenomenon of the [Black] double-consciousness,” according to the project description.
Defining Epistemological Fugitive Ideas | Johnoy Gordon’s proposal sets out to re-examine the word fugitive, in the context of both the burial ground and the larger community. Gordon examines the most fundamental element of architecture—the wall—through the lens of artists and authors such as Ursula LeGuin, and explores expanding wall conditions to create occupiable space. These “inhabited non-walls” become fugitive objects—and a new way to understand relationships between the space and visitors.
A Sovereign Archive | Nicolas Losi recognizes the Pine Street African Burial Ground as a microcosm of the systemic marginalization and erasure of a Black archive, and proposes the gradual acquisition of additional land by the community, and its conversion to sovereign territory to host a sovereign archive. Collectively produced architecture on the site would become part of the archive itself—what the project description calls “a piece of infrastructure for individual and collective agency.”
Course: An Archaeology of the Future: The Pine Street African Burial Ground
School: City College of New York, The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture
Level: Vertical advanced studio (fourth- and fifth-year B.Arch.; first-, second-, and third-year M.Arch.)
Duration: Spring 2020 semester
Instructor: Jerome Haferd (adjunct associate professor)
Students: Johnoy Gordon, Kari Kleinmann, Nicolas Losi (submitted work); Agustin Mendez, Fernando Aparicio, Christina Chun, Kauser Dahegamia, Melek Kilinc, Moises Quintero, Joaquim Rodrigues, Aprellia Stanley, Jenny Tan, and Vickie Yuen
This article has been updated to reflect a more accurate description of Kari Kleinmann’s project.