Building Character: The Racial Politics of Modern Architectural Style
A lecture by Charles L. Davis II with a response by Professor Reinhold Martin, Director of the History and Theory Sequence in the M.Arch program at Columbia GSAPP.
Charles L. Davis II is an associate professor of architectural history and criticism the University at Buffalo. Building Character: The Racial Politics of Modern Architectural Style (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), traces the historical integrations of race and style theory in paradigms of “architectural organicism,” or movements that modeled design on the generative principles of nature.
He received his PhD in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and has an M.Arch and B.P.S. from the University at Buffalo. His academic research excavates the role of racial identity and race thinking in architectural history and contemporary design culture. His current book project, tentatively entitled Black By Design: An Interdisciplinary History of Making in Modern America, recovers the overlooked contributions of black artists and architects in shaping the built environment from the Harlem Renaissance to Black Lives Matter. He has published articles and essays in Architectural Research Quarterly, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Harvard Design Magazine, Log, Aggregate, Append-x, and VIA.
He is co-editor of Diversity and Design: Understanding Hidden Consequences (Routledge, 2015) and Race and Modern Architecture (University of Pittsburgh, 2020). His research has been supported by grants from the Canadian Center for Architecture, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Davis currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of Architectural Historians where he is the Co-Chair of its Race and Architectural History affiliate group and producer of its podcast Race &. He is also on the editorial board of the Aggregate Architectural History collective and an Advisory Board member of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center at Columbia University.