Category Archives: Urbanism

Y is for…


.002%. That is the percentage of licensed black female architects in the United State. This places Yolande Daniels with these elite. She is the principal, founder, and female partner of Studio SUMO, a multidisciplinary architecture firm based in New York City. The firm got its name from Daniel’s childhood nickname, Momo, and her partner, Sunil Bald’s, first name. Currently serving as the 2011- 2012 Silcott Endowed Chair at Howard University, she also has lots of experience as a professor of architecture, teaching at University of Michigan, City Colleges of NY, and Columbia University;s GSAAP.

Sunil Bald (l) and Yolande Daniels (r) are Studio SUMO.

Some of this talented lady’s accomplishments include the 2006 Architectural Vanguard Award, which highlights the young phenoms in the field. Today Studio SUMO is over 10 years old and has an impressive portfolio of projects. The firm is focused on innovative solutions that use the physical, social, and cultural contexts to shape design. In 2010, Studio SUMO were selected by the Architetural League of New York for the Emerging Voices Competitions. Daniel’s work at the firm ranges from installations to large scale buildings. One of their highly publicized projects were the window treatments, marketing images and interior gallery space of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art. SUMO’s first international project, the Josai School of Management in Saitama-ken, Japan led to many projects with the university for their campus. Check out Studio SUMO’s work at their website or in the book New York Dozen: Gen X Architects by Michael Crosbie.

Studio SUMO's design for MoCADA.

Interior student lounge at Josai University designed by Studio SUMO.

Yolande’s ethnicity influences and adds to a few of the firm’s project’s, specifically the Mitan project in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, as well as many exhibition designs for MoCADA. Her independent research is inspired by patterns and deriving formal strategies from non-linear, informal systems. She was recently honored with a travel award from AIANY to investigate and document slave spaces in Brazil, supporting her previous work examining architecture and the politics of space. Ms. Daniels also submitted the Tea Cozy installation to the Evergreen Museum in Baltimore which drew inspirations from Asian culture, Alice and Wonderland, and the museum tearoom. She represented the city of Philadelphia in her piece for “The Dresser Trunk Project” which examined locations of refuge during the Jim Crow Era.

Sumo's design for Little Haiti Housing Project.

Rendering of Little Haiti Housing Project's Courtyard space.

Throughout her professional work, both with Studio SUMO and on her own, Yolande Daniels always asks hard questions. Her design work pulls creative influences from many reference points, yielding intriguing spaces that draw you in and art pieces that make one take a second look. Ms. Daniels research draws from her field, examines ethnicity, and finds a way to marry the two with interesting studies that provide an often unheard perspective in the field. Frankly, we need more people like Yolande Daniels doing critical work in this world.

Daniel's piece for the Dresser Trunk Project.

Tea Cozy by Yolande Daniels.


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.

F is for…


The Furture

FUTURA (2000)

C is for…


This inspiring woman has been a strong proponent for sustainability and community development since she burst on the scene as the founder of Sustainable South Bronx in 2001. Over a decade she is one of the leading voices in the green movement, gaining the moniker “Green Power Broker” from the New York Times. Known for coining the phrase “Green the Ghetto”, Carter’s efforts have been at lobbying policies to increase green jobs and provide green job training in the communities that need them most. Her initiatives have been aimed at improving the quality of life in the most under-served neighborhoods.

Roof Garden in the Bronx.

Under her leadership, SSBX increased much needed public green space in the Hunts Point area of the borough. Carter also led the opposition of the addition of a solid waste plant to the South Bronx area, and advocated and fund raised for the design and implementation for a greenway along the waterfront instead. The organization also publicized a green roof campaign, which Carter publicized at TED talks and many other media outlets and championed community education. It also earned Ms. Carter that ever so coveted McArthur Genius Grant.

Community worker gardening at SSBX project.

In 2008, she left SSBX to start the Majora Carter Group, a consulting firm that specializes in urban revitalization strategies. She also hosts the popular public radio show, The Promised Land, which recently won the prestigious Peabody Award. Next on her agenda, tackling the food industry, looking to start a national brand of locally grown produce. She has a vision for a better, healthier future that will change the way we all live.  To hear ideas from the visionary herself, check the link at the bottom to the video from her TED Talk… it is well worth the listen!

Hunts Point Park after SSBX intervention.

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…”

Understanding the Layers: The Mark Bradford Project

The best part about summer heat waves is finding fun activities indoors. So last week I took advantage of one 99-degree afternoon and went to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It was Tuesday and the place was full of activity, with school groups and their evening jazz concert on the lawn. I had been looking forward to checking out the Mark Bradford Project, an exhibition of a survey of the artist’s work and it did not disappoint.

The Mark Bradford Project at MCA

Mark Bradford is a mixed media artist who’s pieces aim to address racial and political themes of the communities he represents. Although Bradford refers to himself as a painter, his technique is more akin to a unique blend of collage and décollage practices using references and materials gathered from the neighborhoods he uses for inspiration. His approach is part anthropology, part innovation. He layers materials and uses techniques of reduction and addition to create his large canvases and sculptures that tell a story about a particular place. His art gives a voice to the residents and calls attention to the socio-political, cultural, socio-economic, and racial inequalities that exist in his community.

Bradford working in his studio

Bradford’s style is a cultural mapping that records and tells a narrative of the spaces he is representing. Some of his sites are his current home of the Leimart Park community in Los Angeles and post Katrina New Orleans. The retrospective showcases his abilities to capture the essence of a neighborhood and their consciousness through his medium. He uses many references that are unique to the black experience, both in the titles of his work, which often utilize African American vernacular and colloquiums and the imagery that he collects from neighborhoods to use as materials. Many of his art pieces employ the makeshift signs often found in neighborhoods offering local services that can be found on vacant walls and infrastructure like light posts. One piece that stood out was James Brown Is Dead which examined the many faces of the artist and eras of his career and asked the audience to postulate which version of the icon had died.

The Devil is Beating His Wife by Mark Bradford

Bradford’s process of abstracting these aspects of his experience allows him to have a personal connection to both the place represented, the people who share that experience, a well as the end user. As a conduit to address many issues of social justice, human nature, and ethnic identities, Bradford’s work creatively interprets and visualizes the reality. Looking at his piece Potable Water, through his use of composition, color, and textures, Bradford transmit a strong message about civic water sources and the reality of many people’s access to clean water.

Potable Water by Mark Bradford

As an artist Mark Bradford has taken his voice and creativity and turned into a way of creating art that is sure to keep delighting us all for years to come. I for one am excited to see what else this talented artist has in store. This summer Bradford has an artist residency at the MCA, so in addition to his exhibit, there are also other public lectures and programs here. There is also an online blog related to the exhibit. Be sure to check out his exhibit, The Mark Bradford Project at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago until September 18, 2011.