This week’s episode features a fun conversation with Dr. Kwesi Daniels. We talk about his journey into the profession, various tools of the trade, and having a ‘Guerilla bag’.

Building Highlight: Tuskegee University Sage Hall

Links:

Bio: Dr. Kwesi Daniels is the Head of the Architecture Department at Tuskegee University. His professional experience ranges across various disciplines, including historic preservation, architecture, sustainability management, and urban geography. He previously served as the Green Homes Coordinator for the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. Within this capacity, he was responsible for “greening” affordable housing throughout the state by implementing renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green finance products, which developers could use to improve the sustainable performance of the properties within their portfolio. One of the best financial products he uncovered while working with the NJ-HMFA was the integration of green financing with historic preservation and affordable housing tax credits. The coupling of sustainable building features with the restoration of historic structures creates an excellent opportunity to address three needs- aging infrastructure in urban areas, the demand for affordable housing, and the pending changes from climate change. His groundbreaking working at the NJ-HMFA provided the foundation upon which he does his current work.

In 2018 he began developing a historic preservation program at Tuskegee University, within the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science. The goal is to train architecture and construction science management students to handle the nuances of historic properties. This preservation work has expanded the resources of Tuskegee into African-American communities in Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Tuskegee, Ala. He and his students are currently working to preserve the Armstrong School in Macon County, Al, a Tuskegee rural school model building and precursor to the Rosenwald School program. Some of his civic work includes serving as an advisory board member for the UPenn Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Heritage Sites, board member of the Rosenwald Park Campaign Advisory Council, and the 3rd Congressional District Representative of the Alabama Black Heritage Council. Dr. Daniels earned a BArch and MArch in architecture from Tuskegee University and the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MS in sustainability management from Columbia University. In 2020 he earned a Ph.D. in urban geography from Temple University. His doctoral research focused on the positive and negative social impact universities can have on communities around their campuses, particularly communities of color. 

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Transcript

Episode 38 - Kwesi Daniels

[00:00:00] most architects are afraid to go to the community. Right. That's real. Oh man. I can't wait to get there.

Welcome the tangible remnants. I'm Nikita Reed. And this is my show, where I explore the interconnectedness of architecture, preservation, sustainability, race, and gender. I'm excited that you're here. So let's get into it.

Welcome back. My only announcement for this week is that I will be giving one of the keynotes at the AIA architects and action virtual conference this Friday. With the talk, I'll be demystifying the historic tax credit process. And so I'll put a link in the show notes. If you want to check it out.

So let's jump right in with the building spotlight. This week. I'm focusing on Sage hall at Tuskegee university. This building was designed by Robert R. Taylor, who was the first black graduate of MIT and the [00:01:00] former vice president of Tuskegee Institute. The building opened in 1926 as a men's dormitory. And it was renovated in the late nineties.

Be sure to check out the tangible remnants, Instagram page to see some current and historic photos of the building. And now if you're wondering why. I decided to choose a historic building. In Alabama. It's because this week's episode features a fun conversation with Dr. Kwesi Daniels of Tuskegee university.

Kwesi talks about his journey into the field during the episode. But for context, you should know that he is the head of the architecture department at the university and his professional experience ranges across various disciplines.

Including historic preservation, architecture, sustainability management, and urban geography. In 2018. He began developing a historic preservation program at Tuskegee university within the Robert R. Taylor school of [00:02:00] architecture and construction science, but the goal of training, architecture, and construction science management students to handle the nuances of historic properties.

I first got virtually introduced to Kwesi during COVID when I was a mentor for five architecture students at Tuskegee. As part of the preservation and practice program through the national trust for historic preservation. This episode is such a fun one, and we get a bit into the weeds about the tools used to do some of the preservation documentation.

His excitement for preservation is contagious. And I'm so excited that he's getting the next generation of architects and designers excited about the field. After the episode, feel free to check out the show notes for additional details

about Kwesi’s background, as well as to get more information about things discussed on the show. And so without further ado, I hope you enjoy this conversation between me and Dr. Kwesi Daniels.

And so I remember [00:03:00] being incredibly excited to find out that Tuskegee had a preservation program. And then to meet you and seeing the work that you're doing with the students, particularly knowing that there's just not that many black men in the preservation field.So I would love to learn more about what got you into the profession.

