This Black-Owned Design Collective Is Looking To Change How Cities Are Bulit
Arts and Culture

This Black-Owned Design Collective Is Looking To Change How Cities Are Bulit

design collective
(Image: iStock/Weekend Images Inc.)

The field of urban planning, architecture, and development is known for being a predominantly White field with little diverse representation. According to a 2019 study, only 2% of licensed architects are Black. One nonprofit design collective wants to change the face of urban development and the way cities are built with the Black community in mind.

BlackSpace is compromised of 200 Black designers, artists, urban planners, and architects committed to creating more resources for Black professionals within the field. It also strives to provide a way to bring Black voices in critical meetings that can decide how their communities will be shaped.

“Our private homes are not safe. Our public spaces are not safe,” the design collective writes on its website. “No landscape is neutral. Urbanists design and plan the built environments where these tragedies occur. The disciplines impacting our built environments are steeped in racism and anti-Blackness.”

As such, BlackSpace challenges “all curators of built spaces to unlearn traditional values” and to adopt the ideals of its manifesto, such as:

  • Seek people at the margins. Acknowledge the structures that create, maintain and uphold inequity. Learn and practice new ways of intentionally making space for marginalized voices, stories, and bodies.
  • Reckon with the past to build the future. Meaningfully acknowledge the histories, injustice, innovations, and victories of spaces and places before new work begins. Reckon with the past as a means of healing, building trust, and deepening understanding of self and others.

They do this through their work in historically Black neighborhoods and by hosting cross-disciplinary convenings.

“As folks from disparate fields, we weren’t used to seeing this interdisciplinary group focused on various ideas of Blackness across time and space,” Emma Osore, cofounder of BlackSpace and the director of community at the New Museum’s cultural incubator, New Inc., told Fast Company. 

“We were so enamored by the ways we were learning, the types of things we were learning, and the people in the room. And we realized we want more of this. We want to get together across disciplines to center Blackness in public space or in space.”

“Unfortunately most people who work on this day-to-day aren’t necessarily thinking about ‘How do I work, why do I work the way that I work?’ And it has grave consequences actually for Black presence in public space and Black people generally that people are not interrogating the practice of how they work,” she added.

“It’s important what we do, but I think one of our messages is the process by which you do them is as important as whatever the outcome is.”