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Travis continues by establishing other clear lines of distinction: between "professional" architects and those involved in academic careers (which can be extended to include any creative or theoretical architectural work not professionally affiliated), and between true architects and those involved in related design fields.  Although in each of these sets (professional architects/other architects; architecture/other design fields) the representation of the second term borders on a kind of tokenism, the privileging of the first term becomes more obvious, given Travis's commentary, than one might hope.  He remarks that "three individuals, [two] interior designers. . .and [one] city planner are not architects.  Their work, however, is of a caliber that deserves to be showcased on these pages" (p. 7).  The assumption in this statement is not new.  It constructs architecture as the "master" central term while subordinating and marginalizing all related practices (interior design, city planning, landscape design, etc.).  The ever-so-subtle inference in Travis's statement is that in spite of the inferiority of their design fields relative to architecture, the work of these individuals has exceeded the limits of those fields, granting it a privileged inclusion in the "master" domain of architecture.9 This logic, which attributes a "natural" superiority to architecture over related practices, is the same logic that inscribes a natural inferiority to designated races, demanding no accountability of the privileged term.  It mirrors the same logic that barred blacks from the profession of architecture in the first place, finally admitting only those whose ability exceeded their "natural" limits (a logic that skillfully manufactures these limits while fabricating the supposed superiority of the privileged term), allowing them access into the privileged domain, while ensuring that their "innate inferiority" remains "marked" within this field.  Although the issuesAppendx 1 page break 102 | 103 here are obviously different, the operations are (unfortunately) surprisingly similar.  The repetition of this structure in Travis's own argument reveals how such systems of exclusion, which align themselves with normative positive/negative values, are necessary to his own constitution of architecture—one that not only references a very specific group, but also constructs that group only by differentiating it from, and opposing it to, other possible conditions.  In each case the privileged "positive" term is a singular and identifiable (and therefore transparent ) figure, the secondary "negative" term an opaque and multiple ground against which the first term defines itself.  Even when clothed in apparent altruism, such structures of representation are necessarily self-serving.  In this particular case, one expects that these structures serve to repeat and reflect Travis's own personal and necessarily limited view of architecture, a frame whose boundaries are found to be only marginally exceeded by the density of writing or work of the individuals portrayed within these pages. 

Travis categorizes the firms as types based on a code defined according to biological gender (male/female) and the nature of filial heterosexual relations.  Thus we are presented with "eight women and twenty-seven men. . .belonging to the following types of firms: eight single males, one single female, three male/male (unrelated) teams, two black male/white male teams, two principals in predominantly white-owned firms, two husband/wife teams, two father/daughter teams, one father/son/grandson team, one (twin) brother/sister team" (p. 7).  This approach is revolutionary in the way in which the importance of familial structures in the African-American heritage is shown to substantially affect the organization of relations in African-American firms.  Family thus becomes a privileged experience with roots in African-American culture.  By being rendered visible, it is strategically employed to transform the ways we normally perceive the neutral professional relations of individuals in architectural firms, dissolving the distinction between professional work and intimate relations by constructing a category modulated between the two.  Yet while this structure opens territories in one domain (the profession), it closes them in others (gender and sexuality) by masking those other relations that do not adequately fit within this code, rendering nonheterosexual and nonfilial relations of lesser significance.  While filial relations and the concept of personal relations in general challenge the assumed nonrelation of white males within the normative system (the filial relation implying the reinsertion of women into the structure of relations and therefore the reinsertion of intimacy), it does not question why certain filial relations are more apparent than others (that is, why there would necessarily be an Appendx 1 page break 103 | 104absence of female-female relations such as mother-daughter or two sisters within this structure).  Nor does it challenge the nature and structure of filial relations in general, which in themselves conceal other possible conditions of intimacy and sexuality, both within and outside of the black community.  Specific filial relations are thus presented at a different level of neutrality, as normative structures of acceptable family relations. 

