Think back to a moment in time that changed the way you perceived the world. A single moment may not come to mind. Instead, a combination of elements is what more likely makes up that moment.
Henry: I remember leaving the studio at 3:00 am after preparing for a design review. Riding my bike across the South Street bridge, I was met with red and blue flashing lights, hit by a police officer in his issued truck, and viciously laid out onto the ground. Next thing I knew there was a pistol pointed in my direction.
Florian: Growing up in a Dominican household, I was told to act a certain way, do my hair a certain way, and speak a certain way. It was all to hide our blackness while embracing white culture. At some point during graduate school, I realized I was imitating the idea of someone. I didn’t even know what being me meant.
For us, the experiences that led to those moments laid the groundwork for the digital exhibition Just Nøt The Same. We created a series of architecture cutouts — an entourage for renderings — specifically highlighting people of color, human beings with skin complexions between that of the night and a shimmering penny. The exhibition is science, psychology, architecture, and art all wrapped into a digital conversation.
Our purpose is to increase our sensory reach, break down social structures through art, and allow for a window into new worlds — to help us all see things differently. When architects take on projects, each one requires a sensitivity to space and narrative. We should always want to broaden our definition of the practice.
Traditions restrict innovation in our profession. We believe we are now at a tipping point, where architecture not only seeks an aesthetic value but also strives for equity. With Just Nøt The Same, Latinos and African Americans can have a place in architectural history. We made these cutouts as an effort to focus on the role of architects as narrators. How do we imagine the future, and who occupies its domain? When we speak of equality, what factors are in play? We strive to dissolve the constructs of the 18th-century Three-Fifths Compromise, which is still prevalent today and in too many cases continues to affect the thinking of architects. With Just Nøt The Same — free digital cutouts of people of color that students and architectural firms can place in their imagery — we see new opportunities for the profession to become more inclusive and sensitive toward a collective design process.
Designing a building requires the study of the practice and ourselves. We can give new meaning to our intentions by understanding that what we create and how it is executed has an impact. A digital exhibition and catalog invites us to approach architecture in an intrinsic way to achieve better ways to tell stories.
Just Nøt The Same is not just a response to the underrepresented ethnicities displayed on architectural cutout websites; it is also a way to empower individuals. When giving designers a new architectural tool, we open opportunities for change. By using the cutouts, we invite participation in a written and visual narrative that we hope will evoke systemic change in the way we speak to the world, where we no longer use the word “them” but change the narrative to “us.”