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Absent By Design: Fifty-five years of racial exclusion at the Yale School of Architecture

This article was co-written by Rasmus Schlutter and Irene Vasquez for Issue VI of The Politic in the 2018-2019 school year. Due to technical difficulties, only one name is currently displayed for author. We are working to fix this.

From the outside, the Yale School of Architecture has remained unchanged for its 55-year existence. Beyond its renaming from the Art and Architecture Building to Rudolph Hall and the addition of the Jeffrey Loria Center in 2008, the same vortex—of broken planes and concrete slabs, of orange carpets and frantic students visible behind the ribbon windows—has loomed over the corner of York and Chapel. It has become the image of excellence: for the past ten years, DesignIntelligence’s architecture magazine has consistently ranked the Yale School of Architecture (YSoA) graduate program among the top five in the country.

However, the School has a history of turbulence that belies its staid exterior. In 1969, following a controversial university decision to close the school’s progressive and racially inclusive Department of City Planning, a fire tore through the Art and Architecture Building, destroying two floors. The administration frequently hinted that students were responsible for the fire, but never came forth with concrete allegations.

In March 2019, YSoA announced the creation of an urban studies major for undergraduates. Undergraduates were excited, as well as surprised—the new major is one of the most significant changes to the School since the introduction of the undergraduate architecture major in 1965.

Much of the excitement surrounding the new urban studies major has to do with its interdisciplinary nature and the history of urban studies discourse about space, race, gender, and power. Previously, urban studies was only available as a concentration in Architecture, American Studies, or Political Science. The new major will incorporate pedagogy from these separate disciplines.

“One of the great riches of Yale is the interdisciplinary opportunities,” Deborah Berke, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, told The Politic in reference to the new undergraduate urban studies major. “I see this as only further enhancing interdisciplinary studies at Yale, and that it will look good in a few years, and it will look even better years after.”

Urban studies also has the opportunity to address the 55-year history of exclusion of race from the architecture curriculum that has followed since the closure of City Planning. The YSoA’s consistent lack of diversity is just as much part of its identity as its paprika carpets and brutalist exterior. Of the 103 faculty listed on the YSoA website, there are three Black instructors. In the 2018-2019 school year, the School has offered classes on Roman, Islamic, and European Gothic architecture, the Bauhaus, and Chinese gardens, but none highlight the architecture and architectural histories of Black people. None of the current Black faculty have permanent professorships at the school, and the school has never been led by a Black dean.

There were, however, such calls for change and efforts at interdisciplinary study over 50 years ago. The Department of City Planning, in coordination with student-led groups, fostered discussions about race, power, and architecture. Granted departmental status in 1960, City Planning offered undergraduate and graduate degrees in city planning, as well as a joint degree with the Yale Law School in urban studies. With the appointment of advocacy-oriented department chair Christopher Tunnard in 1966, student calls for faculty diversity and curriculum changes increased. Three years later, the City Planning Forum, composed of students and faculty from the department, voted to admit a class of 50 percent students of color, and sent out letters of acceptance to students without the approval of the Howard Weaver, Dean of the School of Art and Architecture. This protest would eventually be the Forum’s downfall.

In May 1969, as students were admitted to the program, tensions mounted: the university announced its plans to close the City Planning Department, asked for Tunnard’s resignation from his chairmanship, and informed the accepted students that their admissions letters were incorrectly sent. In 1971, the Department of City Planning officially closed. The next year, Yale designated the School of Architecture as its own professional school separate from the School of Art.

“I Have No Place in This Place.”

“It was this real slap in the face,” Jennifer Newsom ’01 BA, ’05 M.Arch told The Politic. She described a visual thinking class during her first semester at the Yale School of Architecture. “[The professor] started saying, ‘There is no such thing as Black architecture, there is no such thing as Chinese architecture.’ Literally the whole class was stunned, and I’m sitting there like, ‘Okay, I am internalizing this, I am sitting in the room.’”

Newsom had dreams of becoming an architect since the age of eight. Today, she is accomplished in the field as the partner and co-founder of the award-winning firm Dream the Combine in Minneapolis. She is among the 0.3 percent of licensed architects in the U.S. who are Black women. Newsom credits Yale for helping develop her own understanding of and approach to architecture.

