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Mabel O. Wilson Named Co-Director of Commission on History of Race and Racism at Columbia

Sp21 210327 mabel wilson 2 credit dario calmese
Professor Mabel O. Wilson
December 5, 2022

President Bollinger has announced that Mabel O. Wilson ’91 M.Arch, the Nancy and George Rupp Professor of Architecture and Co-Director of the Global Africa Lab at Columbia GSAPP, Professor in African American and African Diasporic Studies, and Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia University, has been named the Co-Director of the President’s Commission on the History of Race and Racism at the University. Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia, will also serve as a Co-Director of the commission. The faculty-led body will assess and establish guidelines for existing and future symbols and representations at Columbia, placing them in historical context and their relationship to racism, guided by a commitment both to historical accuracy and to an inclusive campus environment.

“The built environment shapes the daily experiences of everyone on campus. Whether or not we are conscious of it, buildings, artworks, and their placement convey narratives about power, both by presence and omission,” said Mabel O. Wilson. “Revisiting our symbols and their meanings will help build a more inclusive and welcoming campus.”

In his announcement on December 1, 2022, President Bollinger stated, “Central to Columbia’s ongoing commitment to antiracism is a thoughtful and contextualized reassessment of what and whom we commemorate. This commission will guide critical decision-making as we work to make sure that our campuses reflect our values and offer welcoming spaces to students, faculty, staff, and alumni.”

Wilson is tenured Professor of Architecture who has taught at Columbia GSAPP since 2007. Mabel O. 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 for the recently opened Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers at the University of Virginia. 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. She curated, together with MoMA Associate Curator Sean Anderson, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America at the Museum of Modern Art in 2021.

Wilson has published the books Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (Smithsonian Books, 2016) and Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (University of California Press 2012). Together with Irene Cheng and Charles L. Davis II, she co-edited Race and Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present (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.