So,interesting enough, I first engaged in preservation in about 2001. I was in Philadelphia. Working with Habs. Oh, nice. Okay. And, so Habs actually was my very first official architecture internship. Okay. And we were documenting African American historic sites in North Philadelphia. And as I was told then, this was a very unique summer because we were doing six sites.

In the summer, normally they would dedicate a whole summer to a site. And, I thought it was cool, you know, we [00:04:00] got here to do some things, but honestly I didn't see anybody who, who looked like me. And so I was like, this is, this is not my space. I wanna do architecture and I'm gonna go out there and be an architect.

And so I didn't, my next project around preservation came when I came back to teach at Tuskegee. Around 2000. I had to come back in 2003, but I, the project was around 2006 seven. And it was with a, would've known as the Tuskegee Rosenwald Community Schools. And, you know, we approached, the, the person who approached me at, you know, said, Hey, here's this project, we wanna get this building placed on the National Register.

And it had a number of challenges, you know, or historic. Things related to it, including being one of the oldest rural schools of our Tuskegee Rural School model dated 1919, 1919. Wow. And,[00:05:00] It was also a hosting site for participants in the United States Public Health Service study of untreated syphilis in African-American males.

Wow. And so I was like, whoa, this is kind of. This is kind of deep. Right? And it was actually that project that opened up this world for me because we were looking at a community who had a need and we were looking at how we could solve that need. But this very interesting thing is I didn't see how it could tie into architecture because it was like, this is not us designing anything.

You know, we're just, You know, restoring some windows and documenting some, you know, elevations, you know, but it didn't fit within the curriculum of architecture. But I knew it was important. And it was the first time I learned about learning about a building. Right. You know, new construction, you don't learn about a building.

You learned about the space where the building would be. Right. But with preservation, you have introduced, it has a history, [00:06:00] it has relationships. You have to know those things. so fast forward, I still, I still wasn't sold. I just was like, Hey, it's something I did. It was great. I loved it. It changed my life.

But you know, I'm still trying to be an architect. Right. You're like, that was nice, but Okay. Exactly. so it really wasn't until I went to, so I was working on my PhD. Okay. And, and I was, I was looking at the social impact of Drexel University's expansion into North Philadelphia. And I had these grand ideas about how I was gonna save the community and I'm gonna stop all this expansion and growth and, you know, everybody's gonna throw a big party for me cause I saved the world.

And Great. Great. And what, what was your PhD in and what were you pursuing? I was stu, actually, I was studying urban geography. Okay. At Temple. Okay. And, what what drove me to Urban Geography was the ability to answer the question, how do we improve the conditions of African American communities? [00:07:00] And I never could understand, you know, now we talk about redlining, you know, the, you know, the highways running through our communities.

Like that's part of this standard conversation that's happening. However, I didn't understand how all these connected and geo or geography was sharing that with me. Interesting. Okay. Now, what I found over the course of my research, you know, it was about three, four years, the development was happening so rapidly that I was like, you know, there's no way of stopping that train.

And I remember having a conversation with one of the community residents that I was interviewing. And we were really just like digging in. How do we, how do we help the community? What, what's something we can do? And that's when historic preservation just like jumped out at me. I started a preservation, well, starting the preservation program at Tuskegee, but it, it didn't all click until I was talking to him and I was like, [00:08:00] man, preservation has all of these tools, right?

Got the Preservation Act. You have a section, oh, there's, you know, there's, there's a social impact assessment that you have to do with historic sites. And so there's all of this like infrastructure, right, to protect spaces, right? And I was like, well, I may not be able to save the whole world, but I can save some really strong, culturally significant environments.

And then when I, you know, being back at Tuskegee and, and running the Department of Architecture, I was like, yeah. Know what I mean? We must sit on, we were sitting in a national historic landmark. I mean, we're the, it's the only college campus in the country that's a, that's a national historic landmark. Dang, we have all these historic buildings around me.

This is just right. It just makes sense. And then, the final thing that just sealed the deal, like, I was like, I'm done. I'm sold. You know, stick a pin in me. Call me. Done. was we, we were, I was at a community meeting and I was telling [00:09:00] the, you know, these members of churches that, you know, and sites that were all part of the, the Civil Rights movement, that we were telling them how we were starting the Historic preservation program at Tuskegee.

Mm-hmm. And they gave us a standing ovation. I said, I was like, we ain't even done that.

