Interview with Charles Davis II, colloquium style

On October 22, I sat down with Assistant Professor Charles Davis II, an architect, critic, and historian at the University of Buffalo, for my first-ever live video recording. (You can watch the event here.) This colloquium-style event, sponsored by MIT’s department of Architecture, began with a 25-minute establishing presentation from Professor Davis prior to our conversation. In his presentation, “Black Material Culture in the Round,” Professor Davis discussed ways that institutions like Museums and Universities can recenter their canon to be fully inclusive of black creators and minority contributions to the built environment. We then talked about the state of the archive in institutions of record, and discussed what role architecture historians and architects can play in establishing anti-racist pedagogies as normative practice. 

Indrani Saha and ElDante’ Winston along with Chelsea Spenser, my colleagues at HTC and the leaders of Forum, the PhD students’ invited speaker series, invited me to interview Professor Davis as part of this event. The idea was to create a collegial atmosphere more casual than the typical lecture format or even a panel discussion to better pin point critical methodologies introduced by Professor Davis to confront white supremacy in the discipline. I was of course very pleased to be asked to facilitate this conversation, and really honored to be able to speak with Professor Davis, a leading voice in anti-racist revisionist history, as a representative of HTC, the program in History, Theory and Criticism in Art and Architecture at MIT.

One of the most exciting parts of the conversation  was spotlighting black voices from the 1970s like June Jordan and Amiri Baraka, whose work, and the critique of that work, can help us build a black futurist lens into the core architecture canon. My original dissertation proposal focused on Afrofuturism in art and architecture after 1960. These creators and their more sci-fi oriented counterparts, like musician Sun-Ra and novelist Samuel Delany, offer a rich source of archival material for future iterations of scholarly work in the field of the built environment.

I hope with permission to release an audio-only version of this event for WAWD? Radio, and will include a list of key figures mentioned at that time.