Category Archives: Architecture

S is for…


The staff of SUPERFRONT in the BK Gallery.

This design organization came about in 2008 and has experimental gallery/labs in three cities already. Founder/Director Mitch McEwen was really interested in making the field of architecture more engaged and involved in its surrounding community. The group’s ground zero, SUPERFRONT BK, the group began putting on exhibitions in a gallery space geared towards the public. The non profit organization is focused on promoting architectural experimentation and interdisciplinary exchange. Many of the Brooklyn gallery’s projects have been praised by the forward thinkers within the profession, and SUPERFRONT has produced exhibition catalogs that are available for sale online.

SUPERFRONT collaboration to transform their public space.

The exhibits often feature radically experimental works by young designers that are built and exhibited on very limited budgets by the SUPERFRONT staff in collaboration with the artist. Each year the organization hosts designers-in- residence, and 2011 featured urban designer Manuel Avila Ochoa, culminating in his project Participatory Urbanism: Crown Heights. The project used a landscape urbanist’s approach to envision and rethink the residual spaces adjacent to the Franklin Avenue shuttle line. Avila involved the local community in his research and final exhibition, looking to create a common ground between constituents and residents while involving them in the conversation about public space. The project was one of ten selected visions for NYC honored at Urban Design Week 2011.

Invitation for Artist-in-reisdence Manuel Avila's Exhibition.

This is just one example of how SUPERFRONT’s work is making a difference. SUPERFRONT Detroit, spearheaded by SUPERFRONT member Chloe Bass has been working to re- imagine what the future of the city will hold. Their exhibition Detroit: A Brooklyn Case Study was a combination of art, architecture and documentary. SUPERFRONT released an RFP for a design intervention on a vacant lot site they owned, resulting in the LIGHT UP! Installation by artists Ellen Donnelly and David Karle. There was also a crowd-sourced documentary, SUPERtube, inviting residents to use YouTube as a communal think tank and create their own vision and proposal for how the city should change. Contributors were asked to pick one lot, block, or neighborhood in Detroit and create a 1 minute video based on SUPERFRONT prompt questions.

Light Up! Installation as part of the Detroit projects.

In 2009, SUPERFRONT LA began as an offshoot of the Brooklyn site, at the Pacific Design Center. The gallery produced exhibits here through August 2011. The LA portion of the operation hosted the traveling exhibit Detroit: A Brooklyn Case Study and curated Unplanned and Anthony Gross:Crime Scenes. Unplanned has an accompanying publication available for purchase on SUPERFRONT LA’s website.

Art installation at the LA Gallery.

Across all cities, SUPERFRONT is in your face and asking the hard questions. It is bringing the ideas of design, its process, and consequences direct to the constituents in affects the most. More impressive is this forward thinking group that features many young, female, minority designers making big things happen. Their work is definitely worth an in depth look and for those readers on the east coast, make a point to visit their Brooklyn Studio next time you are in the New York area, there seem to be some very exciting things happening there!

SUPERFRONT from Urban Omnibus on Vimeo.


Norma Sklarek: A Design Pioneer

“In architecture, I had absolutely no role model. I’m happy today to be a role model for others that follow.”- Norma Sklarek, FAIA

I just saw on the Wall Street Journal that Norma Merrick Sklarek has died.   She was lovingly known as the “Rosa Parks of Architecture”. There are no words to describe what a loss this is for me. Ms. Sklarek was the underlying inspiration that would eventually lead to my frustrations which birthed All Black Everything. In 2004, I was a fresh Architecture student, confronting my feelings about being the ONLY black female in my class, and one of less than a handful in the whole architecture building daily. One day, my routine trolling the internet for new design inspiration, I came across an article about Norma Sklarek in a Southern newspaper. Here she was… an ARCHITECT who looked like me. I was so excited, I wanted to tell everyone I knew. Except no one had heard of her.