You know, like, okay, cool. But, it hit me. I said, wow, the community has been hungry for this. They've been waiting to hear that we were gonna be reassuming a role. Yeah. And I was like, this is, I guess this is where I'm supposed to be because I was brought here. All the spaces I've ever dealt with as it relates to preservation, have been African American sites.

Mm-hmm. That's something most people couldn't say. Yep. and I've never really looked for it. I mean, outside of haves, I applied for it, but even like the, the, the rural school, I actually was kind of kicking, you know, I was brought to a [00:10:00] kicking in, in, in and screaming. Cause I was like, I've done enough outside work in, in the community, you know?

And, you know, someone was like, listen, I said, go out there. So I was like, yes sir. So, you know, none of these, I, I've not, I had not intentionally moved that in that direction yet. I was there doing the work and seeing how impactful it was. Mm-hmm. And so it was, It was that moment that I knew I was doing something that the community respected, felt there was a need, and it was able to address something that was important to me, which was knowing how architecture could be used to meet the needs of our communities.

Yeah. And from there I was like, Hey, I'm done. Let's go. Let's make it happen. Haven't run it ever since. I love it. I love it. And I think that's one of the things that, Really excited me when I heard that Tuskegee was starting a preservation program was because there one, there's not that many, there's not that many architects that understand historic preservation.[00:11:00]

There's not that many black architects that understand historic preservation. and so then knowing just the history of Tuskegee and the fact that there would be, potentially more people of color entering the profession of, of preservation was really exciting to me because I think for so long, Preservation has put the spotlight on elevating the stories of those who don't look like us and not focusing on people of color, other, historically disinvested communities.

The focus hasn't been there because the people who have been doing the nominations and deciding what to elevate to historic status. Haven't looked like us and haven't been focused on that side of history.

And so I know the field has changed and there's definitely more focused now, but knowing that there will be more people who will likely make different decisions

As you've been introducing architecture students to historic preservation and the field of it, what are some of the, what's some of the resistance or the pushback or even excitement that you're seeing in the students as they're learning more about preservation as a field?

So, [00:12:00] you know, there's been, there's really, there's been no pushback. and a lot of it I'd say is because of the approach that we've taken to preservation. I tell people that it, you know, as far as we're concerned, this is not your grandmother's preservation, right?

Yeah. We are, you know, we're doing hands-on work with teaching students how to restore windows and repoint brick or, you know, exposing them to traditional trades. Mm-hmm. We're teaching students how to do documentation, where they're going out and. You know, walking in buildings and learning about historic structures, reports, and assessments and, and doing physical documentation, you know, by hand, you know, drawing it up.

Mm-hmm. we're showing students how to, also, use the most, latest and greatest technology to play in the space. Nice. So they're. You know, we're using [00:13:00] laser scanners and drones, and we're using photogrammetry to create virtual models and virtual tours of spaces. We're exploring augmented reality and virtual reality to, to document spaces and, and provide a digital footprint to a lot of spaces that would not be able to afford this type of access.

Mm-hmm. We're, we're also exploring design, so we're able to have conversations about what the building looks like currently, and then can say, all right, so after we repair it, after we restore it, after we stabilize it, after we do, all that needs to be done to to get it up and running again. What do you really want to be?

Yeah, and we're able to now bring architecture to the conversation. Well, I should say design cause it's all architecture. I have a problem with the fact we separate historic preservation out from architecture. It's, it's [00:14:00] very problematic to me. Yeah. Agreed. Design. You know, cause actually everything up to that is just pure research.

Mm-hmm. The documentation, you know, the restoration work. I mean, all that's research you're investigating. You're gaining an understanding of, you know, the resource that you're working with. And once you do all of that and you made decisions on how you stabilize it, now you can talk about how you're gonna, you know, redesign that space for a new use or, or redesign for a former use.

Mm-hmm. But I say the thing that most excites me. Me and our students when they get engaged, in it, are the spaces we get to walk into. Nice. I mean, listen, I, I feel privileged. I mean, come on. I've, I've, I've been inside of the home that Dr. King lived in with his family. Wow. Yeah. I've been inside the home that Rosa [00:15:00] Parks grew up in, that her father built for her.

Wow. I've been inside the church that Dr. King spoke in. I've been inside the church where he was made president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was responsible for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Mm-hmm. I've, I've been inside Brown Chapel, the place where mass meetings were held and when people were crossing the Pettus Bridge.

