Mabel O Wilson

Associate Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
+1 212 854 3414


Mabel O. Wilson teaches courses in architectural design, architectural theory, and visual cultural studies. Her seminars examine a range of subjects including raciality and architectural discourse; space and the politics of cultural memory and history; and theories of time, cinema and databases. Her architectural design studios utilize methods of parametric data-mining and visualization to explore urbanization, new technologies, and globalization in African cities and systems of aggregation and material expression. She received a doctorate in American Studies from NYU (2007), and an M. Arch from Columbia’s GSAPP (1991). As the Nancy and George E. Rupp Professor at GSAPP, she directs the program for Advanced Architectural Research, co directs the Global Africa Lab, and is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies in GSAS.
She is an award winning designer and scholar. Her collaborative design practices (KW: a and Studio &) have worked on speculative and built projects. The (a)way station, in the collection of SFMoMA, received a design award from ID Magazine and has been exhibited widely. Her practice has been a competition finalist for several important cultural institutions including lower Manhattan’s African Burial Ground Memorial (with Dean Wolfe Architects) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture (with Diller Scofidio + Renfro.) The Wexner Center for the Arts, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s Triennial, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and SF Cameraworks have exhibited her installations. She is currently compiling the rich photographic archive from her book Negro Building into an experimental exhibit and database as part of the Becoming History Project. Her research on African Cities and modern architecture appeared in the video and photography exhibition Listening There: Stories from Ghana.
Her scholarly research investigates space and cultural memory in black America, race and visual culture, and new technologies and the social production of space. Her essays have appeared in numerous journals and books on critical geography, cultural memory, visual culture, and architecture. Her recent book Negro Building – Black Americans and the World of Fairs and Museums studies how the spaces of world’s fairs, emancipation expositions, and grassroots public museums became sites to imagine Afro-modernity.
Selected Publications:
Negro Building – Black Americans and the World of Fairs and Museums, University of California Press, 2012.
“The Opposite of Forgetting: Global Architects, Collective Memory and Cultural Exchange,” essay in Where are the Utopian Visionaries?, edited by Hansy Better, New York Periscope Press, 2012
“Forging Metals and Modernity,” essay in Post Ductility, edited by Michael Bell, Columbia GSAPP publication, 2012
“Points for Future Reference,” in Elastic - New Currents in Visual Inquiry, 2 September 2011, see http://elasticjournal.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/points-for-future-reference-by-mabel-wilson/
“Un-Real Estate,” and “Gown Trounces Town 2-0,” in the New City Readerfor &ldquo The Last Newspaper Exhibition &rdquo New Museum, New York, New York, 19 November 2010; see http://newcityreader.net/issue07.html
“Listening There: Scenes from Ghana” with Peter Tolkin, Design Observer Places, 9 September 2010 http://places.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=15438
“A Building and its Double” essay in Solid States, edited by Michael Bell, Columbia GSAPP publication, 2010
“Architecture’s Material Presence – a turn in the right direction,” in Stimulations, edited by Rodolphe el Khoury and Neal Schwartz, San Francisco: CCA Press, 2005
"Dancing in the Dark: The Construction of Blackness in Le Corbusier's Radiant City," in Architecture Theory, edited by Andrew Ballantyne, London: Continuum, 2005; also in Places through the Body, edited by Steve Pile and Heidi Nast, London: Routledge, 1998
“Black in Harlem: Race, Architecture, and the City” in Harlem World – Metropolis as Metaphor exhibition catalogue edited by Thelma Golden, New York: Studio Museum, 2004
"Between Rooms 307: Spaces of Memory at the National Civil Rights Museum" in Sites of Memory, edited by Craig Barton, Princeton Architectural Press, 2001
 “(a)way station - A Narrative of Domestic Space and Urban Migration” with Paul Kariouk in The Pragmatist Imagination edited by Joan Ockman, Princeton Architectural Press, 2000
"Black Bodies/White Cities: Le Corbusier in Harlem" and "Letters from New Orleans: The Jazz Architectural Workshop" in ANY 16: Whiteness; Editorial Consultant, 1996
"Lawful Transgressions: this is the House that Jackie Built" essay and installation with Heidi Nast in Assemblage 24, 1994