“I think of my undergraduate experience as being this really positive, incredible opportunity to be exposed to all these other disciplines that come to bear on architecture,” Newsom told The Politic. “I took classes in African-American literature; I took classes in African-American theater and performance studies, I took sociology classes. I took classes in all these other arenas that folded into how I thought about architecture, and I think that was really important.”

But it took extra effort for her to reap the benefits of the program that her white peers did. “In my first class with this [professor], they’re telling me that even though I’m in the room, they don’t see me,” she explained. “It’s as though I’m invisible; it’s as though I have no history; it’s as though I have no place in this place.”

Newsom recalls taking only one architecture class with a Black professor, and meeting two additional Black faculty members during her seven years at Yale. Following this experience, she decided to create a space for conversations about race and architecture in YSoA. In 2004, she organized one of the school’s largest symposiums in recent decades, Black Boxes: Enigmas of Space and Race, with the goal of making conversations about race inherent in discussions about architecture. This was not the first time that an architecture student had tried to bring these discussions to the forefront: in 1991, YSoA student J.C. Calderón hosted an event called People of Color in Architecture with similar hopes to those Newsom had in 2004.

“I wanted the school to be better. I wanted other people like me to be a part of the program,” Calderón told The Politic. “Architecture can be a tool of the oppressors, or it can be a tool of the liberators. It’s all about your intention.”

“The goal of Black Boxes is not to validate one opinion or put forth an ideological stance,” Newsom wrote in Metropolis, a design magazine. “It is simply to speak, reveal, and contribute verbally and openly.” Even with financial support for Black Boxes from YSoA Dean Robert Stern and a fellowship to conduct independent research, Newsom felt an absence of discussions about race and architecture in the School.

“There were plenty of people I could talk to in AFAM Studies or other departments, but were there architecture professors who could engage deeply in these conversations [about race and power]? No,” Newsom told The Politic. “Or if there were, they weren’t reaching out to me about it.”

“It’s not Yale’s fault, but it’s a system.”

In 1969, among the student groups advocating for the new 50 percent people of color admissions policy was the Black Workshop, founded in 1968 for Black students to collaborate on urban design and community advocacy projects in New Haven. Black students, inspired by Black liberation movements, felt they did not have a space on campus where they could enact change, and so they built their own. Richard Dozier ’70 M.Arch, the first Dean of the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture at Tuskegee University, was one of the founding members of the Black Workshop and the student-director from 1968-1969. He remains one of the most prominent scholars of the history of African-American architects.

During the ’60s, federally-supported urban renewal projects, led predominantly by white planning and city management teams, tore down entire neighborhoods without consulting the communities—majority people of color and low-income people—within them. In 1968, Whitney Young, the head of the civil rights organization Urban League, spoke at a conference of the American Institute of Architects. “The AIA, in the area of civil rights, is most widely known by its thunderous silence,” he said. To challenge the status quo of harmful urban renewal, the Workshop employed an open-ended, inclusive urban studies approach that drew from architecture, economics, urban design, and art, among other fields.

“We all had the same kind of needed skills, and we thought we could make a bigger impact on the city and do more for the community,” Dozier told The Politic.

Dozier helped organize the Workshop to get its own offices outside of the Architecture School. He also advocated for it to operate as an associated program that would be part of YSoA but would have flexibility to run projects on its own accord. In the few histories written about the Black Workshop, including Dean Emeritus Robert A.M. Stern’s book Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale, this move is often framed as separatist. But for Dozier, that was never the motivation: it was the question of belonging, of being one of a handful of Black students in an overwhelmingly white space, that the Workshop attempted to address as best it could while remaining connected to the YSoA.

The administration was slow to respond to calls for support and increased diversity within the School. Dozier recounts meeting repeatedly with administrators at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to get funding for the Workshop. Support among the School of Architecture and City Planning was generally strong, but caught between the bureaucratic structure of Yale and fears of campus radicalism, the Workshop encountered hurdle after hurdle.

“Getting that understanding and having that dialogue is very difficult. Not having faculty members that share your experience makes it even more difficult. Then with no role models for the students, it becomes an impasse. You can’t blame Yale. It’s not just Yale’s fault, but it’s a system.”

Finally, the group met with Kingman Brewster and the Yale Corporation.