And what resulted in Bloody Sunday, this was one of the places they ran back to. Wow. I've been inside 16th Street Baptist Church Church designed by Wallace Rayfield, who was a Tuskegee architect. Mm-hmm. And we know it very well because it was also a church that was bombed.

Right. I've also been inside of. A building that was known to be fireproof. [00:16:00] And in my ignorance saying, yeah, every building's gotta be fire retarded. You get inside and you see it's terracotta and concrete and steel, and you're like, oh, this thing is fireproof. Okay. Right. Yeah. You, yo, y'all are serious.

Like making sure Yes.

I’ve had a chance to be in Rural schools that people, when we say that, you know, there's an old disgusting joke that says if you want to hide anything from black people, put it in a book. I've been able to be in schools where black people totally defied that disgusting joke, right? Because they said, whether you want to give us education or not, we're gonna create it for ourselves and we'll build it for ourselves.

And they did that, right? Yeah. The, and I think the, the power of the buildings that [00:17:00] you're talking about is one of the things that excites me about preservation, like the research and things that you're talking about. And even being able. To know the history of the different spaces that you're going, and I think that's powerful.

and so then as you were going into those spaces, and kind of looking at them or just being in them, understanding their historic significance, do you think it would've been different if you didn't know the history of them? Or do you still Oh. Or how does that kind of knowing the history and all that change the perception of the building?

Oh, 100%. You know, you can't, you can't engage in this work without knowing the spaces. And that's the thing that, that is really like the most amazing thing about this is you can't engage in any work before you get introduced to the place and the space. Right. [00:18:00] The buildings we walk into, you know, I remember one, it's the, the Dr.

Harris house, the Dr. Richard Harris house in, on Jackson Street in Montgomery, Alabama. It was a refuge for people escaping attacks when they came in, into Montgomery. They were part of the Freedom Writers and congressmen, late Congressman John Lewis was among them. Dr. Richard Harris was a pharmacist who had recently, and I call his house the Noah's Ark, because he had recently expanded his house and instead of using wood studs, he had used concrete for the flooring system.

Oh, and resurfaced his whole house and brick. And had brought over the counter from his pharmacy. And so you have this huge counter inside this house. And so from the outside it looks like a little, just a regular house. It's [00:19:00] nothing, you know, it's not, not too, it's nondescript, right? But when you walk inside, you know, you, you could have about 50, 60 to a hundred people inside comfortably being fed and taken care of.

And he did that about a year or two before the Freedom Riders came in. So it's kind of like, you know, Noah, it was Arc where God said, you know, build an arc. Right, right. And for what? Don't worry about it, just do what I said. Right. And, but we couldn't get started with any of the work because his daughter, Dr.

Montgomery, oh. We had to get our, we, we had to get introduced. Got you. She pulled out, she pulled out the pictures. She pulled out the yearbooks. We, we, we, you know, one of my students played the piano and so, you know, we started doing some, some negro spirituals. I mean, listen, we went to church and went back to the, the movement all at the same time.

And we didn't get, I think the first day, I don't think [00:20:00] we actually really did any work that first day. Got you. At least not pen to paper at least. No, there was definitely no pen. No, no, no. There was no pen to paper. It was definitely, you're gonna get a learning lesson.

Yeah. And what I love about it is that that's actually, that's what I've also seen every other site, you know, without going into detail of every single one. But these sites, when you go to them, there's a caretaker, there's a mother, there's a father, there's a, there's a champion for the site. Who is vested, who, who bleeds for the site?

Who, who sheds tears for the site, who says tears of joy and un unhappiness and sadness. I mean, they, this is their purpose. And, and so you, no, you're not going, you're not going to come here without learning about where you are. And I love that. Yeah. Cause that's what allows you to now be a [00:21:00] champion for it as well.

Right. And it also makes the history more real, like it becomes like a heart thing because you feel it and you understand more of the context and why it's important as opposed to just reading about it in a book where you're like, okay, yeah, the freedom writers went there. But then being in that space and being like, oh, they came here in this space.

Yes. Like it. If it's not, it's not four walls in a, in a ceiling right now it's alive. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And I think that's one of the things I also am excited about preservation and I'm excited that your students are getting that experience as well. Cause I know you're saying, oh, there was no, no work done that first day, but like, That's the, the heart work, like the, the emotional connection, which makes you love a place even more.

and I'm so grateful that they get to experience that with you and with the sites that they're going to. So then I guess for those kinds of trips, how do the students, [00:22:00] cause I guess I'm, I'm always intrigued by, students who are getting into it for the first time and. Students typically tend to be a little bit shy, not wanting to ask the questions, scared or doing the wrong thing, all that.

