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Mabel O. Wilson

Mabel O. Wilson (’91 M.Arch) is the Nancy and George Rupp Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, a Professor in African American and African Diasporic Studies, and the Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia University. At GSAPP she co-directs the Global Africa Lab. Wilson joined the faculty of Columbia in 2007 and she has held fulltime and visiting appointments at UC Berkeley, California College of the Arts, Princeton University, Ohio State University and the University of Kentucky. She is trained in Architecture and American Studies, two fields that inform her scholarship, curatorial projects, art works and design projects. Through her transdisciplinary practice Studio &, Wilson makes visible and legible the ways that anti-black racism shapes the built environment along with the ways that blackness creates spaces of imagination, refusal and desire. Her research investigates space, politics and cultural memory in black America; race and modern architecture; new technologies and the social production of space; and visual culture in contemporary art, media and film.

Wilson’s practice Studio & has been a competition finalist for several important cultural institutions including lower Manhattan’s African Burial Ground Memorial and the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture (with Diller Scofidio + Renfro). For her most recent design collaboration, she is member of the architectural team designing the Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers at the University of Virginia (opening Spring 2020). Exhibitions of her work have been featured at the Venice Biennale, Art Institute of Chicago, Architekturmuseum der TU Mūnchen, Istanbul Design Biennale, Wexner Center for the Arts, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s Triennial, the Storefront for Art and Architecture and SF Cameraworks. Wilson is a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?)—an advocacy project to educate the architectural profession about the problems of globalization and labor. In 2011 she was honored as a United States Artists Ford Fellow in Architecture and Design. She received the prestigious Arts and Letters Award. In 2019 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for her work with Global Africa La (GAL), an innovative research initiative that explores the spatial topologies of the African continent and its diaspora. Wilson was also awarded in 2019 the Educator/Mentor honor from Architectural Record’s Women in Architecture Design Leadership Program.

Wilson has published two books Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016) and Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (University of California Press 2012). She is currently developing the manuscript for her third book Building Race and Nation: Slavery and Dispossessions Influence on American Civic Architecture and co-editing the first ever volume on Race and Modern Architecture (University of Pittsburgh Press 2020). Her scholarly essays have appeared in numerous journals and books on art and architecture, black studies, critical geography, urbanism, memory studies. Wilson has received research grants and fellowships from Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, Getty Research Institute, New York State Council for the Arts, Graham Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. In 2015-2016, she was the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow at the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in Visual Arts (CASVA). Wilson received her PhD. in American Studies (2007) from New York University.

Recent Publications

Race and Modern Architecture, edited by Irene Cheng, Charles Davis and Mabel O. Wilson, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020.

“Race, Reason and the Architecture of Jefferson’s Virginia Statehouse,” Thomas Jefferson Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals, edited by Lloyd De Witt with Corey Piper, Norfolk: Chrysler Museum / New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.

“White by Design,” Among Others: Blackness at MoMA, edited by Darby English and Charlotte Barat, New York: Museum of Modern Art Press, 2019.

“History’s Worth of Fictions: On Kara Walkers’s ‘Event Horizon,’”I Stand in My Place, with My Own Day Here: Site Specific Works from the New School Art Collection, edited by Francis Richards, Silvia Rocciola and Lydia Matthews, New York: Parsons the New School, New School Press, 2019.

“The Cartography of Du Bois’s Color-line,” Du Bois and Data Visualization, edited by Britt Rusert and Whitney Battle-Baptiste, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2018.

“Home Schooled - Lessons on the Private and Public Spaces of Blackness” in Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum, Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2018.

“Rosenwald School: Lessons in Progressive Education,” Unpacking the Archive: Frank Lloyd Wright at 150 edited by Barry Bergdoll and Jennifer Gray, New York: Museum of Modern Art Books, 2017.

“Public Service,” OfficeUs Manual, edited by Eva Franch, Ana Miljački, Carlos Minquez Carrasco, Jacob Reidel and Ashley Schafer, New York: Lars Müller Publishers and Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2017.

“Rendering the Labor Invisible: The Architecture of the Guggenheim’s Global Network” in The Next Helsinki, edited by Michael Sorkin and Andrew Ross, New York: OR Books, 2017.

Begin with the Past: The Building of the National African American Museum of History and Culture, Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2016.

“Provisional Demos: Spatial Agency of Tent Cities,” in Borders Elsewhere, Oslo: Oslo Biennale and Lars Muller, 2016.

“Collecting Publics: The Spatial Politics of Dorchester Projects” in Entry Points - The Vera List Center Manual on Art and Social Justice, No. 1, edited by Carin Kuoni, New York: Parsons the New School/Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

“Other Monumentalities” in David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material, edited by Okwui Enwezor and Zoe Ryan, Munich and Chicago: Haus der Kunst and Art Institute of Chicago, 2015.

“Urgent Matters of Architecture” in Urgencies of Theory, ed. Mark Wigley and James D. Graham, New York: GSAPP Books, 2015.

“Mingling in a Curious and Uncanny Manner” in Group Efforts: Changing Public Space, ed. Gavin Browning, New York: GSAPP Books.

“Working Globally: The Human Networks of Transnational Architectural Projects” with Jordan Carver and Kadambari Baxi, Architecture and Labor, edited by Peggy Deamer. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

“Who Builds Your Architecture—An Advocacy Project” with Jordan Carver and Kadambari Baxi, Gulf Labor, edited by Andrew Ross. New York: OR Books, 2015.

“Image City Spectacles: Imagining a World Class African City” with Mario Gooden. in Entr’ acte: Performing Publics, Media and Architecture, edited by Jordan Geiger, series “Avante Gardes in Performance/Radical Acts” co-edited Sarah Bay-Cheng and Martin Harries, London: Palgrave, 2015.

“Inside Out: Three Black Women’s Perspectives on Architectural Education in the Ivory Tower” with J. Yolande Daniels and Felecia Davis, Space Unveiled: Invisible Cultures in the Design Studio, London: Routledge, 2014.

“Re-visioning Cabrini Green”, in Rethinking the American City: An International Dialogue, edited by Klaus Benisch and Miles Orville, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

GSAPP Conversations #3: Sharon Sutton in Conversation with Mabel O. Wilson

Columbia GSAPP Associate Professor Mabel O. Wilson (M.Arch ‘91) speaks with Sharon Sutton (M.Arch '73) about the publication of her new book, When Ivory Towers Were Black, which tells the story of how an unparalleled cohort of ethnic minority students earned degrees from Columbia University’s School of Architecture during a time of fierce struggles to open the ivory tower to ethnic minority students. A book launch and discussion was held at Columbia GSAPP on February 23, 2017.


Course Semester Title Student Work Instructor Syllabus Requirements & Sequence Location & Time Session & Points Call No.
A4348‑1 Fall 2024
Questions in Architectural History I
Mabel O. Wilson
W 11 AM - 1 PM
3 Points