“The university, a tactic they used, they had two or three things on the agenda [before addressing us], so some people would always have to go before it was over. So this one meeting, we decided to turn that around: the first thing we were going to deal with was our needs. We brought some people from the Hill and from Dixwell [two predominantly low income neighborhoods of color]… And this guy from New York took the Provost’s papers and threw them out the window. Of course, then a street clothes police officer comes and drags him out. But we got funded after that.”

After that meeting, the Black Workshop maintained its strong relationship with New Haven. And if the University had yet to fully support the group’s venture, it was no longer resisting it as actively.

Professor Kent Bloomer, the longest serving faculty member at the YSoA, recalls the faculty sentiment of the 1960s.

“[The Black Workshop] was talking to communities directly. But they were talking with people who didn’t see exactly why it was important, and that might have included myself,” Bloomer said.

However, the importance of these issues for students like Dozier was personal.

“I was active in the Dwight community. I saw these people; I knew these people. When the Panthers came to New Haven, they used that area for their headquarters. We were not removed—that’s what we kept telling the university. This is not a game, I’m really here.”

Simultaneously, the events of the Civil Rights Movements had raised the personal stakes of the members of the Workshop, tying them to a moment of immense political and social change.

“All this stuff is going on around you, all the struggles and assassinations, everything. But the biggest thing is you’re here in New Haven, you’ve left everything– I had left Detroit. And hey, we’ve got to work this out. Winning that argument and getting the funding for the workshop relieved everybody.”

Now, the Workshop had greater stability, increased funding, and a workspace across from the Art and Architecture Building. They ran projects in the Hill, Newhallville, and Dwight neighborhoods, bringing their skills and education to create the environments these communities wanted. Many of their projects were not about buildings at all, but about supporting community-led events and advocating for equitable representation in city affairs. Even with this more secure status, tensions continued both in Yale and on the street, notably as the students in the Black Workshop began to paint and redesign their storefront.

“These guys came up to us, just in regular street clothes, and said, ‘What are you doing?’ We said that we were coming up with a new design. They said, ‘You can’t do that.’ Another guy takes out his walkie talkie, calls the police, and we got arrested. The police came, and they didn’t believe we were Yale students,” Dozier noted.

While the University did give funding to the Black Workshop in the wake of the closure of the City Planning Department, it made little effort to actively support it. It was tolerated but not valued, its existence maintained by constant student advocacy.

Dozier feels the Administration’s disdain regarding City Planning’s advocacy was clear: “‘Okay, we’ll wipe out city planning, we’ll get most of you radicals out of here. You can stay until you get your degree and then you go.’”

The Workshop continued for over a decade in various forms, but struggled without full institutional support. The “forward-looking and fruitful” future of City Planning at Yale that Christopher Tunnard had imagined seemed lost. Later administrators, including Joseph Lieberman YC ’64, YLS ’67, executive associate to the Dean of the Faculties of Design and Planning, commended the impressive work of the Black Workshop. In 1970, Charles Moore, the Dean the Faculties of Design and Planning, proposed to President Brewster that the Workshop be granted its own space and autonomy, especially to run its innovative community internship program and project-based curriculum.

Funding, however, never materialized, and the proposal was rejected by the Provost of the University, Charles Taylor Jr. After a short-lived rebranding led by Dozier, the Workshop eventually disappeared in the late ’70s.

“One of the things I see now looking back is that you need people, you need support. We were very romantic—we thought that things were going to change,” Dozier said. “We were sadly mistaken. If I could do it over again, I would have us get much more involved with the administration.”

“This is something that has been designed. So what’s the counterdesign?

The current program of urban studies has stood out within the history of YSoA in its convergence of faculty, administration, and student support. But the question remains: will the introduction of the urban studies major reckon with this history, fraught and rich as it is? Perhaps most notably, there have been no public discussions of hiring initiatives as part of the urban studies program thus far.

“I’d love to see more faculty of color who are really supported,” Newsom said. “I think people who start on the tenure track don’t end up continuing…. None of these things is going to have any impact on faculty or curriculum if there isn’t an institutional structure that supports that and can give funding to it.”

These questions extend beyond the walls of Rudolph Hall. On March 29, three weeks after the approval of the urban studies major, 13 senior faculty in the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program announced their decision to withdraw their labor from the program, citing lack of University support for the major. Without departmental status, the program has no hiring power, forcing faculty to essentially volunteer their labor to the program—labor which does not factor into the promotion process. The program is one of the most rapidly growing majors on campus. Despite repeated promises from the university administration to change the status and funding of the program, no changes have been made.

