What’s Black Architecture?
“Too often our view of architecture is focused solely on the unique monumental structures designed in large
part to display the wealth and power of the elite... while the greatest part of the built environment—the houses
that most people live in—goes unnoticed. “—John Michael Vlach
A while back, my girlfriend [Elizabeth] and I were driving back to L.A. from visiting my mom. We were on the 101 freeway, and she spots this community off the side of the freeway. “Oh my Godddd! Look, it’s just like home!” she said. And I watched her face light up. She had seen something that reminded her of home. Elizabeth was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and this neighborhood she had noticed had a yellow house with red bricks, and a spanish style roof. For me, it wasn’t anything special. We had been in other communities around the city and she will say the same thing and, in the same way, I’ll watch her face light up as she looks at the buildings, storefronts, and markets.But the thought stuck with me, of what it felt like for me To feel like I was “home”. I realized I never feel that sense of pride she felt.
We were in a city that was predominantly Hispanic, and the architecture reflected that. She felt this pride because the built environment reflected the culture of her home. It was built in the image of her people. It reflected cultural values, norms, and traditions. But where was the architecture that spoke to my identity as a Black person?