So then how are they engaging with the people that they're meeting at the sites? Are they inquisitive or are they just kind of like waiting to receive and not really wanting to ask the wrong question, if that makes sense. So it really all depends. Okay. So I think what, what happens is, Anything, you know, just like meeting, meeting a person for the first time, you're kind of standoffish.

Mm-hmm. You know, you're trying to get to figure out what connections do we have. However, you know, within, you know, by the time we leave, they're family. By the time we return a couple of times. Yeah. They have purpose. Love it. They understand why they're engaging in architecture. [00:23:00] Mm-hmm. They're understanding the purpose of the building.

This building is not something on a sheet of paper, but a couple of lines usually with this fake expression about how this is gonna be impactful. You're talking to people who are telling you how your architecture can be impactful. Right. And more specifically, we're talking about, for a number of spaces, these are spaces that were designed by Tuskegee Architects.

Which is also wild. Some of them were built by students. So Cool. So you're not just talking about the impact of architecture, you're talking about the impact of an architect who came from your institution who was sitting in your chair a hundred years ago. Right. And you're learning about the impact that they had, an impact that they died, never even knowing that they had

That is. It transcends anything you could [00:24:00] ever try to impart in a student by reading a book to them. You know? Absolutely. Telling them to look at a video online. No, you have to be here to understand it and experience it. Mm-hmm. And then to see the joy when you see a, I think she's 80, Ms. Woody, who is the caretaker of the Armstrong School.

We helped her secure a $30,000 grant. Mm-hmm. This 80 plus year old woman jumped up. I literally jumped and started doing a happy dance. Aww. I said, man, you look like you got more energy and, and younger than me right now.

So, you know, when you see, when you see that when you're a student staff person. When someone hugs you and thanks you for the contribution that you have yet [00:25:00] to make. Mm-hmm. But they recognize your potential because you showed up. Oh, the students are sold. Yeah. That's huge. They are sold. The question is then how quickly can we get this work done?

Right. Right. Oh, that's fantastic. and so then I know that you and Tuskegee have formed a partnership with U Penn in doing a collaboration. And, so being a UPenn grad, I legit was like, wait, what? Let me find out. Penn is doing some cool things with Tuskegee. so I would love to learn more about how that partnership came together.

I hear you talk about that. So, yeah, we, this goes right back to, right before the pandemic, about a year before the pandemic. Right. So we, we initially, were doing some work with Columbia. They, it was, one of the individuals who, was running a class [00:26:00] coming out of Columbia. They were looking at Montgomery at some sites and had initially done some work and because the majority of their work is international, the gentleman's name is Will Reynolds.

He, he said, Hey, I have a, I have a contact, Randy Mason over at UPenn that I would love for you to connect with. Mm-hmm. I think he could take this work and, you know, the work that y'all are doing and, and really help elevate y'all and. Help you want, you know, gain deeper, deeper understanding of this field.

Nice. and also help support the growth of your program. Mm-hmm. And so, Randy came down, saw what we were doing and was like, Hey, we would love to jump on board and, and support it. And now for about four years, we've, We've done work around, civil rights sites. Our major joint project is with the Armstrong School, where we're figuring out how to get it stabilized, and get it preserved.

They've been able to bring an [00:27:00] expertise to the classrooms as they've been doing it for a little over 30 years. Mm-hmm. That is, it has such a level of depth that can bring what they brought. Faculty who engage in conservation. so we've learned how. How much information you can collect from some paint samples.

Right. You couldn't have told me that you could do something with some paint. It's like it's paint. It's a layer of paint. Who cares? It's like, no, doesn't even look like it's that big. And you put it under a microscope.

Layers and layers. And layers. It's range. Like you cannot No. Right. No, exactly. you know how much love you can, you can have for a masonry or mm-hmm. Or, or the kind of testing you can do to, to learn about wood. Like, you know, how you can date a building based on these things. I mean, it just, it really, it opened up a whole nother world for us and [00:28:00] what I would say is really beautiful about, you know, this engagement is they show us.