While ER&M has its own distinct history, its experiences are reminiscent of the administrative treatment of City Planning a half-century ago. It’s no coincidence that the Black Workshop was founded in 1968—the same year that the students of the Third World Liberation Front went on strike at San Francisco State to protest the Eurocentric curriculum and lack of diversity on their campuses. That year, the principles of self-determination—the same self-determination that the Black Workshop cited in their mission statement—rippled around the world.

Where would the School of Architecture be today if the push for a class consisting of 50 percent people of color had spread across the school? What conversations would have opened up not just in architecture, but across disciplines and schools if the Black Workshop had continued to provide a model for self-determination through education? The other changes that occured in the program during that period—the First Year Building Project, the undergraduate major—have become defining features of the School of Architecture. Now, how will urban studies reflect this history?

It is uncertain whether the addition of urban studies will herald other changes to the discipline. Reimagining a realm of design that has so often lagged far behind other similar disciplines is difficult, but the power that architecture has makes realizing these hopes all the more important.

“Architects need to take responsibility for and be knowledgeable about not just the buildings, but the world in which they sit, which is to say, the city,” Berke said. “I think it is a part of a global responsibility.”

At this critical juncture, faculty and students who are interested in taking up the call of urban studies are limited only by their imaginations. This kind of aspirational thinking is one of the things Newsom loves most about design.

“The best of it is making these really wonderful aspirational things. How do we use the strengths of our training to do that at an institutional or policy level? That is, not just about the physical object that I make, but how can I challenge the structures that are bound up in making that thing? That’s a big ask, but as designers we have a particular skill set—being able to synthesize, being able to build consensus, being able to see multiple sides of the problem.”

Newsom believes that this way of thinking is essential to reimagining architecture as a discipline as well.

“This is something that has been designed; there’s a reason why the built environment looks the way it does, there’s a reason why the list of faculty you Googled looks the way it does, and so what’s the counterdesign—what’s the other way of thinking about this with some intention that sets us up for a different kind of future?” Newsom said. “It’s really aspirational, and that sort of projective dreaming is really at the root of the strength that we bring as designers to the table. We dream.”

From the outside, the Yale School of Architecture has remained unchanged for its 55-year existence. Beyond its renaming from the Art and Architecture Building to Rudolph Hall and the addition of the Jeffrey Loria Center in 2008, the same vortex—of broken planes and concrete slabs, of orange carpets and frantic students visible behind the ribbon windows—has loomed over the corner of York and Chapel. It has become the image of excellence: for the past ten years, DesignIntelligence’s architecture magazine has consistently ranked the Yale School of Architecture (YSoA) graduate program among the top five in the country.

However, the School has a history of turbulence that belies its staid exterior. In 1969, following a controversial university decision to close the school’s progressive and racially inclusive Department of City Planning, a fire tore through the Art and Architecture Building, destroying two floors. The administration frequently hinted that students were responsible for the fire, but never came forth with concrete allegations.

In March 2019, YSoA announced the creation of an urban studies major for undergraduates. Undergraduates were excited, as well as surprised—the new major is one of the most significant changes to the School since the introduction of the undergraduate architecture major in 1965.

Much of the excitement surrounding the new urban studies major has to do with its interdisciplinary nature and the history of urban studies discourse about space, race, gender, and power. Previously, urban studies was only available as a concentration in Architecture, American Studies, or Political Science. The new major will incorporate pedagogy from these separate disciplines.

“One of the great riches of Yale is the interdisciplinary opportunities,” Deborah Berke, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, told The Politic in reference to the new undergraduate urban studies major. “I see this as only further enhancing interdisciplinary studies at Yale, and that it will look good in a few years, and it will look even better years after.”

Urban studies also has the opportunity to address the 55-year history of exclusion of race from the architecture curriculum that has followed since the closure of City Planning. The YSoA’s consistent lack of diversity is just as much part of its identity as its paprika carpets and brutalist exterior. Of the 103 faculty listed on the YSoA website, there are three Black instructors. In the 2018-2019 school year, the School has offered classes on Roman, Islamic, and European Gothic architecture, the Bauhaus, and Chinese gardens, but none highlight the architecture and architectural histories of Black people. None of the current Black faculty have permanent professorships at the school, and the school has never been led by a Black dean.