Not only did this shock me, because she was licensed, making her the first black female AIA Fellow (for those outside of architecture, this is the highest professional honor and not an easy process), but she also owned the first black female led architecture firm in the US, and worked for prestigious firms like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Gruen & Associates.  She was the first black architect I ever discovered.  For those unfamiliar with her work, look up the American Embassy in Tokyo and Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport.

Sklarek with Marshall Purnell at her 2008 AIA Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award Ceremony.

Later in my academic career, I attempted to bring Ms. Sklarek to lecture at our University. Unfortunately due to inclement weather, the event was cancelled and we were unable to find a suitable date on the schedule. But even from speaking on the phone and via email, her energy was infectious. I remember her excitement in telling my friends and I that she was looking forward to meeting with us told us a little snow wouldn’t stop her annual pastime of walking the Brooklyn Bridge with her sister. Even in those limited interactions, she made us feel like extended members of her family; accepted. For a black architecture student, this feeling is not commonplace.

A pioneer and inspiration to architects everywhere, she truly showed that with hard work, passion, and dedication all barriers can be broken and anyone will excel if they are excellent at what they do. I am proud to be able to follow in her footsteps.

Rest In Peace, Norma Merrick Sklarek, FAIA  (4/15/1926- 2/6/2012).

A Day to Celebrate like a KING

People nationwide joined in collective celebration of one of our world’s great heroes yesterday, commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr.  As I am sure there is no need for a history lesson right now and if you need to be informed about who this great man was… you need more help than this post will ever provide.  As we at All Black Everything spent our days of service reaching out in our communities, it was hard not to ponder the influence Dr. King’s actions and words have had on the fields of art and design.

For our supporters in and around the New York City area who want to tap into the spirit of the day, be sure to check out the acclaimed Broadway play, The Mountaintop. The story is a fictional retelling of the the night before Martin’s tragic assassination, with the entire play set in the Room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel. Written by playwright Katori Hall,  the UK production won the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Play.  This was monumental as Hall was the first black woman to win in history.  Add to all this that the Broadway production stars Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset, who could resist?  There are discounts for ticket purchases this week, so don’t miss out… the show closes on January 22!

MLK has also been the inspiration for many other influential design moments. Its only been a year, but Spike Lee’s moving commercial for Chevrolet from last years King Day Celebration still moves me.   With their whole Table of Brotherhood campaign ad, Chevrolet was one of the major advertising accounts that helped solidify Spike DDB, the firm that resulted when Spike Lee opened a joint venture with DDB Needham Worldwide.  They are one of the more noted black advertising firms to land some major accounts like FinishLine.

Turning our head to the built environment, there were many other memorials and buildings that came long before the newest addition to the Washington Mall.  One of the lesser known design gems to feature the words and evoke the spirit of Dr. King’s work was the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, ALby architect, Maya Lin.  The fountain includes a timeline that ends with Martin’s untimely death.

Another King inspired fountain can be found in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Gardens.  The site was designed by architect, Joseph de Pace and sculpted by artist Houston Conwill.  The fountain is the largest fountain on the Western Coast of America.

Moving further up the Western Coast is the Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Seattle.  Inspired by the “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop” speech, the site is set into the landscape of the park surrounding a reflection pool and statue honoring the event.

Another site that uses the inspiration of Martin’s words to commemorate a site is the former Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Campus in New York City.  After the original high school was closed in 2005, sculptor William Tarr created a steel sculpture matching the new campus’  facade on the site in homage to the school.

Moving to Atlanta, most people have done the historic  tours to Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Vistor’s Center to see his tomb, but there may be a new stop on the MLK tour soon.  Designed by the Freelon Group and HOK, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will create a space for the study, celebration, and education of the struggle for equality for all.  The building’s shape is based on the idea of interlocking arms.

You may remember early last year when we covered the announcement of the final design of the now completed MLK Memorial in Washington DC. Recently, a lot of controversy was sparked regarding one of the quotes chosen for the Stone of Hope, the cornerstone of the memorial’s design.   Many visitors have spoken out regarding the paraphrasing of a quote from Dr. King’s and have asked the designers and people managing the memorial to change the inscription on the stone.  The controversial quote is “I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness” which has been adapted from Martin’s original words, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Looking at the way Dr. King’s life, vision, and legacy have inspired other artists and designers in their creation of unique works is inspiring. We at All Black Everything challenge you to look to his words and message and find a way to champion it into your own creativity. And because there is no better way for it to be said….

