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Sharon Sutton

Thu, Nov 5, 2020    7pm

When Ivory Towers Were Black: Lessons Learned about Racial Justice in the City-making Professions

Lecture by Sharon Sutton, FAIA ‘73 MArch

Dr. Sharon Egretta Sutton, FAIA is a distinguished visiting professor of architecture at Parsons School of Design and has also served on the faculties of Columbia University, Pratt Institute, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington. She was the twelfth African American woman to be licensed to practice architecture, the first to be promoted to full professor of architecture, and the second to be elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects.

Dr. Sutton’s scholarship explores America’s continuing struggle for racial justice. A recent book, When Ivory Towers Were Black: A Story about Race in America’s Cities and Universities, portrays an audacious affirmative action effort at Columbia University during the Civil Rights Movement. A forthcoming book (Fordham 2021), Youth Activists Transforming Injustice, characterizes the struggles of low-income youth to improve their rundown surroundings as a new form of activism.

Early in her career, Dr. Sutton worked as a professional musician in New York City, most notably in the original cast of Man of La Mancha. Her fine art is in the Library of Congress and has been widely exhibited and collected. She holds five academic degrees—in music, architecture, philosophy, and psychology—and has studied graphic art internationally.

Dr. Sutton received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award from the American Institute of Architects and the Medal of Honor from both the New York and Seattle chapters of that organization. She is a distinguished professor of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and an inductee into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

This lecture is organized by the Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design Program as part of the lecture series “Techno-Critical Assemblies.” This ongoing series brings together a diverse group of speakers whose work addresses today’s most pressing challenges⁠—environmental, political, social, and beyond.


The Techno-Critical Assemblies Lecture Series is open to current Columbia GSAPP students only.