There were, however, such calls for change and efforts at interdisciplinary study over 50 years ago. The Department of City Planning, in coordination with student-led groups, fostered discussions about race, power, and architecture. Granted departmental status in 1960, City Planning offered undergraduate and graduate degrees in city planning, as well as a joint degree with the Yale Law School in urban studies. With the appointment of advocacy-oriented department chair Christopher Tunnard in 1966, student calls for faculty diversity and curriculum changes increased. Three years later, the City Planning Forum, composed of students and faculty from the department, voted to admit a class of 50 percent students of color, and sent out letters of acceptance to students without the approval of the Howard Weaver, Dean of the School of Art and Architecture. This protest would eventually be the Forum’s downfall.

In May 1969, as students were admitted to the program, tensions mounted: the university announced its plans to close the City Planning Department, asked for Tunnard’s resignation from his chairmanship, and informed the accepted students that their admissions letters were incorrectly sent. In 1971, the Department of City Planning officially closed. The next year, Yale designated the School of Architecture as its own professional school separate from the School of Art.

“I Have No Place in This Place.”

“It was this real slap in the face,” Jennifer Newsom ’01 BA, ’05 M.Arch told The Politic. She described a visual thinking class during her first semester at the Yale School of Architecture. “[The professor] started saying, ‘There is no such thing as Black architecture, there is no such thing as Chinese architecture.’ Literally the whole class was stunned, and I’m sitting there like, ‘Okay, I am internalizing this, I am sitting in the room.’”

Newsom had dreams of becoming an architect since the age of eight. Today, she is accomplished in the field as the partner and co-founder of the award-winning firm Dream the Combine in Minneapolis. She is among the 0.3 percent of licensed architects in the U.S. who are Black women. Newsom credits Yale for helping develop her own understanding of and approach to architecture.

“I think of my undergraduate experience as being this really positive, incredible opportunity to be exposed to all these other disciplines that come to bear on architecture,” Newsom told The Politic. “I took classes in African-American literature; I took classes in African-American theater and performance studies, I took sociology classes. I took classes in all these other arenas that folded into how I thought about architecture, and I think that was really important.”

But it took extra effort for her to reap the benefits of the program that her white peers did. “In my first class with this [professor], they’re telling me that even though I’m in the room, they don’t see me,” she explained. “It’s as though I’m invisible; it’s as though I have no history; it’s as though I have no place in this place.”

Newsom recalls taking only one architecture class with a Black professor, and meeting two additional Black faculty members during her seven years at Yale. Following this experience, she decided to create a space for conversations about race and architecture in YSoA. In 2004, she organized one of the school’s largest symposiums in recent decades, Black Boxes: Enigmas of Space and Race, with the goal of making conversations about race inherent in discussions about architecture. This was not the first time that an architecture student had tried to bring these discussions to the forefront: in 1991, YSoA student J.C. Calderón hosted an event called People of Color in Architecture with similar hopes to those Newsom had in 2004.

“I wanted the school to be better. I wanted other people like me to be a part of the program,” Calderón told The Politic. “Architecture can be a tool of the oppressors, or it can be a tool of the liberators. It’s all about your intention.”

“The goal of Black Boxes is not to validate one opinion or put forth an ideological stance,” Newsom wrote in Metropolis, a design magazine. “It is simply to speak, reveal, and contribute verbally and openly.” Even with financial support for Black Boxes from YSoA Dean Robert Stern and a fellowship to conduct independent research, Newsom felt an absence of discussions about race and architecture in the School.

“There were plenty of people I could talk to in AFAM Studies or other departments, but were there architecture professors who could engage deeply in these conversations [about race and power]? No,” Newsom told The Politic. “Or if there were, they weren’t reaching out to me about it.”

“It’s not Yale’s fault, but it’s a system.”

In 1969, among the student groups advocating for the new 50 percent people of color admissions policy was the Black Workshop, founded in 1968 for Black students to collaborate on urban design and community advocacy projects in New Haven. Black students, inspired by Black liberation movements, felt they did not have a space on campus where they could enact change, and so they built their own. Richard Dozier ’70 M.Arch, the first Dean of the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture at Tuskegee University, was one of the founding members of the Black Workshop and the student-director from 1968-1969. He remains one of the most prominent scholars of the history of African-American architects.