“And we all know everything that he stood for time will bring for in peace our hearts will sing thanks to Martin Luther King…”

All Black Everything: Holiday Gift Guide

With the holiday season quickly approaching, we here at All Black Everything thought we’d offer up some fun suggestions for the artist or designer in your life, with our very own Africana twist.  2011 was a great year for the black creative mind and created some wonderful books, exhibits, shows, albums, and products. Sure to bring a smile to all!


African Metropolitan Architecture by  David Adjaye| $100   ISBN # 978-0847837168

This is the latest book from the world renown architect.  It documents contemporary African architecture and cityscape in vibrant photographs.  The book was personal project for the author/designer, who spent the last decade visiting and documenting all the major cities in Africa, fifty-three in total.  The collection comes in 7 volumes and is sure to be hit with the photographer, urban planner, or designer in your life.

available here

  One Day It’ll All Make Sense by Common and Adam Bradley| $25  ISBN # 978-1451625875

This is the memoir of the actor and emcee Common aka Rashid Lynn.  It chronicles his life from his childhood on the Southside of Chicago to  his current life of premieres, movie sets, and performance.  Known for his conscious hip hop style, the book provides a great introspective into the mind of the artist.  This is Common’s first book for adults.  Perfect gift for anyone who is a lover of music or film.

available here

   The Legends of Hip Hop by Justin Bua| $34.99   ISBN #978-0061854972

Justin Bua is better known for his vibrant art pieces utilizing his unique urban look.  This book takes his genius and goes one step further, cataloging the great masters of this musical art. It profile fifty hip hop icons, each with a biography and a portrait completed in Bua’s iconic style.  If you know any true fan of hip hop, graffiti, or street art, this book will be a great addition to their coffee table.

available here

New African Fashion by Helen Jennings| $35    ISBN # 978-3791345796

From the editor of ARISE Magazine, the premiere publication in the world of African fashion come New African Fashion.  The book serves as a guide to honor the new wave of high fashion designers coming out of the country.  It covers the history of African fashion and how it has influenced the modern designer, highlighting the current artists ripping the runways and pages of the fashion world.  The book includes lines and products that are African inspired and African made.

available here

  200 Something by Tiffany Millner| $10    ISBN # 978-0615448947

Tiffany Millner is a registered architect currently practicing in Philadelphia.  The book is a collage of memoir, journal, and inspiration; chronicling the authors thoughts and emotions on her career path.  The title references the number of African American female architects practicing in the United States.  This is a great gift for the architect, artist, or feminist who is finding her voice. This is Millner’s first book.

available here


   Undun– The Roots| $12

This is the latest release from perennial favorites the Roots.  As the first conceptual album from the alternative rap band, undun is the fictional narrative of Redford Stephens, a hustler.  The story chronicles Stephens’ life in reverse from his ultimate demise to his birth navigating themes of morality and vitality.  True to form, it is a sonic vacation, highlighting the many musical talents in the group.  This is the Roots 11th studio album.

available here

   The Dreamer, The Believer– Common| $12

Set for a December 20, 2011 release, Common’s ninth album arrives just in time for the holidays.  Produced and c0-written by hailed producer No I.D. The first single from the album, Ghetto Dreams, featued Nas and was released during the summer of 2011.  In interviews Common has said this album was inspired by his life.  Fans can look forward to appearance by Maya Angelou and crooner John Legend.  Dates for the album’s tour have recently been released.

available here

  Chamber Music Society– Esperanza Spalding|$14

For those who haven’t heard of Esperenza Spalding, your time has come.  The  27 year old musician made headlines in 2011 when she won for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, becoming the first Jazz artist to win the prestigious honor.  Her impressive musicianship is expertly performed across an array of instruments, her music a modern myriad of jazz and neo- soul with influences from classical and Latin music.

