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Preserving the Legacy of America’s First Black Architect


HOK’s assist of Tuskegee College college students continues the apply of empowering aspiring Black architects that started within the late 1800s with Robert R. Taylor.

Few structure packages have as highly effective a narrative as Tuskegee College.

Robert R. Taylor, typically cited as the primary accredited Black architect within the U.S., designed a lot of the varsity’s japanese Alabama campus. Taylor additionally developed the varsity’s structure program and recruited Tuskegee college students to assemble buildings. His college students even made their very own constructing supplies—together with bricks and home windows—additional highlighting the ability and resourcefulness of African Individuals within the turn-of-the-century South.

But for all its proud historical past, Tuskegee’s structure program is commonly ignored at this time. The identical could be mentioned for the nation’s seven different traditionally Black schools and universities (HBCUs) with NAAB-accredited structure colleges.

“Many individuals don’t understand HBCUs have structure packages,” mentioned Amma Asamoah, an assistant professor of structure at Tuskegee’s Robert R. Taylor College of Structure and Development Sciences. “To me that’s a difficulty. Our college students supply views which are lacking in structure. They arrive from communities that haven’t had a voice within the planning and design of the constructed surroundings.”

Trenton Scott, a fifth-year structure main at Tuskegee, is such a scholar. Scott developed a ardour for drawing as a baby in close by Birmingham. As a teen, he turned his consideration to drawing buildings and imagining how derelict properties in his industrial hometown could possibly be remodeled for neighborhood use.

“Neighborhood engagement is a giant motive I wished to do structure,” mentioned Scott. “I see the potential for structure to convey folks collectively.”

Trenton Scott (third from left) poses with different HOK interns in the summertime of 2022.

Investing in HBCU Design College students

Over the previous eight months, Scott has had the chance to additional his dream of changing into an architect as an HOK Variety x Design Scholarship recipient. Awarded to 9 BIPOC and minority design college students, the scholarship features a $10,000 stipend for varsity bills and a paid internship with HOK.

As an intern with HOK’s St. Louis workplace, Scott has labored on quite a lot of mission sorts, together with growing a conceptual design for a proposed Afghan neighborhood heart.

“I’ve gained a lot from my HOK expertise,” mentioned Scott. “It has uncovered me to issues about design and technical structure I haven’t skilled at school. I’ve an inventory of individuals at HOK whom I contemplate mentors.”

For Angelo Arzano, managing principal for HOK in St. Louis, Scott exemplifies the untapped expertise that may be discovered at colleges like Tuskegee.

“These are college students who may go unnoticed as a result of they’re not from larger structure packages,” mentioned Arzano. “But by way of ability and ambition, they’re simply as promising.”

Since 2017, HOK’s St. Louis studio has hosted 4 Tuskegee interns. The studio additionally sends delegates to Tuskegee a number of instances a yr to guide portfolio critiques, do visitor lectures and attend profession festivals.

“We need to develop the pipeline of minority expertise in structure,” mentioned Arzano. “It’s one thing we’re keen about in St. Louis and throughout HOK.”

Trenton Scott (backside row, second from left) and his Tuskegee College teammates rejoice profitable NOMA’s 2022 scholar design problem. Their idea, Selah, encompasses a public plaza, pedestrian market and cultural heart designed to foster neighborhood.

Tuskegee Design Staff Win

Final November, HOK’s St. Louis studio helped pay for Scott and a number of other of his classmates to journey to Nashville to take part within the Nationwide Group of Minority Architects (NOMA) 2022 convention and design competitors. The scholar portion of the competitors challenged groups from 30 colleges to check a cultural heart and landmark bridge for north Nashville, a traditionally Black part of city that has seen a surge of gentrification within the fast-growing metropolis.

Tuskegee’s entry received first place. A group from Ivy League Cornell College positioned second.

“That win proves the caliber of our college students,” mentioned Tuskegee’s Asamoah. “It exhibits their capability to grasp traditionally marginalized communities and translate their empathy, consciousness and expertise into the constructed surroundings.”

Asamoah appears ahead to Tuskegee college students incomes extra wins within the coming years. She hopes, too, that extra design companies will become involved in preserving Robert R. Taylor’s legacy by supporting Tuskegee and different HBCUs.

“HOK’s relationship has been very nourishing for our college students and our division,” mentioned Asamoah. “I invite different companies to additionally come down, go to the campus, study our wealthy historical past and take a hands-on method to serving to us develop that legacy.”

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