Anti-Racism in Thesis Workshop

Saturday, February 27, 2021, 10am - 4pm

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As part of an ongoing effort at The Cooper Union’s School of Architecture to decolonize the curriculum and advance anti-racist pedagogies, this workshop seeks to extend this work specifically to Thesis courses in architecture. How does decolonial and anti-racist pedagogy translate onto the Thesis syllabus, conversation formats, and advising models? Considering the architecture design Thesis as a world-making exercise, how can the course advance an approach for a world in which many worlds fit, recognizing and working against the discipline’s biases and maintenance of white supremacy and other constructed hierarchies of peoples, cultures, and histories? Understanding that “every community practices the design of itself,” (Escobar, 2017), what might be some guiding principles for the architecture design Thesis curriculum to advance work that rethinks the communal and dismantles white supremacist and other racist or patriarchal power dynamics—not just through speculative design work, but also within the studio and its surrounding learning environments?

This event gathers student organizers and educators from around the country and the world to share insight, strategy, and experiences. From within the school of architecture, participants will include staff, faculty, and students, including the Architecture Lobby at the Cooper Union, and members of the school’s Anti-Racist Taskforce.

Invited participants include: Nada Ayad (Cooper Union), Esther Choi (Office Hours), Nitasha Dhillon and Amin Husain (MTL / Decolonize This Place), Hayley Eber (Cooper Union), Nathalie Frankowski and Cruz Garcia (WAI Think Tank), Mario Gooden (Columbia GSAPP), Mauricio Higuera (Cooper Union), Mychal Johnson (South Bronx Unite), Mpho Matsipa (Wits University), Kit Nicholls (Cooper Union), Malcolm Rio (BSA+GSAPP), Akira Drake Rodriguez (University of Pennsylvania), Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi (Barnard College / Columbia University), Austin Wade Smith (Cooper Union), and Ife Vanable (Cooper Union).

Participating undergraduate students include: Taesha Aurora, David Bermudez, Ezekiel Binns, Annabella Chen, Shishen Chen, Karina Chivikova, Zhenia Dementyeva, Juan Carlos Javier, Sanjana Lahiri, Zalmaï Levrat, Maksymillian Mamak, Alisa Petrosova, Stella Blue Porzungolo, Sarah Saad, and Brandy Vazquez.

Participating graduate students include: Sally Chen, Yingxiao Chen, Giedre Darskute, Nien Ying Lin, Jamie Lindsey, Austin McInnis, Roni Schanin, Doosung Shin, and Qicheng Wu.

This event is organized by the students listed above, together with Assistant Professor Nora Akawi, and Steven Hillyer and Chris Dierks of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive.

This workshop, which is free and public, will be conducted through Zoom. Zoom account registration is required, please register in advance here
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While planning this event, a number of issues came up concerning both racism and coloniality in formats, languages, and archives as they appear in architecture academia. One issue we will tackle directly in this workshop is the architecture review. As a result, we are planning to hold a review of ongoing Thesis work at Cooper, while also discussing the review itself, its associated languages and formats, and how they may perpetuate hierarchies and biases. During the last session, the discussion will address anti-racism and anti-coloniality in the Thesis curriculum more broadly.

10:00 – 10:10         Introductions
                                   Nader Tehrani, Steven Hillyer, and Nora Akawi

10:10 – 10:15         Anti-Racism Task Force: Manifesto and Call for Action 
                                   Taesha Aurora

10:15 – 10:20         Architecture Lobby Chapter at The Cooper Union 
                                   Annabella Chen and Sanjana Lahiri

10:20 – 11:00         Anti-Racist Architecture Education Manual
                                   WAI Think Tank (Nathalie Frankowski and Cruz Garcia)
                                   Introduced and moderated by Jamie Lindsey


11:00 – 1:00           An Architecture Thesis Review
                                   Presentations by current Thesis students (two pairs of presentations and
                                   discussions): Taesha Aurora + Juan Carlos Javier, Maksymilian Mamak +
                                   Brandy Vazquez 
                                   Discussants: Annabella Chen, Nitasha Dhillon, Amin Husain, Mychal
                                   Johnson, Austin McInnis, Akira Drake Rodriguez, Sarah Saad, and Ife
                                   Vanable
                                   Introduced and moderated by Nora Akawi

1:30 – 2:40             On the Architecture Review: Formats and Languages
                                   Discussants: Nada Ayad, Esther Choi, Kit Nicholls, Malcolm Rio, and Austin
                                   Wade Smith.
                                   Moderated by: Annabella Chen, Hayley Eber, Alisa Petrosova, and Stella
                                   Blue Porzungolo

2:40 – 3:50             On Anti-Racist, Anti-Colonial Pedagogy in Thesis
                                   Discussants: Mario Gooden, Mpho Matsipa, and Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi
                                   Moderated by: Taesha Aurora, Mauricio Higuera, Sanjana Lahiri, Austin
                                   McInnis, and Brandy Vazquez

3:50 – 4:00             Closing Remarks
                                   Hayley Eber

This workshop has been made possible by generous support from The Cooper Union Grant Program

View the full Spring 2021 Lectures and Events List.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

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