• Now What?! Advocacy, Activism, and Alliances in American Architecture since 1968
    Lori A. Brown, Andrea J. Merrett, Sarah Rafson, and Roberta Washington
    Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago
    Sep 13, 2019 to Oct 02, 2019

CARYATIDS (Chicks in Architecture Refuse to Yield to Atavistic Thinking in Design and Society), catalogue from More Than the Sum of Our Body Parts, an exhibition held at Chicago’s Randolph Street Gallery, 1993, Chicago. Courtesy of Sally Levine.

The traveling exhibition Now What?! is the first effort to build a comprehensive historical narrative of activism in American architecture since 1968. The exhibition is an intersectional and intergenerational effort organized with a diverse team of scholars and designers to draw connections between social movements (civil rights, feminism, LGBTQ rights, accessibility) and design professions to offer possible ways forward. Through the documentation of design work, exhibitions, installations, organizations, conferences, protests, and publications—many shown for the first time—Now What?! commemorates the achievements of earlier generations and provokes visitors to envision how architects can be key allies in efforts to build a more just and equitable world. In the legacy of second-wave feminist exhibitions, the curators invite audience participation to add to the history. Partner organizations in each venue help collect activist histories that have never been written before.

Lori A. Brown is a cofounder and leader of ArchiteXX, a women and architecture group in New York City, and a coorganizer of Now What?!. She has authored two books: Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture (Routledge, 2011), an edited collection of international women designers and architects that began as a traveling exhibition and Contested Spaces: Abortion Clinics, Women’s Shelters and Hospitals (Routledge, 2013), examining the impact of legislation on highly securitized spaces. Her forthcoming book projects include Birthing, Borders and Bodies and she is coediting The Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture (Bloomsbury, 2021) with Karen Burns. ArchiteXX, with Australian Parlour and German N-Ails, are writing more women architects into Wikipedia through a Wikimedia Foundation grant. In 2016 she received a Beverly Willis Foundation Leadership Award for her work increasing recognition of gender inequities in the building industry.

Andrea J. Merrett is a PhD candidate in architecture at Columbia University, writing her dissertation on the history of feminism in United States architecture, which provides important scholarship to Now What?!. Her research is supported by the Buell Center Oral History Prize, a Schlesinger Library Oral History Grant, and the Milka Bliznakov Prize from the International Archive of Women in Architecture. She is a board member of ArchiteXX and founder of their reading group. Merrett recently coedited an issue on women and architecture for de-arq: Journal of Architecture, Universidad de Los Andes, and has contributed papers and texts to various conferences and publications, including at the Society of Architectural Historians and Architectural Humanities Research Association annual conferences, Parsons School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, the Architecture Association, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Beverly Willis Foundation’s Women of 20th Century American Architecture, and Field Journal.

Sarah Rafson is an architectural writer, editor, curator, and researcher. She teaches at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture, where she was the 2017–18 Ann Kalla Professor. In 2016 she founded Point Line Projects, an editorial and curatorial agency for architecture and design. She manages the Now What!? project and contributes her research on a radical grassroots Chicago feminist architecture curatorial collective, CARYATIDS, which was awarded the Buell Center Oral History Prize from Columbia University. She is a board member of ArchiteXX and editor of sub_teXXt, their online journal. She was a curatorial assistant for Bernard Tschumi’s 2014 retrospective and editor of the recent books, Parc de La Villette (Artifice, 2014) and Builders, Housewives, and the Construction of Modern Athens (Artifice, 2017). At The Museum of Modern Art, Rafson was editorial assistant for the catalogue Latin America in Construction (MoMA, 2015).

Roberta Washington is principal at Roberta Washington Architects, which was established in 1983. The firm’s projects include schools, housing, and cultural centers including the African Burial Ground Interpretive Center in New York. She is the former president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and an advisory board member of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation. From 2007 to 2015, she was a New York City Landmarks Preservation Commissioner. She frequently lectures about the history of African Americans in architecture and has researched and written about early Black women architects.

AchiteXX is a nonprofit organization for gender equity in architecture, committed to transforming the profession by bridging the academy and practice. We are a cross-generational group of academics and practitioners, dedicated to the advancement of all women-identified, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and allied individuals. We encourage and promote the leadership and retention of women in the discipline. We are redefining what contemporary success is and how value is understood and compensated. We work to increase diversity. We facilitate and support open dialogue, content, and conversations, that will inspire a new generation of design professionals to see themselves as agents of change by looking at the past to see new ways forward.