They give, they give us an opportunity to peek into, into the, the rabbit's hole and see how deep it goes. Mm-hmm. And then we're able to go back and start figuring out how to jump into that hole ourselves. Right. And so, through this engagement, it's, it's helped us be clearer about what we need at Tuskegee to do preservation for communities in the black belt.

Mm-hmm. Of Alabama. Got you. you know, we need conservationists and, you know, archeologists, anthropologists, it's like, you know, this, this list is growing. but we, the fact that we can say this is, this is a need. I love that. Yeah. Because people, you know, people gotta know what, what you need to bring to the table in order to do the work.

Mm-hmm. [00:29:00] And, they, they've been very instrumental in helping us. Oh, that's fantastic. you know, put our fingers on what, what the needs are. Yeah. and that's fantastic to hear cause it, cause the material science side of preservation is a whole another beast in terms of like, you're talking about being able to know about the order paint and that kind of stuff.

but I also, I like that you're able to layer in that information. And learning more about all that. Do you think Tuskegee will at some point in time, wanna do like a conservation lab kinda thing? Oh yeah. No, we're, we're actually developing it now. Oh, great. Oh, yes. We were developing it. you know, we, we, we've been tremendously blessed, not only our engagement with UPenn but also the Park Service National Trust.

Mm-hmm. advisory council preservation. Like, you know, the National Trust, hope crew, like mm-hmm. I mean, there've been all these rock stars who've come and said, I hear what you're doing and we wanna support you. [00:30:00] And so I think you wanna, you need to go check out this space right here. And so, like every person who's come down, they've brought gifts to us, in terms of information.

Mm-hmm. And we've taken those gifts. And what's the most beautiful thing about it? And it's just, I think what gets our students excited. Is that we show them how to bring these, bring these tools and these gifts into communities of people who look just like them. Mm-hmm. And I don't know about you. It gets fun.

You know, you, I, we were at Florida at University a couple of weeks ago, and I don't know if you've ever heard of, have you heard of the mounds, the indigenous mounds that are around the country? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I had never heard of them until maybe two months ago. Yeah. And the only reason I heard of them is cause I have a colleague who's done a lot of work with indigenous, populations,

Yeah, yeah. Well, we were driving back from, And I saw a sign on the road that, [00:31:00] you know, discussed this mound. It's the, I was the collo, collo colloquio mound. I, I definitely of destroying it. But you know, it's outside of Georgia, between the Alabama and Georgia border.

So if you see it, please excuse my, understood pronunciation. Thing so, so amazing about it is it's like gorilla preservation. We're like riding along and we have all our laser scanning equipment in the.

Prayer know folks. So, you know, folks understand like, listen, we're here, we're here to tell the story. We're here to make sure people know, right? we're not here to [00:32:00] anything like that. but we gotta document this. People gotta know about this. I mean, its, I mean, we couldn't do this.

Out some ideas, right? Ideas, but man, it's something else. You, you see something and you quickly pull out some scanning equipment and try to get it done. You pull out a drone and people, what's that doing? You're so, that's amazing. I, I love.

Oh, and it's funny cause my coworkers gimme a hard time cause I have, it's basically survey my car

then.[00:33:00]

I'm glad I'm not the only one. Cause you know, you gotta have your bag and it has to be ready to go. You can't be trying to pack it later, you know? Nope. You know, while you're running. No, you gotta have it all in there.

Oh man. We were on campus. I had my bag, my gorilla bag, right. And, we're, we're walking in, one of our buildings, Sage Hall. It was a building designed by Perley. Okay. and, and Robert R. Taylor. And it was one of Taylor's last buildings.

And so

we're walking around. He opens up the, the, the, the hatch to go up the ceiling and, uh,

I have my headlamps.

Yes. And, and then they not making fun of me. You really have a, so you just carry, just carry a headlamp , in your bag. That's just what you do. Exactly. [00:34:00] Yeah. Don't, don't be jealous. I mean, exactly. I mean, I appreciate the haters, you know, but, right. Yeah. I'm about to walk up here.

You can't do it exactly

but I feel you.

You know, was that Doherty Explorer? Yes. Backpack. Like, I can reach in this thing and I can pull out everything you need.

I, I'm gonna tell you the thing, speaking of tools, the thing that I love so much about this space is when you show up on site, you know how you would see the, the, you know, the, old films with the doctor who would make house, house visits? Yeah. Yeah. And they have their bag. Mm-hmm. And they look like they were coming there to do something really official, superficial.

