• Architecture of Reparations—Case Study House
    Riff Studio:
    Rekha Auguste-Nelson,
    Farnoosh Rafaie &
    Isabel Strauss

Isabel Strauss, “4221 S. MLK Jr. Drive,” 2019. Digital photograph from Riff Studio’s “Architecture of Reparations” Request for Proposal (RFP). Courtesy Isabel Strauss

In light of the damages inflicted upon the Black community during the Illinois Institute of Technology campus expansion and Chicago’s larger urban renewal program initiated in the 1940s, this project advocates for Reparations in the form of housing in Bronzeville, Chicago. This work redefines the goals of the traditional “case study house” by designing and building one row house in Chicago as a possible avenue for piecemeal Reparations. The goal of this investigation is to develop a model for community redevelopment that allows a bottom-up approach in Black and Brown neighborhoods. The design phase of this project incorporates ideas collected in response to a public request for proposal (RFP) entitled Architecture of Reparations, exhibited at the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The RFP details a “history of place” and then calls for designs that acknowledge and address this history, all with the ARC framework in mind of Acknowledgement, Redress, and Closure.

New York-based collaborative Riff Studio includes designers Rekha Auguste-Nelson, Farnoosh Rafaie, and Isabel Strauss.

Rekha Auguste-Nelson is a designer of protective housing, encompassing secret compartments, hidden rooms, and escape mechanisms. She received a MArch with distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 2018. Auguste-Nelson was a Dean’s Merit Scholar and recipient of the Alpha Rho Chi Medal. Trained in furniture-making at the North Bennet Street School, she served as head technical assistant of the GSD fabrication lab from 2016–18. Auguste-Nelson received a bachelor of arts in history with honors from Harvard College in 2013. She is currently a project superintendent at Consigli Construction Co., Inc. Auguste-Nelson is from New York City.

Farnoosh Rafaie is an assistant adjunct professor at the University of Southern California's School of Architecture and a practicing designer in Los Angeles. A native Californian, she retains an innate interest in exploring an architecture of unique and peculiar congeries of everyday suburbia from remarkable to unremarkable ways of living. She received her bachelor’s of architecture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with honors and a master’s from the Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) with distinction. Rafaie is from Los Angeles.

Isabel Strauss is currently a Space and Society Fellow at Mass Design Group. She is a recipient of the 2021 Clifford Wong Prize in Housing and was nominated for an Irving Innovation Fellowship that same year. Strauss worked to establish the African American Design Nexus with the Frances Loeb Library in 2017 and contributed to research for the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Project from 2020–21. Strauss holds a master’s degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and received her bachelor’s of arts in the history of art and architecture from Harvard College. Strauss is from Chicago.