Whitney Young and the Black Architectural Imagination
Keywords:Civil rights, urban renewal, race, legal theory, architecture
Architectural practice in the U.S. has always designed for contingency. Through legislative guidelines set by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the idea of planning for the public health, safety and welfare of anonymous users have been institutionalized into the archtiect’s training. However, in 1968, these standards were exclusive. Not only were these models written in such a way that did not factor in the contingency of Black lives, it would take a civil rights leader, Whitney M. Young—himself a contingent figure in the history of architecture—to highlight racial discrimination against African-Americans that would have never been extended to anyone who was white. By focusing on Young’s speech delivered to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), this essay highlights a relationship between race, architecture, and the politics of injustice, not only as it existed in the late 60s, but through Young, it also provides new insight into how the discipline might cultivate a contemporary concept of a critical theory of race and architecture.