During the ’60s, federally-supported urban renewal projects, led predominantly by white planning and city management teams, tore down entire neighborhoods without consulting the communities—majority people of color and low-income people—within them. In 1968, Whitney Young, the head of the civil rights organization Urban League, spoke at a conference of the American Institute of Architects. “The AIA, in the area of civil rights, is most widely known by its thunderous silence,” he said. To challenge the status quo of harmful urban renewal, the Workshop employed an open-ended, inclusive urban studies approach that drew from architecture, economics, urban design, and art, among other fields.

“We all had the same kind of needed skills, and we thought we could make a bigger impact on the city and do more for the community,” Dozier told The Politic.

Dozier helped organize the Workshop to get its own offices outside of the Architecture School. He also advocated for it to operate as an associated program that would be part of YSoA but would have flexibility to run projects on its own accord. In the few histories written about the Black Workshop, including Dean Emeritus Robert A.M. Stern’s book Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale, this move is often framed as separatist. But for Dozier, that was never the motivation: it was the question of belonging, of being one of a handful of Black students in an overwhelmingly white space, that the Workshop attempted to address as best it could while remaining connected to the YSoA.

The administration was slow to respond to calls for support and increased diversity within the School. Dozier recounts meeting repeatedly with administrators at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to get funding for the Workshop. Support among the School of Architecture and City Planning was generally strong, but caught between the bureaucratic structure of Yale and fears of campus radicalism, the Workshop encountered hurdle after hurdle.

“Getting that understanding and having that dialogue is very difficult. Not having faculty members that share your experience makes it even more difficult. Then with no role models for the students, it becomes an impasse. You can’t blame Yale. It’s not just Yale’s fault, but it’s a system.”

Finally, the group met with Kingman Brewster and the Yale Corporation.

“The university, a tactic they used, they had two or three things on the agenda [before addressing us], so some people would always have to go before it was over. So this one meeting, we decided to turn that around: the first thing we were going to deal with was our needs. We brought some people from the Hill and from Dixwell [two predominantly low income neighborhoods of color]… And this guy from New York took the Provost’s papers and threw them out the window. Of course, then a street clothes police officer comes and drags him out. But we got funded after that.”

After that meeting, the Black Workshop maintained its strong relationship with New Haven. And if the University had yet to fully support the group’s venture, it was no longer resisting it as actively.

Professor Kent Bloomer, the longest serving faculty member at the YSoA, recalls the faculty sentiment of the 1960s.

“[The Black Workshop] was talking to communities directly. But they were talking with people who didn’t see exactly why it was important, and that might have included myself,” Bloomer said.

However, the importance of these issues for students like Dozier was personal.

“I was active in the Dwight community. I saw these people; I knew these people. When the Panthers came to New Haven, they used that area for their headquarters. We were not removed—that’s what we kept telling the university. This is not a game, I’m really here.”

Simultaneously, the events of the Civil Rights Movements had raised the personal stakes of the members of the Workshop, tying them to a moment of immense political and social change.

“All this stuff is going on around you, all the struggles and assassinations, everything. But the biggest thing is you’re here in New Haven, you’ve left everything– I had left Detroit. And hey, we’ve got to work this out. Winning that argument and getting the funding for the workshop relieved everybody.”

Now, the Workshop had greater stability, increased funding, and a workspace across from the Art and Architecture Building. They ran projects in the Hill, Newhallville, and Dwight neighborhoods, bringing their skills and education to create the environments these communities wanted. Many of their projects were not about buildings at all, but about supporting community-led events and advocating for equitable representation in city affairs. Even with this more secure status, tensions continued both in Yale and on the street, notably as the students in the Black Workshop began to paint and redesign their storefront.

“These guys came up to us, just in regular street clothes, and said, ‘What are you doing?’ We said that we were coming up with a new design. They said, ‘You can’t do that.’ Another guy takes out his walkie talkie, calls the police, and we got arrested. The police came, and they didn’t believe we were Yale students,” Dozier noted.

While the University did give funding to the Black Workshop in the wake of the closure of the City Planning Department, it made little effort to actively support it. It was tolerated but not valued, its existence maintained by constant student advocacy.

