Native Iconography

We, as students, were tasked to develop Native American or Egyptian style  pictograph charts of Albina’s landmarks, historical moments, and traditions.

I focused on the art of tattooing and scarification. This art form speaks to the resiliency of the community to withstand pain for beauty, identity, and tradition. For the graphic representation I chose a maturation tattoo from an African tribe and used a Native American spirit animal tattoo from the Chinook tribe to create a formal and organizational chart to hierarchically organize the icons derived from the coming-of-age tattoo. Both cultures have deep connection to their land and faced root shocking and displacement, resulting in a loss of tradition and culture. Soil scarification is a main method of enhancing natural regeneration, a process used before seeding and planting. We are also using this concept programmatically by implementing a regenerative neighborhood garden.

Reconstructing Icons

This assignment investigated architectural structures that have been codified and canonized through an Eurocentric lens. We aimed to create alternative versions of these architectural orders to incorporate marginalized histories, perspectives, and cultures; often neglected by mainstream architectural gatekeepers.

Students analyzed and deconstructed the “classical order”, while disrupting Eurocentric ideations of established artistic regulations such as proportion, structure, and syntax. In parallel students interjected new hierarchies generated from black cultural ways of living and being. Often using their pictograph to guide them historically, culturally and artistically on their journey unearthing new orders based on black identity.

Our second assignment focused heavily on spirituality, recognizable culture to the neighborhood, and recognizable aesthetics to the neighborhood especially through existing architecture and materiality. We represented the openness of the black church, the strength and resilience of the community, while showing its cultural roots in spirituality. We also found it crucial to represent the spirits of ancestors. With all these design decisions we hoped to celebrate black culture and create architectural elements, totem poles, representative of the black community in Albina.

Black Space

We, as students investigated the meaning and mythos of black space through the vehicle of domestic porches. Through spatial experimental and research we aimed to understand fundamental questions involving the exterior living rituals of the African American populace both nation wide and locally.

Questions about black living were addressed through the act of research and making; thus unearthing historically marginalized design nuances that make Black Space powerful and recognizable not only in form but also in spirit.

This project is influenced by the culture and history of the front porch. Churches and porches were spaces for progress where local civil rights activists gathered and propelled the movement forward.

We hope to promote community empowerment through remembering the past, sharing stories of the present, and planning for the future. “The porch is the window to the world.” The porch acting as a two-way mirror, looking in and looking out. Taking in these neighborhood traditions and history and projecting it out into the world.

The purpose of this space is for cultural preservation, communal meals, storytelling, knowledge, history sharing, and community gardening. The materiality of this project will include carved wood referencing the African mask, the totem pole, the drum, carving the skin (scarification), patternmaking, and contextual references to the front porch aesthetics already existing in this neighborhood.

This project was heavily inspired by the work of Jack Travis.

Black Domesticity

Through the act of making we were tasked to develop a detached single family home, located in Portland Oregon. The house addresses not only the needs of a modern family but expressly addresses the highly distinct living rituals of black families from the Albina community. This studio aimed to answer questions about expression, identity, and ritual in relation to space and place making.

Our site is in the Albina neighborhood of Portland. The site is on Haight Avenue and is surrounded by single family housing. We wanted to focus on the elements, controlling sun and wind for resident’s comfort and harvesting rainwater for the gardens.

The form of our building was centered around a connection to land, earth, and mother. The 3 distinct buildings each host a separate program. There is the community house, bath house, and the family home. The project has private circulation and entries for the family. We have created double façade walls for entry privacy while still allowing for daylight. The farther back you travel into the site the more private it becomes. The site has large gardens with endangered native species that attract pollinators.

While the black home inspires resistance, it should also focus on the family experiencing pleasure and beauty. The family living in this home includes a mother, father and child. The program allows for guests to have a place to stay when they visit.

Our project and site are based around black naturalism. Historically, movements in naturalism were not diverse, so our project hopes to amend this by emphasizing the beauty and importance of integrating nature in one’s home. The entry to the home is beautiful for a welcoming homecoming and evokes feelings of relief and security. Our goal was to make a homeplace to heal wounds and become whole, which lead to our inspiration for a circular form. We centered our design around the kitchen and communal spaces. The front porch decking creates informal gathering spaces between buildings to promote community interaction. We want to create a sanctuary for the black mother and mother nature, paying homage to their strength, resilience, and comfort they provide.

The Community house was created separately from the main family home so that the family can host other members of the community and friends while still maintaining privacy in their home. This space includes a kitchen, living room, dining area and a library. There is an interior atrium to serve as a gathering place.

The bath house has a clear connection to both the community space and the family home. The bath house is a spiritual ritual designed in the hopes of creating a cleansing and relaxing experience.

The family home hosts a kitchen, living space, as well as a master bedroom, the child’s room and a guest suite. The main living quarters can be closed off and separated from the guest suite and allow the guest to have their own entry. The mass walls are carved out to create storage opportunities and the beds are sunken into the floor inspired by African tradition.

The main building materials are a cob roof and rammed earth walls, combining building practices from the pacific northwest and from Africa using local soil. The surrounding gardens are composed of native endangered plants to support the local pollinators.

Some of the sustainability strategies implemented in this project include: high thermal mass walls, passive cooling by using cross ventilation, passive heating by using strategic glazing and radiant heating, gardens that host native plants that attract pollinators, bioswales used for stormwater mitigation, and rainwater harvesting through the use of rain chains and a retention pond.

This black home is a sanctuary, reflecting beauty, peace, and harmony with nature. We hope with all these intentions we create a space centered around black joy, community, spirituality, and sustainability.