Alan Karchmer

The year 1968 was a pivotal one in the fight for equity and representation across the country, and the architecture profession was not exempt. That year, Whitney M. Young Jr. famously took the stage at the AIA Convention, rebuking architects for failing to support civil rights.

Now, 50 years later, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is celebrating the anniversary of this movement by hosting the three-day-long “Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now” symposium from Thursday, Sept. 27 until Saturday, Sept. 29.

“The architects and city planners that emerged to rebuild American cities in the wake of the tumultuous 1960s had a vision for what could come after and were leading the way for their contemporaries of that era,” said NMAAHC deputy director Kinshasha Holman Conwill in a press release. “With the symposium, we are able to shed light on their contributions and expose new generations to a field of study that has the ability to empower and revitalize communities.”

For the symposium, NMAAHC has assembled more than 30 practitioners and scholars to explore the impact of African-American architects and planners on their communities since 1968 and the future of black architects in the profession. The event will also serve as an extension of an ongoing effort by the museum to assemble an archive of work by black architects.

“The museum has a commitment to document black architectural history and highlight the achievements, challenges and cumulative production of black architects,” said NMAAHC curator and symposium organizer Michelle Joan Wilkinson in the same release. “This symposium will bring attention to these professions and help inspire youth to make positive change in their communities through architecture and planning.”

Some event highlights include Ghanaian-British architect and NMAAHC architect David Adjaye in conversation with Hip Hop architectural theorist and architect Craig Wilkins and a keynote by Sharon Egretta Sutton, an architectural activist and author of When Ivory Towers Were Black: A Story about Race in America’s Cities and Universities (Empire State Editions, 2017). (See the complete symposium schedule here.)

For those who cannot attend, there will be a livestream available.