Dozier feels the Administration’s disdain regarding City Planning’s advocacy was clear: “‘Okay, we’ll wipe out city planning, we’ll get most of you radicals out of here. You can stay until you get your degree and then you go.’”

The Workshop continued for over a decade in various forms, but struggled without full institutional support. The “forward-looking and fruitful” future of City Planning at Yale that Christopher Tunnard had imagined seemed lost. Later administrators, including Joseph Lieberman YC ’64, YLS ’67, executive associate to the Dean of the Faculties of Design and Planning, commended the impressive work of the Black Workshop. In 1970, Charles Moore, the Dean the Faculties of Design and Planning, proposed to President Brewster that the Workshop be granted its own space and autonomy, especially to run its innovative community internship program and project-based curriculum.

Funding, however, never materialized, and the proposal was rejected by the Provost of the University, Charles Taylor Jr. After a short-lived rebranding led by Dozier, the Workshop eventually disappeared in the late ’70s.

“One of the things I see now looking back is that you need people, you need support. We were very romantic—we thought that things were going to change,” Dozier said. “We were sadly mistaken. If I could do it over again, I would have us get much more involved with the administration.”

“This is something that has been designed. So what’s the counterdesign?

The current program of urban studies has stood out within the history of YSoA in its convergence of faculty, administration, and student support. But the question remains: will the introduction of the urban studies major reckon with this history, fraught and rich as it is? Perhaps most notably, there have been no public discussions of hiring initiatives as part of the urban studies program thus far.

“I’d love to see more faculty of color who are really supported,” Newsom said. “I think people who start on the tenure track don’t end up continuing…. None of these things is going to have any impact on faculty or curriculum if there isn’t an institutional structure that supports that and can give funding to it.”

These questions extend beyond the walls of Rudolph Hall. On March 29, three weeks after the approval of the urban studies major, 13 senior faculty in the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program announced their decision to withdraw their labor from the program, citing lack of University support for the major. Without departmental status, the program has no hiring power, forcing faculty to essentially volunteer their labor to the program—labor which does not factor into the promotion process. The program is one of the most rapidly growing majors on campus. Despite repeated promises from the university administration to change the status and funding of the program, no changes have been made.

While ER&M has its own distinct history, its experiences are reminiscent of the administrative treatment of City Planning a half-century ago. It’s no coincidence that the Black Workshop was founded in 1968—the same year that the students of the Third World Liberation Front went on strike at San Francisco State to protest the Eurocentric curriculum and lack of diversity on their campuses. That year, the principles of self-determination—the same self-determination that the Black Workshop cited in their mission statement—rippled around the world.

Where would the School of Architecture be today if the push for a class consisting of 50 percent people of color had spread across the school? What conversations would have opened up not just in architecture, but across disciplines and schools if the Black Workshop had continued to provide a model for self-determination through education? The other changes that occured in the program during that period—the First Year Building Project, the undergraduate major—have become defining features of the School of Architecture. Now, how will urban studies reflect this history?

It is uncertain whether the addition of urban studies will herald other changes to the discipline. Reimagining a realm of design that has so often lagged far behind other similar disciplines is difficult, but the power that architecture has makes realizing these hopes all the more important.

“Architects need to take responsibility for and be knowledgeable about not just the buildings, but the world in which they sit, which is to say, the city,” Berke said. “I think it is a part of a global responsibility.”

At this critical juncture, faculty and students who are interested in taking up the call of urban studies are limited only by their imaginations. This kind of aspirational thinking is one of the things Newsom loves most about design.

“The best of it is making these really wonderful aspirational things. How do we use the strengths of our training to do that at an institutional or policy level? That is, not just about the physical object that I make, but how can I challenge the structures that are bound up in making that thing? That’s a big ask, but as designers we have a particular skill set—being able to synthesize, being able to build consensus, being able to see multiple sides of the problem.”

Newsom believes that this way of thinking is essential to reimagining architecture as a discipline as well.

“This is something that has been designed; there’s a reason why the built environment looks the way it does, there’s a reason why the list of faculty you Googled looks the way it does, and so what’s the counterdesign—what’s the other way of thinking about this with some intention that sets us up for a different kind of future?” Newsom said. “It’s really aspirational, and that sort of projective dreaming is really at the root of the strength that we bring as designers to the table. We dream.”