2021 Clifford Wong Prize in Housing Design: Isabel Dunham Strauss’s “Up from the Past: Housing as Reparations on Chicago’s South Side”

Mirror: Gallery spaces within the home, so that your heroes and your loved ones surround you. Bell hooks explains that growing up, “…the walls of black homes worked as sites of resistance. Walls worked as private, black-owned and -operated gallery space where images could be displayed, shown to friends and strangers.” Collage Credit: Romare Bearden, Nick Cave, Kerry James Marshall, Lorna Simpson Mickalene Thomas.

by Isabel Dunham Strauss (MArch I ’21) — Recipient of the 2021 Clifford Wong Prize in Housing Design

Do people know what the Illinois Institute of Technology and the South Side Planning Board and the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois and the United States government did to the Black Metropolis? If they know, do they care? Is it too hard to hold these entities accountable? If we held them accountable, could we find justice for those that were displaced? What would justice look like? What comes after Mecca? What types of spaces come after Mecca? Are they different than what was there before? Are they already there? What defines them? Can Reparations be housing? Would that work? How many people are already doing this work? How many people are doing this work in academia? On the ground? Is the word “Reparations” dead? What do we draw from? Who is this for? Do white men own the legacy of the architecture that defined the Black Metropolis? How personal should this work be? How anecdotal? How quantitative? Does the design need to be inherently spatial? Or atmospheric? What should it feel like? How do I draw a feeling in Rhino? Do I draw it? Do I collage it? Do I play it? What are radical ways of looking? Of seeing? Is space a collage? Is home a collage? How do we reclaim racialized architecture? Do we? Is it through design? Is it through representation? Should we even talk about these things?

Visit the 2021 Virtual Commencement Exhibition to see more from this and other prize-winning projects.