2014 AIA Honorary Membership

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Carolyn Armenta Davis, Hon. AIA | Notes of Interest

In the early 1990s Carolyn Armenta Davis issued an international call for submissions of built projects designed by Black-owned architectural studios between 1970 and 1990. Out of more than 280 submissions, 70 designs were selected to become part of the exhibition “Design Diaspora: Black Architects and International Architecture 1970-1990.” The exhibit, curated by Armenta Davis, was the first to focus on the built work of 50 contemporary Black architects from 11 countries, including the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, and South Africa. Between 1993 and 2000, the collection of architectural photography, drawings, and models toured 20 venues in the U.S., South America, Africa, and Europe.

The exhibition led to the production of a related documentary titled “Viewpoints of Black Diaspora Architects.” In this film, which was produced by Armenta Davis in 1993, eight of the architects selected for Design Diaspora discussed a range of critical topics, such as African heritage in architecture, changes in the profession, tropical architecture, designing for women and children, urbanism, diaspora and collaboration, as well as personal challenges, achievements and legacies.

The exhibit and documentary illustrate the influence Armenta Davis – a producer, researcher, curator, and historian – has had on the public appreciation of work by architects of African descent. Her work on the subject has lifted the profile of contemporary Black practitioners, and it has served as a catalyst for inclusion of an often-neglected perspective in broader discussions about art. It was, in part, because of her work that “Understanding Art,” by Lois Fichner-Rathus, includes Black architects in a section devoted to art and diversity, for example. It is also thanks to her research that the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, housed at the Radcliff Institute for Advanced Study, includes the work of 30 Black women architects. Armenta Davis researched and organized the work for the archive, titled “African Diaspora: Women Architects.”

Armenta Davis is a member of the Society of Architectural Historians and has served on many prestigious design juries and committees, including the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Newhouse Architecture Competition and the “Say It Loud Project,” at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

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Photo Credit

  • © Carolyn Armenta Davis

Carolyn Armenta Davis, Hon. AIA

Location: Chicago

2014 AIA Honorary Membership Jury

  • Charles Schreckenberger, AIA, Chair
  • Braun & Steidl Architects Inc.
  • Akron
  • Torrey Stanley Carlton, Hon. AIA
  • AIA San Antonio
  • San Antonio
  • Eric R. Hoffman, AIA
  • Washington University in Saint Louis
  • St. Louis

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