Calvin Boyd

MArch I

James Templeton Kelley Prize, Masters in Architecture I

Pair of Dice, Para-Dice, Paradise: A Counter-Memorial to Victims of Police Brutality

Advised by Jon Lott

This thesis is a proposal for a counter-memorial to victims of police brutality. The counter-memorial addresses scale by being both local and national, addresses materiality by privileging black aesthetics over politeness, addresses presence/absence by being more transient than permanent, and lastly, addresses site by being collective rather than singular. The result is an architecture that plays itself out over 18,000 police stations across America and the Washington Monument at the National Mall, two sites that are intrinsically linked through the architecture itself: negative “voids” at police stations whose positive counterparts aggregate at the Mall.

The critical question here is whether or not the system in which police brutality takes place can be reformed from within, or if people of color need to seek their utopia outside of these too-ironclad structures. This counter-memorial, when understood as an instrument of accountability (and therefore a real-time beacon that measures America’s capacity to either change or otherwise repeat the same violent patterns), ultimately provides us with an eventual answer.

A crowd gathered outside Ferguson Police Department holding signs saying "Black Lives Matter"
Community members gather and organize outside of Ferguson’s Police Department after news of another senseless murder surfaces. [Ferguson, MO – date redacted]

View through a peephole into an office room with police officers sitting at tables.
Unwelcomed surveillance of a police station conference room after several instances of police violence led to the puncturing of the station’s exterior by the local community. [Ferguson, MO – date redacted]

A protesting crowd holding up signs saying "Say their names" and "Stop killing us" along with photos of victims of police violence.
An eager crowd chants “Black Lives Matter” within the police station void, and their booming voices work their way into the station’s interior. [Ferguson, MO – date redacted]

Composite image of a news broadcaster in front of a crowd of protesters demonstrating in front of a large building.
Several states over, a news anchor reports from the National Mall in Washington D.C. as yet another monument is added to “the Wall” – one for every unjust murder. [Washington D.C. – date redacted]

Architectural plan of a building surrounded by parking lots with cars.
Plan of Ferguson Police Department. This counter-memorial implicates, rather than separates, the guilty party. Every time a fatal instance of police brutality occurs, an architectural void is carved out from the responsible precinct’s station.

Animation of an architectural plan depicted as gray shape with no details, with triangular pieces slowly getting removed from the shape..
Taken to an extreme, the process of voiding out police stations is a radical form of “defunding the police” by dematerializing their presence.

A chain link fence with a sign posted behind it that reads, “Black Neighborhood Police Watch” with a date and and location and the statement, “We immediately report all suspicious Police activities.”
Here, the architectural “project” is larger than any single building. The project gifts communities across the country the agency to hold law enforcement more closely accountable.

Two renderings of shapes labeled “void” and “counter-void” with a pyramid shape positioned in each one.
The project functions using merely two architectural devices. Voids with lenses that puncture police stations, and their counterparts that symbolically aggregate at the National Mall.

Aerial rendering of the shadow of the Washington Monument obelisk depicted as a series of rectangles on the landscape to its right.
Plan of the counter-memorial at the National Mall. The giant scaffolding takes the shape of the Washington Monument’s shadow and holds space for all 18,000 police precincts in America to be represented.

Rendering of a large dark facade of a building on the National Mall, with crowds of people around and a pair of people in the foreground holding “Re-elect Trump” flags.
The counter-memorial is an interruption in a landscape meant to be representative of American ideals. And as it fills up over time, its function as an instrument of accountability assumes primacy over any one historical moment.

Rendering of a dark structure made of columns and beams, with people walking underneath it at ground level.
At the base of the counter-memorial, visitors locate their precincts and leave flowers – again, all with the knowledge that every death adds a counter-void to the memorial despite its large but limited capacity.

Animation of a large building as it is slowly engulfed in flames.
The counter-memorial aflame after the addition of too many counter-voids and their lenses – simply one of many future realities. Will America get its act together, or will it burn?