How Can Imagination Empower People?
Architects Germane Barnes and Walter J. Hood share projects that envision possible futures and collective spaces.
Mar 11, 2021
Black Towers/Black Power | Walter J. Hood | Ep. 1 | REIMAGINING BLACKNESS & ARCHITECTURE
To create his project Black Towers / Black Power, Walter J. Hood looks back at history in order to reimagine a one-mile stretch of San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, California. The street has one of the highest concentrations of nonprofit organizations, poverty reduction zones, social services, and low-income housing in the San Francisco Bay area. But the irony, Hood suggests, is that these organizations do little to improve the community. Instead, they impede everyone from “imagin[ing] what a healthy, vibrant, and safe neighborhood might look like for Black and brown people.”
Installation view of Walter J. Hood’s work in Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America
Pushing back against practices that exclude Black communities from shaping their own futures, Hood envisions a series of 10 high-rise towers rooted in the legacy of African American innovation and mutual aid. The design for each tower is based on “innovative everyday machinery” like the folding chair or heating furnace, which were patented by African American inventors. Each high-rise is also the setting for programs inspired by the Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program, a political platform that advocated for fair housing, education, and an end to unjust incarceration, among other human rights. “So imagine you're walking down the street,” says Hood, “and all of a sudden you can go to a place that teaches you about self-defense, teaches you about civic lessons, about jurisprudence. Then going to another space that sells clothing or shows you designers that look like yourself.”
Using imagination to create spaces where “Blackness is a viable and vital presence,” Hood asks, “Why settle for the probable when we could instead imagine what is possible?”
A Spectrum of Blackness | Germane Barnes | Ep. 2 | REIMAGINING BLACKNESS & ARCHITECTURE
Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America is on view through May 31. You can now enroll in MoMA’s new online course, Reimagining Blackness and Architecture. Through original films, audio interviews, and short readings, the course will introduce learners to the ways in which Black artists, architects, scholars, and writers have responded to these histories of violence and exclusion to create new ways of being, reimagining the spaces that have refused us.
The exhibition is made possible by Allianz, MoMA’s partner for design and innovation.
Volkswagen of America is proud to be MoMA’s lead partner of education.
MoMA Audio is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
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