Project collage of work by Amanda Williams and Assemble; full caption below.

Eugene J. Mackey Jr. Lecture: Amanda Williams & Giles Smith/Assemble

March 4, 2021
12p Central

The annual Eugene J. Mackey Jr. Lecture features speakers from two practices in dialogue: Amanda Williams, and Giles Smith of Assemble.

The online lecture is free and will be delivered via Zoom; please note the updated start time for the talk, of 12p Central. Register here>>

In cities like St. Louis and Liverpool, vacancy creates an urban condition that is uniquely expressed, yet similar to other post-industrial areas. Each was once a center of manufacturing and workers' communities, but they have emptied out since the decline of economic activity in the mid-20th century.

Such places constitute a frontier where conventional architecture practice loses its bearings, but Amanda Williams and Assemble have staked their claim there and established new forms of practice in precisely these conditions. They have challenged the boundaries of architecture by finding the zones where it blurs into art practice and community organizing; where it can speak to race, economy, and collectivity, as well as to adaptive reuse and sustainability.

A sole practitioner and a multimember collective, these two represent the gamut of forms that an architecture practice can take, the diversity of voices that are heard in the field today, and the persistence—and increasing visibility—of architecture's activist tradition.

About the Speakers

Giles Smith is a member of the London-based architecture collective Assemble. Assemble was founded in 2010 to undertake a collective building project and has evolved into an architecture practice that champions a way of working which is local, committed, and which positions the architect as part of an ongoing local conversation. Current projects include the continuation of a relationship with a Community Land Trust in Granby, Liverpool, where Assemble has been working since 2013, and a regenerative farming project in London’s Green Belt with GROW, an organization dedicated to reconnecting young people with the natural world. Smith also teaches at the Architectural Association in London and speaks widely on the relationship between people and the built environment.

Amanda Williams is a visual artist who trained as an architect at Cornell University. Her creative practice employs color as an operative means for drawing attention to the complex ways race informs how we assign value to the spaces we occupy. Williams’ installations, sculptures, paintings, and works on paper raise questions about the state of urban space and ownership in America. Williams has exhibited widely, including the first of its kind exhibition, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and a public commission with Andres L. Hernandez, at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis for PXSTL. She is co-designer of a forthcoming permanent monument to Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn, New York, and part of the Museum Design Team for the Obama Presidential Center. A highly sought-after lecturer, including a mainstage TedTalk, Williams' projects have recently been published in Black Futures and Radical Architecture of the Future. She sits on the boards of the Graham Foundation, The Black Reconstruction Collective (BRC), and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Williams is the inaugural artist-In-residence at Smith College. She has previously served as a visiting professor at Washington University, Cornell University, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Williams lives and works on the south side of Chicago.

About the Eugene J. Mackey Jr. Lecture

This endowed lecture honors Eugene J. Mackey Jr., a distinguished architect who practiced in partnership with Joseph Murphy, former dean of the School of Architecture. Among other projects, Mackey and Murphy designed John M. Olin Library and collaborated with R. Buckminster Fuller on the design of the Missouri Botanical Garden's Climatron. The Eugene J. Mackey Jr. Lecture brings significant patrons of architecture to campus. Past lecturers have included Gerald Edelman, Thomas Krens, Jorma Ollila, Emily Pulitzer, Richard Jackson, Eric J. Cesal, Alan Webber, Stanislaus von Moos, K. Michael Hays, Robert Herrmann, Joanne Kohn, Phyllis Lambert, Xavier Vendrell, Richard Sennett, and Richard Murphy.

Image caption

Upper and lower left: Harold's Chicken Shack © Amanda Williams; upper right: Granby Winter Garden 2019, Drawing Section © Assemble; lower right: Granby Winter Garden 2019, Interior © Assemble.