Sekou Cooke: The story of Syracuse is really an American story of displacing Black residents when there is a public infrastructural project happening. When you're going to build a public highway you don't go through the white neighborhoods. Instead, you designate the black neighborhoods as slums and you clear them out and you build a highway right through it.
I am Sekou Cooke.
There are several layers of history of the site that I've chosen in what used to be the old 15th ward of Syracuse. In the 1920s, it was a really dense neighborhood of single family housing. All of that was developed into one of the first public housing projects in the country. Then the highway came through, and then they tore down some of that development. And what's being proposed for the site now is that all of that low-income housing is going to be cleared away to build new mixed-income housing.
One of the things that I've done for a long time in my practice is think about how hip hop as a culture can influence architecture. So my proposal is taking all of those layers of history and sampling them, remixing them into something new.
The stoop has a long legacy of being really important to Black people in urban environments. It's been a place for sitting and watching the world, for interacting with neighbors, it's been a playground for children, it's been the location for storytelling. So the model is actually a large section of concrete stoop. And it is attached to a base of plywood layers. The wood areas are the new proposal for mixed income housing and the orange areas are spaces for commerce, for public interaction.
In claiming public space, that's a space where black joy can really exist. We are able to form community despite hardship, despite oppression, despite being placed in public housing and then displaced. The way that we use public space is really the way that we express freedom and in freedom is joy and in joy is ultimate self preservation and self care.