The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) has awarded Nathalie Frankowski and Cruz Garcia of WAI Architecture Think Tank the Faculty Fellowship to Advance Equity in Architecture. The first laureates to receive this new award by the ACSA were born out of the organization's strategic planning meetings in 2021-2022 to help expand on the current equity, social justice, and climate action work being discussed within architectural academia.
According to Mo Zell, ACSA President, "too often this work would sit quietly after the conference or after the design awards were given. We sought a partner to help share the great work that our members are doing to advance social justice and climate action."
For Frankowski and Garcia, their work, practice, and investigations revolve around the political, historical, and "material legacy" intertwined within architecture and urbanism. After developing their practice in 2008, the duo have been impactful voices in addressing the ways architecture should be re-evaluated, reformed, and understood.
Frequent contributors open to discussion and commentary on Archinect, we've had the opportunity to have different conversations with Frankowski and Garcia as they share their perspectives, current projects, and concerns with the state of architecture. During our 2017 Studio Snapshot interview, they shared, "Our interests in diverse spheres like film, art, politics, literature, mixed with a deep sense of disappointment with the state of architecture, made us realize quite early that creating our own practice was the most meaningful way to pursue an architecture able to reflect our values and concerns [...] Since its beginning, WAI (an acronym for What About It?) has been a concept in which questioning takes center stage and projects evolve from a critical life philosophy."
Fast forward to 2023, WAI Architecture Think Tank's work in investigating and dissecting the social, political, and economic relationships between architecture and academia has only continued, embedding them as important figureheads in leading these discussions for change. This year the duo received a Graham Foundation Grant for their publication, The LOUDREADER (in collaboration with Luis Othoniel Rosa), launching the LOUDREADER's pilot Trade School in Puerto Rico this summer, as well as publishing "A Manual of Anti-Racist Architecture Education," among other accomplishments this year.
Upon receiving the award, Frankowski and Garcia shared, "At a critical moment when important and necessary scholarship addressing the roots and lingering legacy of social and ecological injustice are being threatened, we hope to help display how forms of knowledge at the intersection of race, caste, class, displacement, access, (dis)ability, gender, ecology, and technology are central to architecture and its education. “With the support of ACSA and working closely with collectives, academic institutions, activists, publishers, editorial boards, practitioners, and scholars, we strive to develop resources and programming that reinforce ongoing initiatives while creating new platforms and media centered on anti-racism, ecological justice, and a public literacy of the ramifications (effects and possibilities) of the built and destroyed environment.”
During their 12-month fellowship, they will use the awarded $80,000 to the ACSA's work towards growing programming and resources for racial equity and climate action through outreach and partnerships. Examples of projects to be developed during their fellowship include: creating a website with digital content consisting of articles and links to various organizations and programming focusing on social and ecological justice. They will assist in organizing a lecture at the ACSA for member schools, in addition to creating a "newspaper-style publication that will supplement and document the many initiatives, scholarships, and events taking place during the fellowship."
Read more about WAI Architecture Think Tank and previous conversations on Archinect below:
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