The opposition male/female is also presented to us by Travis as a specifically neutral descriptive code, which, although ostensibly attempting to evidence a certain equality of gender representation, conceals differences both between and within each of these two terms to construct an artificial unity within the black community.  Women's experience of marginalization is thus disguised by, and deferred to, the African-American experience to create a perceived homogeneity of heterogeneous elements, masking hidden differences; this repression is exposed and the boundaries of its restraint exceeded in the book only by the comments of those two women who speak for themselves within the text.  Roberta Washington is the only women presented who represents her own architectural firm.  Having originally attended architecture school at Howard University, a predominantly black institution, before graduating from Columbia University, Roberta discusses her experiences there. She comments on the difficulties for women within a school that encouraged and supported black men while discouraging black women—an attitude promoting not segregation but an attempt to dissuade and prevent women from practicing architecture altogether.  She reveals that the struggles of the black community are highly differentiated within that community—that one is marginalized not only from without, but also from within what one considers to be her own minority group. 

In her essay entitled "Finding Our Voice in a Dominant Key," Sharon Sutton is particularly enlightening, calling upon the wisdom exacted from the combined reality of her race, gender, and class.  She makes reference to black feminists who have influenced her, such as Patricia Hill Collins, asserting that "as members of a subordinate group, black women cannot afford to be fools of any type, for their devalued status denies them the protections that white skin, maleness, and wealth confer" (p. 12).10  She notes that while only 8 percent of architects registered in the United States have been African-Americans, out of 42,000 members of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) there were just seven black women in 1984, representing a mere 1.5 percent.  Sutton characterizes architecture as "a field which prides itself on snobbishness and exclusivity," constructed within dominating oppressive structures founded in Appendx 1 page break 104 | 105self-serving privilege.  She is acutely aware of the inherent problems of African-Americans simply reflecting the very culture that oppressed them, and she provides a good counterpoint to what I believe are the problems in the structure of Travis's book.  One could posit that her triple minority status discloses to her the nature of assimilationist illusions (and seductions), indicating that conditions of difference within minority groups must be recognized.  In quoting Nancy White ("White women just think they are free.  Black women know they ain't"),11 she renders an equally valid truism apparent: that black men, especially middle-class, heterosexual, intellectual black men, protected by the privileges of maleness and wealth, have investments in the illusions of freedom, whereas black women, especially lower-class black women within fields such as architecture, know the absolute falsity of these illusions. 

Beyond exposing some of the problems caused by eliding and homogenizing differences within a particular marginalized group, Sutton reveals how this effort of assimilation depends on such elisions, supporting to some extent Cornel West's view that this condition is intimately tied to those who have investments of privilege (which ultimately enable and empower them) within the dominant system.  West has noted how critiques of the assimilationist position have emerged primarily from the black women's movement,  which "terminated the Black male monopoly on the construction of the Black subject," and "has had a greater impact than the critiques that highlight exclusively class, empire, age, sexual orientation or nature."12  Sutton acknowledges that "even though as an academic, [she] is [herself] immersed in the dominant voice's view of power, authority, success, fairness, justice, human ability, and so forth, [she] feels an urgency to establish an alternative world view; to question dominant values although they are, if not perfectly, sustaining [her]."  Her "radicalized" perspective, as she sees it, "embraces the two seemingly contradictory missions" of seeking inclusion and a strong presence within the dominant institutions and providing a space for other voices, while simultaneously attempting to subvert those institutions from the inside by rejecting the segmentation that they depend upon, rejecting "the dominant voice's 'power over' mentality because it is inappropriate to the 'power with' mentality that is required to bring about social change" (p. 14). 

The tone of Travis's book, however, presents only the first half of Sutton's double imperative, the clues of which can already be sensed simply by reading the foreword and flipping through the presented visual material.  Despite being less informative than most of the essays presented, Travis's initial statements are important because Appendx 1 page break 105 | 106they reveal the frame and thus the parameters of the text, making explicit the transparent nature of the code employed and its dependence on status quo nonblack standards for validity.  And although Sutton's essay embodies the critique of indiscriminately adopting such standards, the whole of this book nullifies the potency of Sutton's voice while asking us to look more closely at the potential irresolvability of her "contradictory missions."  How one is "to achieve power and authority within the traditions of the dominant culture" (p. 14) without internalizing and perpetuating those traditions while subjugating one's "other" self, and the "other-ness" of the black community, is neither addressed by Sutton nor by the text's other contributors. 

