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This episode of Breezeblocks is a slight change from our normal format, representing the first in a series of conversations, where we’ll be talking to organizers engaged in the work of “Design Justice” that demands an end to systemic racism in architecture and design, and re-imagines a just and liberated future. 

Nearly a year ago, architecture and design organisations joined countless others to mark their alignment with the Black Lives Matter protest movement by responding to the hashtag BlackoutTuesday with a black square. For the most part, their anti-racist commitment started and ended there.

Meanwhile, however, the initial meetings of Design As Protest and Dark Matter University began. In their words, “DAP is a collective of designers mobilizing strategy to dismantle the privilege and power structures that use architecture and design as tools of oppression”. Their list of demands includes calls to cease implementation of hostile design, center community leadership in the design process, and create anti-racist design models in education. In the past year, the collective has initiated a series of ongoing projects, including the Anti-Racist Design Justice Index, which is “a tool for architects, designers, planners, policymakers, and community activists committed to taking action towards identifying and dismantling systemic racism.” Emerging from DAP’s demand to create anti-racist models of design education, Dark Matter University is “an anti-racist design justice school,” which has since its establishment in early July independently expanded its network and mission to “radically transform education and practice toward a just future” from both inside and outside of academia.

Since last year, in support of DAP’s Anti-Racist Design Justice Index, Failed Architecture and the British social design and urbanism practice design collective, Migrants Bureau, have also been gathering the responses of architecture and design institutions following BlackoutTuesday in a Google Sheet. 

For this first conversation, we’re talking to Quilian Riano. Quilian is, an architectural and urban designer, researcher, writer, educator, founder of DSGN AGNC, and he’s also associate director of Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, a board member of the Architecture Lobby, and a core member of Design as Protest and Dark Matter University.

The release of this conversation was timed to mark almost a year since Blackout Tuesday, but also to coincide with the official release, on 6 June 2021, of DAP’s Anti-Racism Design Index. DAP will be hosting a national call for the launch at 2pm Eastern Time, a link to which is available below, along with the websites of all the initiatives mentioned. 

Links (in order of their mention):

Design As Protest

Design as Protest National Call event

Anti-Racism Design Justice Index

Dark Matter University

Migrants Bureau

Architecture & Design Organizations on BLM list

Article from Black Females in Architecture, Design as Protest, Failed Architecture, Migrants Bureau announcing the list: “Let’s Remind Architecture and Design Organisations of Their Support for Black Lives Matter

Quilian’s profile on DSGN AGNC

Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative