Receiving a design degree is the biggest gatekeeper to a professional career enacting large-scale change on a city, and historically, that education, especially in the Western world and in the United States of America, has been an overwhelmingly white, middle-to-upper class endeavor. Our design education framework is built off the concept of white supremacy and its character traits taken as givens. The work of Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones lists some of these characteristics, such as perfectionism, a sense of urgency, defensiveness, quantity over quality, worship of the written word, and paternalism. The irony is that the opposite of each of these traits gives us ideal design culture - exploration, flexibility, constructive critique, process and care, relationships and tenacity, multiplicities, and collaboration.
What would a design school for higher education look like if our history was properly faced and future possibilities embraced without fear? This project delves into these questions while proposing a campus that responds to and meets the needs of the community in the Anacostia neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
Anacostia is one of many East of the River communities characterized by a high poverty rate and a majority population identifying as Black, two identities that are often minorities in design school, and thus, in our professional settings.
The campus for this project makes use of an abandoned CSX rail-line that skirts the edge of Highway 295 and the western edge of Anacostia. This greenway school creates “stations” at three interchanges between the neighborhood and Anacostia National Park: an underpass near Anacostia Metro Station, the underpass of Good Hope Road SE, and the pedestrian overpass next to Anacostia High School. Creating a campus that is highly permeable to the community and a greenway that is ever-changing hopes to increase the power of Anacostia in the face of an uncertain future. Furthermore, the scale and focus on outside spaces help students and community members cultivate more manageable social circles in the event of an ongoing pandemic.
This project stops at the master planning phase: all activities suggested in renderings are possible futures unknown to the designer but created by the community. Without commitment and deep conversations with the community of Anacostia, this project decided it could not, ethically, go any further than this phase.
Okun, Tema, and Kenneth Jones. “The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture.” Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups. ChangeWork, 2001. <https: www.showingupforracialjustice.org="" white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html="">.</https:>