Section Story

Small Talks - LA

Disrupt the Proceedings

workshop #3 - "for US by US"


NOMA National Conference - Chicago- 10/18/2018

For decades, architectural history has been contextualized using European discourse. The result of this rhetoric has robbed African-American communities of the rich history our best visionaries sought out to build. Black architects have not been acknowledged as visionaries of the profession in the same league as masters
like Le Corbusier. Designing in Color intends to change this relationship by using Afrofuturism as a tool for exploration and thought. Afrofuturism, newly popularized by movies such as Black Panther, has been a long-practiced methodology of Black visionaries imagining Black communities, achievements, and ideologies unbound and free of the constraints of a cruel and oppressive history. This practice has not been thoroughly applied to architecture. The Designing in
Color workshop, "For US by US" asked the audience to envision a future that didn't ignore the realities of the past, but chose instead to recontextualize them.

Inspired by an article Designing in Color penned for the NOMA Conference, "Black en Vogue," the workshop linked Afrofuturism to a provocative past example, Floyd McKissick's utopic Soul City. Created in 1974, the project was envisioned as a southern utopia, made because - in McKissick's own words - "the black man has been searching for identity and destiny in the cities...He should be able to find it in the plains of Warren County."


Soul City and Afrofuturism fueled an evocative conversation with the massive group that attended, all of whom enthusiastically engaged in our group activity. The crowd excitedly created a city block of their wildest imaginations.

For us, by us.

workshop #2 - "politics of space"


NOMA National Conference - Houston - 11/02/2017

This workshop strove to challenge architecture’s role in politicizing space. Following the current events in both domestic and global politics, architects have an even larger responsibility to become involved in the social dynamics of the areas in which they work and create projects.


The majority of locales affected by the new Trump administration are found in inner urban areas. These inhabitants are subject to horrific immigration polices, lack of capital support, and racist institutional regimes that do not benefit their well-being or progression. Many within our profession might question the validity behind becoming involved in creating a stage for political change. However, as people who create physical space, we must take responsibility for the social ramifications of our work.

Minority designers and architects are incredibly underrepresented in the field, making it even more important for a diverse group of practitioners to push for social change in architecture and political discourse. There must exist spaces in academia and professional life where people feel comfortable speaking about unjust issues. The NOMA Houston workshop constructed such an environment, all the while simulating a set of topics about oppressive acts in architecture, the definition of cultural spaces, and the importance of the asylum. Cultural spaces were defined by a vernacular of a set practices, while the asylum was denoted as  a space conducive to any person's idea of peace, safety, and freedom.


The Designing in Color team then challenged the participants to engage in a collaborative project after the conference.

collab #1 - "99s DIAG"


DIAG (Diversity Inclusion Advocacy Group) was created by ZGF to examine and raise awareness around issues related to diversity and inclusion in our workplace.  At the core of the group’s focus is a commitment to improving the employee experience by promoting a culture of respect where all employees feel valued and supported and can achieve their fullest potential.


As DIAG reintroduces itself to ZGF-LA, an important question we’d like to explore with you is the question of “where do we stand?” in terms of our understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion within our current work culture.  


From the moment we enter the professional world, the longevity of our career will be filled with time spent with peers, colleagues, and collaborators.  This concept unifies us, and so, we share a responsibility to help dictate and influence the quality of environment here at ZGF. Our working culture establishes much more than a positive environment for us to grow, but also serves as a foundation for how we, as a firm, are projected back into the world.


The goal of this meeting is for us to facilitate a discussion and work together to establish what diversity & inclusion opportunities and ambitions are most valuable to us to advance at ZGF.


Collaborators: Christopher Locke, Jenny Apostle, Mitra Memari

workshop #1 - "disrupt the proceedings"


NOMA National Conference - Los Angeles - 10/14/2016

The workshop provides a space for young professionals and students with similar backgrounds to engage in discussion on oppression and awareness within the field while also giving participants collaborative tools on how best to bring their diverse perspective into the design sphere. Students and young professionals will become familiar with the platform developed by Designing in Color that aims to provide a physical space and online forum for people to access information and resources about advocacy against discrimination within architecture.

Engaging the Space - Topics from the Workshop:

Representation - Currently in architecture and related fields, there is a dearth of media and popular representation of work that reflects the diversity and creativity of minority designers. What causes this minimalistic and biased view of minority owned businesses in the industry? This discussion will challenge participants to immerse themselves in dialogue that critiques how architects from all different sectors of work are viewed by the public and industry.


Censorship - While there is a multiplicity to the creative endeavors of designers, this complexity involves many stakeholders who affect the direction of any given project. This inevitable condition can negatively affect the outcome of projects, their representation in product and the people who use them. This is not exclusive to practice but in fact a troubling issue in education which often times does not prioritize social constructs and culture in studio practices. How do we create cohesive environments for all kinds of work in our field?


Opportunity - Designers who identify themselves from minority backgrounds have a diverse background of experience and knowledge. This unique advantage creates a body of people who can create provocative and industry altering work. What are alternative areas where this work can be done and how do we collaborate on them?

small talks #1 - "disrupt the proceedings"


“…Los Angeles, as cities go, is an especially tough nut to crack.” – Christopher Hawthorne, LA Times

Hosted by Designing in Color, the kickoff to small talks:LA focused on the cultural, economical, and environmental diversity of Los Angeles, unpacking the asylums that discourage interaction amongst our communities. Through various forms of engaging media, the goal of this forum/mixer was to rally up and stir conversation that could generate change. small talk:LA gathered a diverse group of architects, artists, engineers, and urban planners in an evening of conversation about the city. They proceeded to think, pair, share, and organize to make better spaces for all people.


small talks:LA originated as a response to the current demand for political and social organization among motivated individuals who care for the diversity and future of our cities. In contrast to a conventional lecture series, small talks:LA promotes the collective over the individual and allows for equal participation and engagement among all participants.

Co Created by Designing in Color, Jonathan Sharp, Michael De Leon


feature #1 - "section story"

author: Rubin Quarcoopome & Jueying Liu

school: University of Michigan

program/major: Master of Architecture

city: Detroit, MI

project title: Section Story


Remember the first time you read a comic book. Words and text married together in inventive ways to depict endless imaginations and complex narratives. Batman threw a fist across a panel at Superman. Calvin and Hobbes explored a minimal, beautiful world, a relatable story painted with invisible skill. In every case, the language of comics allowed the bizarre a relatable bridge to the everyday. 


“Section Story” borrows the many techniques of comic book design and applies them towards the creation of the un-imaged structure of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel, High Rise. This project imagines the spaces of the titular building intertwined with the plot arcs of three major characters, Anthony Royal, Richard Wilder, and Robert Laing. These wildly different, mysterious, and often violent arcs are mapped to a section, and proceed to mix the convention of the architectural drawing with that of the comic book page. Poche and gutter become one, time and sequence rely on the power of the panel, and the section can now be read in a specific way and direction. 


The narrative of and about a work of architecture can take on unique life, often outliving the finished structure itself. It becomes vital, therefore, that these narratives are not told solely by a privileged few. “Section Story” is an exploration of the importance of narrative in the built world, so much so that the story shapes the building as much as the other way around.

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