• Black City Astrolabe
    J. Yolande Daniels
    Lesley Lokko
    The Laboratory of the Future, 18th International Architecture Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia, Venice
    May 20, 2023 to Nov 26, 2023
    J. Yolande Daniels

J. Yolande Daniels, “BLACK City Astrolabe,” detail of Colonizing Events + African Diasporan Cities, 2023. Installation view, 18th International Architecture Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia. Photo: Claudia Rossini

Imagine a network comprised of points and lines extracted from events and movements in settlements and cities outlining the African diaspora. Within it, envision a constellation unearthing the lives of “Black” women from the fifteenth century to today. From the multiple displacements of race and gender, enter the Black City Astrolabe, a space-time field comprised of a 3-D map and 24-hour cycle of narratives that reorder the forces of subjugation, devaluation, and displacement through the spaces and events of African diasporic women. The 3-D Diaspora Map traces the flows of descendants of Africa (whether voluntary or forced) atop the visible tension between the mathematical regularity of meridians of longitude and the biases of international date lines. An anchor to the Black City Editions, the timeline represents a chronological ordering of time and space that map the legal and extralegal structures that have affected the settlements of African descendants within a linear graphic system of horizontal movements and vertical events revealing simultaneous time-scapes and patterns over time. The Black City Astrolabe is a vehicle to proactively contemplate things that have happened, that are happening, and that will happen. Yesterday, a “Black” woman went to the future, and here she is.

J. Yolande Daniels is an associate professor of architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She completed a master’s in architecture from the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University and a bachelor’s in architecture at the City College of New York. Her research investigates how societal ideas of race and gender influence spatial relationships and the construction of objects and places. Daniels is a recipient of the Rome Prize in Architecture and a fellow of the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art in studio practice and cultural studies. She is a cofounding principal of the architecture and design practice, studioSUMO with offices in New York and Los Angeles. Her independent design research explores the spatial effects of race and gender in the built environment, focusing on revealing the narratives of resistance and autonomy. In particular, her work focuses on documenting and representing spaces that have been rendered adjunct to, yet supplement and maintain, dominant spatial and political systems of power. Taking the form of writing and design research, this work has been published and exhibited widely, including the recent anthology, In Search of African American Space: Redressing Racism, and, also recently in the project Black City: the Los Angeles Edition, featured in the exhibition, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Along with her fellow Reconstructions exhibitors, she is a cofounding member of the Black Reconstruction Collective.