available here

   Break of Dawn– Goapele| $9.99

R&B songstress Goapele’s latest album has been two years in the making.  The fourth release from the singer marks her return to the music scene after a 5 year hiatus.  Look to expect a more grown up sound, with the content of this record conveying a much more seductive and suggestive vibe.  Reflected by the cover art, Goapele is not holding anything back this time around and its sure to move all who listen.

available here

  The Dreamer– Etta James| $10.99

The latest studio production from the icon will also be her last.  In the twilight of her over 50 year career, the blues singer delivers more of her moody, soulful sounds.  The collection of covers represents a ride array of genres and eras of music, showing that at 73, James is still up on the times.  One highlight on the album, is James’ rendition of Otis Reading’s “Ciggarettes and Coffee” guaranteed to make you sink into the depths of your own emotions along with her.

available here


  The Black Power Mixtape; MPI Home Video| $25

This documentary was a hit at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.  The film is and in depth look at the evolution of the black revolutionary movement within the black community.  The footage was by Swedish filmmakers and had been lost for year, beautiful edited by Swedish director, Goran Olsson.  Look forward to video featuring Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, and Eldrige Cleaver.  The movie also features commentary from many black icons.

available here

   Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest; Sony Pictures Classic| $30.99

This film is a portrait of one of the most famous rap groups in history.  Directed by Michael Rapaport, the documentary features interviews with all of the members of Tribe Called Quest.  Following the group during their 2008 reunion tour, giving a behind the scenes look at the group dynamics and journey during the year.   The documentary is an in your face and realistic portrait of the group members showing their progression as artists and ultimate differences.

available here

  Hidden Colors: The Untold History of People of Aboriginal, Moor, and African Descent; King Flex Entertainment| $30

This informative documentary looks at the history of the African Diaspora around the world.  An often overlooked and under told story of people of Africa descent in regions like Asia and Europe.  Featuring commentary and interviews by many of the premiere scholars voices in black studies, this dvd is the perfect gift for the suppressed revolutionary, history buff, or great thinker.  It is sure to foster strong sentiments of black pride and open eyes to some rarely shared information.

available here

   Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child; New Video Group| $30

An homage to the great artiste, The Radiant Child features a real look at the gone to soon Basquiat.  The documentary provides an introspective into his radical life as well as the New York art scent of 1980s. Its authenticity comes from the lost footage of Basquiat covering all aspects of his life.  The film moves chronologically, so you see his evolution as both a creator and a man, commemorating his short life.  Its has this raw, pure energy, allowing viewers to really see the legend’s human side.  This dvd is sure to  inspire the inner artist in us all.

available here

   Mooz-Lum; Vivendi| $20

This indie fan favorite got a lot of press when its marketing went viral in the past year.  Written by new director, Qasim Basir and produced by Danny Glover, the story follows a college bound young man, Tariq, who has been raised as a strict muslim in the time around 9-11.  Starring Evan Ross, in a critically applauded role as the title character.  It provides an interesting perspective on the often misunderstood religion.  The film was the winner at the 2010 Urbanworld Film Festival.

available here


   FELA! The Musical National Tour| dates and prices vary

After an exciting year on Broadway, the acclaimed musical is now headed to a city near you!  The show’s success led to a London production and Tony wins for Best Choreography, Best Costume Design for a Musical, and Best Sound Design for a Musical.  The show follows the life of activist and performer Fela Kuti  in 1977 when the Nigerian government was trying to cease his performances.

