goto Appendx main menu Preface :
Darell W. Fields
Kevin L. Fuller
Milton S.F. Curry
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The term "academy" should not be understood merely as "school," but more as the  amorphous entities responsible for paradigms sustaining the sequence of events known as architectural education, theory, and practice—categories that are inherently dependent. We, the editors, are not shouting to be included in the academy—indeed, we are already here. We are more interested in conveying, from our various positions, our insights and experiences from within this  discipline in order that these essential perspectives not continue to be overlooked. This is to insist that the discipline of architecture, versus ourselves, is to be characterized by a more rigorous disclosure of what it defines and redefines as "truth." Architecture, in both process and personnel, is redundant. It is presently fashioned wholly by individuals and institutions involved more in maintaining social codes rather than in providing substantive insights, no matter the cost to existing traditions. These circumstances make Appendx not only possible, but necessary. 

While negotiating the boundaries of the academy, we found any number of people speaking about two topics, minorities and architecture, in familiar ways�ways not only detrimental to the inertia of this "possibility," but also derogatory to those they attempted to define. On several occasions, we found ourselves not only in disagreement with what was being said, but also insulted by the way the minority persona was being altered, seemingly made to "dance" between one caricature of itself and another. This process seemed to be invoked, referring to our particular case, as a marketing ploy, an  advertisement for some new "Black" product. The efficiency of this promotion required that minorities be packaged or package themselves to display "mannerisms"  deemed "proper" by the academy. The position we constructed at that Appendx 1 page break 5 | 6time was to resist these unnecessary violations of our respective identities and to engage these devious racial metaphors directly in order that the "procedures" of the academy, indeed of the entire system, could be seen more clearly and, subsequently, challenged. Our respective identities are not negotiable, and Appendx allows us, and you, to be critical as to how and why these contorted images are being deployed, regardless of the discipline. 

The impossibility of laying claim to a singular identity (ethnic, class, sexual, gender) started to become clear to us after having attended several conferences that took it upon themselves to tackle the very complex question of identity (whether or not the majority of the participants realized this aim). The prevailing question at the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) 1991 convention, entitled "Empowerment, Visibility, Education: The Eve of Opportunity," was "How can we get Fortune 500 commissions?" The prevailing issue at the "People of Color in Architecture" conference, held at Yale University in 1991, is summarized in part by this excerpt from Associate Dean Alan Plattus's published introductory remarks: 

    Surely our commitment to open architecture to the disenfranchised must begin with a renewed commitment to the local community of which we are inevitably and inextricably part. The people, and people of color, of whom we speak are not�although they have been taken to be for too long�some theoretical construct out there, but are our neighbors and potentially, our clients, students, teachers, and colleagues.1 
Implicit in both of these conferences is the notion that the site of theoretical critique within the institution of architecture is not and should not be infiltrated by "others." Instead, the suggestion is that exclusive focus on economic development by minority architects in the professional strata and on "local community" by academics will resolve architecture's institutional problems. Unfortunately, reducing the challenges of racism, classism, and sexism to a presumed model of economic determinism emaciates the necessarily critical and political work needed to truly transform the discipline, the profession, and the academy. Moreover, Plattus's degrading statement illuminates popular misconceptions about the potentialities of theory and its role in liberation struggles (discursive, political, social, etc.). By rallying around a "sense of neighborhood" as the only institution that will bring about change, he has by implication perpetuated the white male  version of inclusiveness that disconnects grassroots Appendx 1 page break 6 | 7 activity from the necessarily theoretical and political projects that must accompany localized action to shake foundations, structures, and institutional underpinnings. 

At the other extreme, NOMA (molded in the likeness of other civil rights groups that, with old-style leadership, have found the generational transition from 1960 to 1990 problematic) has been loathe to confront institutional barriers to the advancement of minorities in the profession. So focused upon "the profession," the leadership has overlooked ways in which architecture, as an intellectual and highly creative enterprise, differs from other professions such as investment banking, law, or entertainment. In each of these other professions, the criteria used to measure the quality and marketability of the work product is primarily quantitative (although individuals may use extremely qualitative methods to reach the desired quantitative result). Our point here is that in art�and we are speaking here of architecture and the fine arts�qualitative judgments of the work product are highly subjective and very resistant to the exclusive demands of commerce. An exclusive focus on our craft as commerce actually denies the seeing of other  contingencies prevalent in the "marketplace," not the least of which are talent and creative vision. 

In attempting to come to terms, as it were, with lived experiences, constantly shifting identities, and the dearth of venues available for rich and engaging exchange on the intersections of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in architecture, we began looking for a space of resistance and rigorous critique of accepted canons from which new possibilities for the discipline could emerge. We found no such place, and began to make one from scratch. next page

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