Dark Space

Architecture, Representation, Black Identity

Mario Gooden

Columbia Books on Architecture and the City




Mario Gooden is a principal of Huff + Gooden Architects and a Professor of Practice at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) of Columbia University where he is also the co-Director of the Global Africa Lab (GAL). He is a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and a MacDowell Colony Fellow.

“How does it feel to be a problem?” So begins a chapter titled “The Problem with African American Museums” in Mario Gooden’s new collection of essays, Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity. By repeating the question with which W. E. B. Du Bois launched The Souls of Black Folk, Gooden locates himself in an illustrious lineage while highlighting the stasis that lets the query resonate as profoundly now as it did over a century ago. What follows is a subtle reading of a number of African American cultural institutions, a consideration of the politics they spatialize (sometimes in literal mutations of Afrocentric iconography), and a call for “more critical design and discourse.


This collection of essays move between history, theory, and criticism to explore a discourse of critical spatial practice engaged in the constant reshaping of the African Diaspora. Presented here is a series of questions that interrogate and illuminate alternative narratives of “African American architecture,” and reveal compelling ways of translating the philosophical idea of the African Diaspora’s experience into space. The essay “Architecture Liberation Theology” examines the intersections between Black Liberation Theology and architecture and establishes Gooden’s primary argument that liberation is a spatial practice.


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