available here

  Alvin Ailey Contemporary Dance Theater National Tour| dates and prices vary

The modern dance company, known for its groundbreaking choreography, is currently in its 53rd season.   The 2011-12 season marks the first year for new Artistic Director, Robert Battle.  Features include 6 new pieces, as well as fan favorites like Revelations and Night Creatures.  Sparking a new era for the company, it is sure to provide something new for seasoned Ailey supporters and impress those new to the amazing talents

available here

  Pariah, Focus Film Features| dates and prices vary

This contemporary drama premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and is slated for its US release on December 28, 2011.  It was awarded for its Excellence in Cinematography at the festival.  The film is an extension of a 2007 short film by the writer/director Dee Rees and was executive produced by Spike Lee.  The plot follows Alike, a 17 year old Brooklyn teen as she embraces her sexual identity as a lesbian.  The lead actress, Adepero Oyure was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead.  The film also Best Independent Film and Best Breakthrough Performance for Oyure at the African-American Film Critics Association

available here

   Kinyarwanda| dates and prices vary

Also premiering this year at Sundance was Kinyarwanda, the first film from Alrick Brown.  The film one the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award.  Based on the true accounts of muslims in Rwanda during 1994 genocide, the films tells the story of hope and human compassion during that time.  Weaving six stories together, the movie gives a more comprehensive and real narrative of the lives of many Rwandan’s during that tragic time in their history.

available here

Essence Festival 2012 Weekend Passes; July 6th- 8th, New Orleans, LA| $120- 750

Every summer, music fans flock to the Big Easy for one of the largest black musical festivals in the United States.  With sessions, events, and parties for all, it is well worth the vacation days to check it out.  This year Weekend passes went on sale before the Christmas Rush, making them the perfect gift for a romantic getaway, reunion with old friends, or fun loving girls weekend trip.

available here


   Beats Colors by Dr. Dre| $350

The ever popular headphones are now available in an array of colors, so you can have a pair of Beats to match every outfit.  The SOLO model features high-definition and noise canceling audio clarity.  Its super deep bass make it perfect for catching every nuance of a great hip- hop meat, the trance inducing baselines of a complex jazz composition, or the electronic hype of a dance beat.

available here

  Scratch Art Artists Trading Cards by Scratch- Art| $7

Keep up with the latest trends by giving the gift of these artist trading cards.  Traded like baseball cards, they came out of the mail art movement.  Today they are wallet sized pieces of extraordinary art.  Combined with the elementary fun of scratch art, this activity provides an opportune moment for revisiting your inner child.

available here

    Lami Li Traveler’s Journals| $28- 43

These colorful journals are ideal for the writer, sketcher, poet, traveler in us all.  Handmade in Nepal from the bark of the Lokta tree, these eco-friendly journals help support rural economic development in the country.  Great for those who strive to live more sustainably or have an altruistic streak focused on social justice.  They include 150 bound pages of handmade paper that are acid free  and perfect for archival ink.

available here

   Obama 2012 Holiday Ornament|$40

Show that you are in for the long haul with your support of the 44th President in his re-election campaign with this festive Holiday ornament.   The rhodium features the names of the President and Vice Pres in an intricate design.   Find this and more at the Obama 2012 store to display your political stance in style.

available here

Charter Membership to the National Museum of African American History and Culture| $25- 1000

Slated for it 2015 opening, the much anticipated addition to the Smithsonian campus and National Mall is being designed by some of the world’s premiere black architects.  Help it become a reality by contributing to the campaign to raise the $250 million needed to build by becoming a Charter Member.  For your efforts, you get your name listed on the electronic wall at the museum and to say you contributed to a piece of history.

available here

Hope this extensive list has you rethinking some of your last minute gift ideas for that creative presence in your life!  From the ABE Staff, we would like to wish all of our readers and their families a Happy Holidays… we look forward to bringing you exciting new content and features next year!

New Africa In Londontown

The Africa Centre at 38 King Street

Since 1961, the Africa Centre in Covent Garden has served as a home base for the African Diasporic peoples of London. Serving as a nucleus for the black Londoner, the building has always served as a host for many programs intended to unite the African populations of Britain and provide an outlet to celebrate and preserve their culture. It has become an important landmark for Africans, allowing for people to convene for festive, political, business, academic, and social affairs in its 50 years of existence. After struggling for many years to secure a renewable source of funding, the Trustees have decided to sell their lease and seek a new location in Central London.