Sutton's essay is one of a series comprising the second section of the book.  These short essays are meant to provide, in true monograph style, a sampling of viewpoints on the relations between the African-American experience and architecture, intended to furnish a philosophical, historical, or theoretical grounding for the work to follow.  For the most part these essays trace the different histories of the black contribution to architecture while depicting the nature of the struggles of specific African-American pioneers.  My intention is not to focus on the details of these stories, but rather to reveal the world that together they construct, to critically assess their shared assumptions, while submitting to scrutiny particular works that stand out from this general theme.  Vincent Scully's essay is such a work, yet unlike Sutton's, it is found to be far more oppressive than liberating.  Counter to Sutton's warnings against the seductions of success within conventional frameworks and her appeals for a resistant and critical praxis, Scully's writing praises those black architects who have successfully mastered the Western architectural tradition yet seems to disregard how their own experience might embody the critique of this history  (p. 11).13  Scully's references to "truth" and "propriety" already hide the Eurocentric origins of the truths he is expounding, while his attempts to align the revival of the classical traditions (as architecture's liberation from the modern movement) with black liberation not only ignores particular relations between modernism, opacity, and primitivism, but infers that one can (by a skillful verbal slippage that quickly moves from "vernacular" to "classical") equate the progressive emancipation of blacks that took place within the modern era with the imperialist, despotic, and oppressive traditions of a Eurocentric classicism that became the symbol of colonialism in many parts of the world—a tradition within which slavery was both inscribed and justified.  Although a seemingly synchronous moment occurred between the architectural liberation and other social liberations during the late 1960s, the reified conditions of classical nostalgia that emerged in the Appendx 1 page break 106 | 107late 1970s and early 1980s can be better equated with the setbacks under the Reagan and Bush administrations to which Scully refers.  These political powers (reacting out of the fear provoked by the minority emancipation of the 1960s and early 1970s) openly supported a return to supposed "traditional values," marked by a regressive fundamentalism.  For WASP males whose totalizing power is threatened by minority emancipation, traditional forms are invested with traditional meanings, including the hierarchical power structures that granted democratic suffrage only to the privileged few that were allowed a voice. 

The truth's of Scully's WASP traditions, and the success of African-American architects within those traditions (documented by other essays such as Michael Adams's "The Incomparable Success of Paul R. Williams") conceal within them other histories and other truths.  Most of the remaining essays in this series indicate the conditions of these other truths, revealing the difficulty of reconciling a minority culture's values with the dominant institution's views of architectural success.  And yet, despite the flickering intimation in various writings that these two conditions might be irreconcilable—that their values are antithetical, the dominant story retold throughout the text entirely represses the possibility of such an incommensurable "difference" between systems of belief.  Instead, the difference between values is discounted (subsumed by "majority" practice), and the story recounted throughout the work is that of the struggle overcome; the third section of the book clearly constructing the finale to one phase of this repeating code, while illustrating the achievements of black architects who have endured this struggle and attained so-called "success."  This formula proclaims a reverberating message of hope to inspire black youth, which promises, by its repetitive pattern, to continue past the life of this text.  Its eternal proclamation is that obstacles to black achievement can be defeated if one simply develops the right skills and attitudes, and perseveres. 

It becomes important at this point in the analysis to unravel how this story of struggle and potential success is told.  What is the nature of the success represented?  How is it validated, and what representational codes, forms, and structures are responsible for its fabrication?  My intention in concentrating on the more "opaque" aspects of the text, that is, the deeper codes that underly its representations and the latent meaning given by its formal and material expression, is to reverse the terms of the typical "review"14:  first, to illustrate that such material is neither devoid of content nor ever neutral; to reveal how immediately its information is received, to show how surreptitiously it transfers its content, and to expose the origins of the assumpAppendx 1 page break 107 | 108tions that govern its conventions; second, to render evident the critical nature of this "opaque" material, which occupies a position of undeniable import in the context of a primarily visual monograph devoted to architectural work; and third, to suggest a relationship between this text's opacity, whose revelation exposes and confronts the assumptions behind its surface reality, and the opacity of a "blackness" that implicitly challenges the transparent truths of dominant Western institutions. next page


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