I mean, you think about as a, a, you know, traditional architect, there is no official thing that you look like you're about to engage in. And when you walk on the site, that's fair. You're just gonna walk, Hey, I got a camera. I look around, you know, you can't tell I'm about to do some business or whatever.

I'm just kinda here. I can be in and out and you won't even know [00:35:00] when you pull up to the site with, with your gorilla bag, right? Laser equipment. And your drone mm-hmm. You got, you know, might be going inside, so you got the lights with you. Mm-hmm. I mean, you pull up a, it looks like a whole rig for a production company. Yes.

And then you get busy, right. And he's like, oh, you might only be out there for, for a couple of minutes. But man, it's a production. It's a whole show. It says we are about to dissect this thing. Mm-hmm. And learn something. Mm-hmm. Oh, I love it. I love it so much. Well, amazing.

So, of all of the things that you are doing at Tuskegee with the students in the, in the, program, what is currently exciting you the most?

Oh man.

You know, the first question you asked is how I got to preservation. Mm-hmm. But the thing about it that is not as well known is that I, I actually, [00:36:00] I'm not a preservationist. Mm-hmm. I'm a sustainability practitioner. Hold on. How do we get all the way to the end?

To, you know, as they say in architecture, the most sustainable building is an existing one. Mm-hmm. And, and so I see preservation through the eyes of a sustainability practitioner. Absolutely. It's the sustainability of the community. Mm-hmm. It's the sustainability of resources, the sustainability of culture.

My, my degree, you know, you were saying like, you know, schools I studied, I was studying in urban geography and in that program, you know, we had three elements in of which one was sustainability. Mm-hmm. [00:37:00] So I came to it through sustainability, but I left it doing su, doing historic preservation. And so the reason I say that is cause the most recent project that I have right now, that we're actually unveiling into the community tomorrow, is a book mobile.

Okay. Okay. So our students, in our first year were, were approached by someone in the community, named, judge Biggers. She's,Local judge in juvenile court and she has a group policy council for children's Policy Council for Macon County. And they had gotten a grant to do a book mobile for children.

But you convert an old school bus into a movable library to address the illiteracy rates of third graders in Macon County because currently 70% of third graders are reading below. Level. And so I'm so excited cause [00:38:00] tomorrow we've already given it to them, but tomorrow we unveil it to the community.

And our students last year did the design. Our students this year actually built the design. Oh cool. And so we were able to convert an old bus and repurpose old shipping pallets in order to create this environment for our students. Oh. And what I love about it is we get to, on my end, I can have a conversation about preservation that can span design, traditional architecture design, and can span into a very traditional hard line related to preservation.

Mm-hmm. And it's not a, these aren't separate conversations, right? We can have conversations about contemporary sustainability issues using an architecture hat and a historic [00:39:00] preservation hat. Absolutely. And that's what, to me, makes all this work so exciting that the same student who I can have in a class, we just went looking at some old buildings and figuring out how to preserve them and, and document them.

Can turn around and have a whole nother conversation with me about how we can repurpose shipping pallets or shipping containers and some very contemporary stuff. And when they ask me why and know, you wonder how this all connects? Mm-hmm. I can say it's all about being sustainable. Yeah. Oh, I love it. And that is what is so needed.

Cause that is, that's the thing. They're two sides the same.

Exactly. I'm so excited. I'm so excited you were doing the work that you're doing. Thank you for doing it, and I love it. It was amazing.

Awesome. Hey, you know when you're, when you're doing that, the work that, [00:40:00] that you're supposed to be doing, mm-hmm. And, and the truth is, we all can't, we all don't, don't get the opportunity to connect with things or the thing that you, you know, you're supposed to be doing. Right. So to, to, to have connected and know this is where I'm supposed to be playing.

It's like being a kid and, going to the playground and playing in the sandbox. I love it. You know, you're, you're having fun every day.

Yeah. Yeah. And I'm, I'm just, I, I'm just very blessed, and feel honored to be able to do this work and be able to do it for my people. I feel that I, I mean, get to walk in the, walk in the door and know whatever challenges you have. I got some stuff in my gorilla bag for you. And, when I leave here, You gonna be happy?

I can. I love it. Hell, [00:41:00] it's, most, most folks, most architects are afraid to go to the community. Right. That's real. Oh man. I can't wait to get there.

Amazing.

[00:42:00]

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