Lisa Lamkin
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Lisa Lamkin

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Critique: The Aesthetics of Equity

The Aesthetics of Equity was published just one year before our country’s inauguration of the first African-American president, yet decades after the design studios of the 1960s and ‘70s explored the inequity of our built environment. This personal and sometimes political exploration enriches our understanding of what is left unfinished in a two-part discussion. First, why? “Part I: Architecture as a Noun.” Secondly, how? “Part II: Architecture as a Verb.”

Foreshadowing the #blacklivesmatter conversation of today, the book (University of Minnesota Press) draws the reader into an empathy with the “otherness” of blackness. It includes complex and scholarly discussion of the impact that slavery had on the experience of property ownership, and therefore the experience of space. It helps us understand the deep furrows in the landscape of our collective experience that skin color still creates. In the words of Whitney Young decades ago, “We didn’t suddenly get this way. It was carefully planned.”

In Part II, author Craig Wilkins builds an intriguing case for the empowering elements of hip hop culture and its innovative remix style. The current explosion of accolades for “Hamilton: An American Musical” is in some ways a validation of his thesis—remixing a white man’s story into a story for all Americans. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly stated: Let us together “rise up” and “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”


Reviewed by Lisa Lamkin, FAIA, a principal with BRW Architects.