Isabel Strauss

MArch I

Up from the Past 

Advised by Oana Stănescu

Do people know what the Illinois Institute of Technology and the South Side Planning Board and the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois and the United States government did to the Black Metropolis? If they know, do they care? Is it too hard to hold these entities accountable? If we held them accountable, could we find justice for those that were displaced? What would justice look like? What comes after Mecca? What types of spaces come after Mecca? Are they different than what was there before? Are they already there? What defines them? Can Reparations be housing? Would that work? How many people are already doing this work? How many people are doing this work in academia? On the ground? Is the word “Reparations” dead? What do we draw from? Who is this for? Do white men own the legacy of the architecture that defined the Black Metropolis? How personal should this work be? How anecdotal? How quantitative? Does the design need to be inherently spatial? Or atmospheric? What should it feel like? How do I draw a feeling in Rhino? Do I draw it? Do I collage it? Do I play it? What are radical ways of looking? Of seeing? Is space a collage? Is home a collage? How do we reclaim racialized architecture? Do we? Is it through design? Is it through representation? Should we even talk about these things.

Interior with skylight

Abstract rendering of a room with a skylight.
Gaze: quiet spaces for reflection and gazing. Where do you have the talk with your children?
Collage credit: Howardena Pindell, Lorna Simpson, Frank Lloyd Wright

An abstract rendering of an architectural space with images of historically prominent Black citizens on the walls.
Mirror: gallery spaces within the home, so that your heroes and your loved ones surround you. Bell hooks explains that growing up, “…the walls of black homes worked as sites of resistance. Walls worked as private, black-owned and -operated gallery space where images could be displayed, shown to friends and strangers.”
Collage credit: Romare Bearden, Nick Cave, Kerry James Marshall, Lorna Simpson Mickalene Thomas

An abstract rendering of an archway with a bench and a seated child, with other children standing nearby.
Perch: comfortable places to perch and watch the world go by… What does “defensible space” mean to Black children?
Collage credit: Bisa Butler, Kerry James Marshall, Richard Nickel, Adler and Sullivan

Collage image of a living room with people seated on couches, and a child with a bicycle visible through the window.
Plan: Spaces to be strategic with your family and friends, where you can discuss how to navigate the world in private. Elizabeth Alexander’s explains that, “The living room is where we see black imagination made visual, a private space that inevitably reverberates against the garish public images usually out of our control.”
Collage credit: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Mickalene Thomas

An abstract rendering of an interior mantlepiece with a reflected image of someone taking a selfie on their phone.
Pose: moments in the home to pose, stunt, vogue, and to prepare to look fabulous. I didn’t understand why my mother never left the house without fierce red lipstick until I read Tressie McMillan Cottom’s book Thick.
Collage Credit: Adler and Sullivan, Mickalene Thomas