This decision sent a ripple across the Internet, with many of the British African Population speaking out in defense of the building that they held so dear. One blogger recounted the importance the Centre played in his family, calling the people he associated with through the Centre’s programming as an extension of his family. He gives a voice to those tied to that location at 38 King Street, giving a very visual description of the spaces the building housed. Other supporters have started a Save the Africa Centre Campaign, which is supported by many noted African and diasporic leaders asking the Trustee’s to reconsider their proposal to sell and secure a new space and instead to renovate the Centre.

At the center of this movement is an inspired renovation plan by world-renowned architect, David Adjaye. Adjaye currently heads his practice, Adjaye Associates, out of London, and has been pivotal for bringing attention to British design and architects of color. He is best known in the US for his participation in the design of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, due in 2015. The architect is of Ghanaian descent, and was raised in Tanzania and London. Adjaye’s designs are often influenced by African furniture, styles, and iconography. It’s only natural, he would step up with a design for one of the few places in London that celebrates Africa as a whole.

The famed architect David Adjaye

Building section of Adjaye's design for the Africa Centre

Adjaye’s £6 million renovation of the space envisions a brand new interior that includes galleries, a restaurant, and a new roof lounge. The current space is focused primarily on the ground floor, so the redesign plans to utilize all the floors of the building, expanding the program and square footage. The Save the Africa Centre Campaign and some notable donors have backed Adjaye’s design as a positive alternative to vacating the property. Hadeel Ibrahim, the Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, worked with the Trustees to promise £3.6 million towards the project. In July, the Trustees granted a stay until next month to review other avenues, including Mr. Adjaye’s design before committing to sell the building.

Interior Renderings of Adjaye's new Africa Centre

I for one and supportive of their move towards a process that preserves the current space and includes more public participation. For the many supporters and user of the Centre’s spaces and programs, Adjaye’s proposal presents an opportunity to breath new life into the cultural center to continue to serve London’s African Diasporic Community for many more years to come. It will be interesting to see what the new face of Africa in the UK will look like.

Barbie Can Be… An Architect?

Today toy aficionados, collectors, female designers, and little girls around the world rejoiced at the release of Barbie Architect. This vivacious blonde with the perfect figure has proven to us that, women can really do anything having had over 125 high-profile careers in her many years. After a big controversy a decade ago where Architect was the winner in a public vote for Barbie’s next depiction, we finally got our moment this year. Looking at the design, which was heavily consulted by the American Institute of Architects, Mattel really tried to sell the profession as a stylish, strength-projecting job for a career minding little lady. She stands proud in her heeled boots and skyline print dress, side pony tail swept and ready to embark on a day of site visits with her hard hat and blue prints, surely un-phased by the absence of other women on site and the cat calls from the union construction worker. Who wouldn’t want that job? Right?

Although, I did rush to the Mattel website to see if she came in a more melanin influenced skin tone and did a Google search to see what Chicago area stores might be carrying her, I was disappointed that she did not come with a drafting table accessory and even more disappointed at my next thought. Will the press from Barbie joining our ranks change anything?

As a minority in the field, both gender and ethnic, I know the statistics. 17% of all American architects are female (down 2% since last year), with many people blaming the current recession on the decrease in feminine presence in the field. This number falls to a mere 4% with their professional license. When you look at the number of African-American female architects specifically, the number is an even more depressing .002% according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Than means on the current trend, for our tanner Barbie architect prospect, the future is bleak.

What does this mean for her?

Not that I write this to deter anyone from entering the field. I am definitely not one to talk with two Architecture degrees under my belt. Instead I chose to use this moment as a wake up call. It used to be that most people were unaware of what it meant to be an architect. Our silent struggle as females in the profession was often overlooked and missed by the masses, with a few female academics being the main people pioneering the way to gender diversity. Kudos to these amazing women, cause lord knows it’s a struggle I am still trying to wrestle.

Despite statistics, we've been at it for decades.

