Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now

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The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture presents Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now, a symposium focused on the activism, engagement, and impact of black architects and planners over the past fifty years.

September 27-29, 2018

The symposium will bring together architects, planners, and scholars of the built environment. Participants reflect on key events in the late 1960s that shaped architecture and planning in the decades that followed.

The symposium will also bring greater visibility to black architects of today, and highlight projects of architects and planners currently working to create more equitable spaces, all while connecting architecture professionals with scholars to make career opportunities more attractive for future practitioners.

Architect J. Max Bond Jr. served as executive director of Architects’ Renewal Committee of Harlem (ARCH). In 1968, ARCH produced this community-oriented design for the 125th Street East Harlem Triangle Plan. Drawing by E. Donald Van Purnell. Courtesy of Arthur Symes.

Why 1968?

In June 1968, Whitney M. Young Jr., Executive Director of the National Urban League, delivered a landmark address to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He called for more diversity in the profession and challenged architects to act on critical issues facing urban communities. Following Young’s speech, new funding initiatives opened doors for minority students to pursue architecture and planning degrees in greater numbers. Also during this era, architect J. Max Bond Jr. mentored several students and shaped their commitments to social justice and community needs.

Symposium Objectives

  • To bring greater visibility to black architects by sharing past achievements and current challenges as well as new passions and enduring commitments
  • To include planners in conversations about the work black architects and other design professionals undertake within the built environment
  • To highlight the projects and advocacy of architects and planners who seek to create just communities and more equitable spaces, thereby improving the quality of life for African Americans and others who have been adversely affected (historically and in the present) by discriminatory policies and practices shaping the built environment
  • To provide students and the general public opportunities to engage with design professionals, thereby making these professions more accessible and attractive career options for future practitioners

Symposium Advisory Committee  ​

  • Marcia Calloway, American Institute of Architects
  • Hazel Edwards, Howard University
  • Carlton Eley, Social Equity Task Force of the American Planning Association
  • John Franklin, National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Bradford Grant, Howard University
  • Toni L. Griffin, Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Renee Kemp-Rotan, studiorotan
  • Jennifer Newsom, University of Minnesota and Dream The Combine
  • Del Ruff, American Institute of Architects
  • Mabel O. Wilson, Columbia University

Join us as we reflect on past achievements, expose current challenges, and share aspirations for the future.

Registration is Closed

Walk-ins welcome as space allows. Thursday and Friday sessions will be streamed live. See "Livestream" below.


Explore Our Collection

Discover photographs, objects, and more from our architecture and design collection.


  • Business card for architect Norma Merrick Sklarek, F.A.I.A.
  • Corona panel designed for NMAAHC (Type A: 65% opacity)
  • Program from the NOMA Second Annual Conference
  • Photograph of South Central Los Angeles Center designed by Harold Williams
  • Brochure announcing the partnership Freelon/Bond Architects
  • Blueprint by Terry Boddie © Terry Boddie

Shifting the Landscape is supported by the Ford Foundation and the American Institute of Architects.