• Challenging Patterns of Supremacy: Provocations from Collective Pedagogy, Practice, and Organizing
    Shalini Agrawal, Tonia Sing Chi, Lisa C. Henry, Shawhin Roudbari, and Bz Zhang
    MAS Context, 2024
    Dark Matter U

View of the workshop “Challenging Patterns of Supremacy: Provocations from Collective Pedagogy, Practice, and Organizing” at the College of Environmental Design, University of California Berkeley, 2022. Courtesy Dark Matter U

Since its inception, Dark Matter U (DMU) has worked through communal knowledge and organizing to create antiracist forms of knowledge production, institutions, collective practice, community, and design. Drawing from the program and workshop, “Challenging Patterns of Supremacy: Provocations from Collective Pedagogy, Practice, and Organizing” held at the College of Environmental Design, University of California Berkeley in September 2022, this experimental publication offers a series of provocations on consent, power, supremacy, and hopefulness or hopelessness that can form the basis for oppositional practices. Contributors to the workshop included Shalini Agrawal, Tonia Sing Chi, Lisa C. Henry, Shawhin Roudbari, and Bz Zhang. The publication challenges patterns of supremacy in its content and its form: the text guides readers in critical reflection on collaborative architectural pedagogies, practices, and organizing, and the graphic design presents this knowledge in a creatively accessible format. As an annotated teaching and facilitation guide for design communities, this book furthers DMU’s mission is to transform architectural education in centering and serving the many identity positions that are presently excluded or disenfranchised by practice today.

Shalini Agrawal brings over two decades of experience in community engagement to spatial design. She is founder of Public Design for Equity, a practice that reenvisions and activates new systems towards equity-driven outcomes, and director of Pathways to Equity, a leadership experience for ethical community-engaged design. Agrawal is a core organizer for Dark Matter U, and national network of BIPOC educators who challenge, inform, and reshape architecture education towards antiracism. She is an award-winning educator at California College of the Arts as associate professor in critical ethnic studies, individualized, interdisciplinary design studios and the Decolonial School. Agrawal is a contributing author to the publications Design for Democracy: Techniques for Collective Creativity (Island Press, 2017) and Public Interest Design Education Guidebook (Routledge, 2019).

Lisa C. Henry is an artist, associate professor, and associate dean of the College of Architecture + Planning at the University of Utah (SoA). Her research is focused on how critical gender, race, queer, and disability theory intersect with architectural education, pedagogy, design, and production. Henry holds a master’s of architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design. Henry is a past recipient of both a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant and a Graham Foundation grant to support “The Urban Gallery Project” in 2008. She also participated as an artist for the “The Dresser Trunk Project,” which was funded by both the NEA and Graham in 2005. Henry is currently on the Journal of Architectural Education editorial board, and has worked on Dialectic, a publication of the University of Utah focused on architectural research.

Shawhin Roudbari is an associate professor in environmental design at the University of Colorado Boulder. He studies ways designers organize to address social problems by bridging sociological studies of social movements and race with architectural theory. Roudbari was coeditor of the MAS Context issue on Vigilantism, serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Architectural Education, and has published with his research team in disciplinary and interdisciplinary academic journals. Roudbari’s research contributes to theories of contentious politics and employs ethnographic and speculative design methods. Roudbari is a founding member of the Dissent by Design research collective and serves as codirector of the center for Community Engaged Design and Research (CEDaR) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Tonia Sing Chi is a transdisciplinary designer, builder, organizer, and licensed architect based in Oakland on Ohlone land, where she is from. She is the founder of Peripheral Office, a design studio that works at the intersection of built environment storytelling, place-based building practices, and reciprocal, cross-cultural approaches to public art, architecture, and preservation. Chi has taught community design-build at University of California Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design and actively partners with organizations advocating for food and housing justice in the Bay Area. She holds an MArch and a master’s of science in historic preservation from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she received the Charles McKim Prize for Excellence in Design, the AIA Henry Adams Medal, and the KPF Paul Katz Fellowship. Chi is a core organizer with Dark Matter U, a design-build instructor with Girls Garage, and a founding member of Nááts’íilid Initiative.

Bz Zhang is an architect and artist based on unceded Tongva land (so-called Los Angeles). They are a core organizer with the Design as Protest collective and Dark Matter U, a project manager and organizer with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, and a licensed architect in California. Their design and research practice wonders aloud about representations of violence and the violence of representations by asking questions both using and about disciplinary tools of art and architecture. They were a 2022 Journal of Architectural Education Fellow and 2021 University of Souther California (USC) Citizen Architect Fellow, and they have taught at California College of the Arts; University of Michigan; University at Buffalo; University of California, Berkeley; Jefferson University; and Brown University. Zhang holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Brown University. In their free time, they look for birds and trash in the Los Angeles River.

Iker Gil is the founder of MAS Studio, editor in chief of the nonprofit MAS Context, and executive director of the SOM Foundation. Gil has edited or coedited several books including Radical Logic: On the Work of Ensamble Studio and Shanghai Transforming. He has curated multiple exhibitions including Nocturnal Landscapes; Poured Architecture: Sergio Prego on Miguel Fisac at the Graham Foundation, and BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago, part of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial. He was associate curator of the United States Pavilion for the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale and cocurator of Exhibit Columbus 2020–21. He has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Escola da Cidade in São Paulo.

Dark Matter U (DMU) is a democratic network guided by the principle that we cannot survive and thrive without immediate change toward antiracist models of design education and practice. Founded in 2020, DMU works inside and outside of existing systems to challenge, inform, and reorient our institutions toward a just future.

Dark Matter U is a democratic network with the following principles guiding its actions.

The organization works to create:

NEW FORMS OF KNOWLEDGE AND KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION through radical anti-racist forms of communal knowledge and spatial practice that are grounded in lived experience. We challenge hegemonic pedagogies, canons, and epistemologies drawn from paradigms of white domination while elevating ancestral and local knowledge.

NEW FORMS OF INSTITUTIONS along a networked resource distribution model between institutions. We extract from those who have extracted to collate resources and lift up marginalized voices.

NEW FORMS OF COLLECTIVITY AND PRACTICE that democratize models of practice, education, and labor at all phases of production. We operate with deep consideration of ethics and a duty of care, moving from hard to soft power.

NEW FORMS OF COMMUNITY AND CULTURE that expand the circle of those contributing to anti-racist design pedagogy and practice. We actively build power and share knowledge to build capacity and resilience in communities beyond the preconceived boundaries of our fields.

NEW FORMS OF DESIGN that open the possibilities and methodologies for designing the built environment. We aim to co-create new formal and spatial imaginaries that serve broader, often overlooked, constituencies and consider multiple subjectivities.