Moving forward it is up to us who understand to make sure we do all we can to change the mold and inspire these little girls (even more so inspire ourselves!) to apply to design school, complete the 5+ difficult and soul kicking years to finish an accredited degree, kick down the barrier door to get a “good job” in a firm that allows you to complete your IDP hours and supports your process to get licensed, and then shatter the glass ceiling to become the Project Leads, Partners, and Owners of great design firms building world renown buildings. This is a sign for people to become more active in exposing children to the profession, through volunteer charrette and design workshops, getting involved in mentoring programs like the ACE Mentoring program or through other local groups, doing whatever one can to provide the example for the next girl who is waiting with her Moleskin sketchbook, Prismacolor marker, and Micron pen in hand to be inspired.

What will I be?

As children we spend our young lives looking to Barbie to show us what the future may have in store for us. She has led many girls into the positions of doctor, mother, baker, flight attendant, vet, child care provider, teacher, actress, dancer, obstetrician, athlete, soldier, politician, police officer, fire fighter, life guard, pilot, astronaut, computer engineer, secretary, and even McDonald’s server… its long overdue she push them to design. At the end of the day, through all the criticism I’ve seen over her attempt to try on a hard hat, she has done something that many of us female architects have yet to do for each other and ourselves. If Barbie can do it, then so can we.

Designer Profile: Stephen Burks

It seems everywhere I turn these days I’m hearing Stephen Burks’ name… and that’s a good thing. Burks has long been heralded for his work from within the design community but always seems on the verge of something bigger. 2011 has been a good year for Burks, once labeled the “Barack Obama of design” by a member of the press. Currently his show Man Made is on exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem and is his first solo show. Later this spring he mounts another show Are You a Hybrid? (opens May 3) at the Museum of Art and Design in Manhattan. His contributions to the show Design for the Living World will be featured in Chicago starting next month. Burks also has a piece in collaboration with Swarovski that was featured at Eurolace, the design runway for lighting fixtures in Milan. Ladies and Gents, this man has been busy.

Piece from Burks Inside/Out Collection for Swarovski

Man Made at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Burks is unique for many reasons, including his varied path that makes him kind of a design jack-of-all-trades. Obtaining degrees in architecture and product design at the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Masters in Architecture at Columbia University, Burks tackles the worlds of architecture, industrial design, furniture design, and fine arts in one fell swoop. Burk’s Brooklyn based studio, Readymade Projects, Inc. serves as headquarters for all his work, and what an impressive resume it is.

Burks in Readymade Projects studio

He has designed for internationally renowned design brands like Artenica, B&B Italia, and Cappellina as well as more noted luxury icons like Misonni, Audi, Calvin Klein, Target, Triple Five Soul, and Swarovski. His designs are unique due to his desire to mix the artisan detailing of handicrafts with the benefits of mass production to make pieces available to consumers.  He has been interviewed and profiled in major design magazines like Dwell and is featured in this month’s Salt Magazine, the official trade magazine of Swarovski (available online) as well as the New York Times and popular online sites like Gestalten and Dezeen.  Burks’ work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in addition to his shows this month.

Pieces for Capellina

Burks is a pioneer for his technique’s and approach to design, which often involves the communities and an eco-conscious mindset. He has worked extensively in Senegal, Peru and South America, collaborating with local artisans in the creation of his furniture and pieces. He draws inspiration from the lifestyles and materials from the various places he travels which gives his furniture a sort of authenticity and also allows them to serve as functional art, standing apart from what you typically see on the market.

Burks MAfrique works for Moroso

Burk’s stance on design as a singular entity, not divided by discipline allows him to draw inspiration from every field as well as include aspects of each in his creations. Looking through his work you see the detailing so enforced in architecture, but the textures and color more akin to fashion, but the functionality of product design all encapsulated in on stunning object that looks so different from what you see everyday. Burks has the ability to take an item like a chair and make it tell its story of creation and identity in the way it came together.

Burks is a design inspiration to us and exactly the type of thinker we here at All Black Everything like to celebrate. His commitment to sustainable materials, community involvement, preserving the rituals and tradition of handicraft, and the elegance of design will continue to make him standout as a world class designer. 2011 seems to be his year and it is just April and I know I personally am excited to see where he will go and what he will create from here.