• Black Matter: Celebrating Black Spacial Practices from the Magical to the Mundane, Black in Design Conference 2021
    Tomi Laja and Caleb Negash
    Oct 08, 2021 to Oct 10, 2021
    Harvard University-Graduate School of Design-African American Student Union

Graphic identity and logo for the Black Matter: Celebrating Black Spatial Practices from the Magical to the Mundane, Black in Design Conference, 2021. Courtesy Black in Design

The 2021 Black in Design Conference Black Matter: Celebrating Black Spatial Practices from the Magical to the Mundane brings together designers from distinct professional, academic, and experiential backgrounds to explore the possibilities for designing connections across African diaspora. The conference hosts discussions and exhibitions on the intersections of technology, magic, and history in pursuit of designing for the varied challenges of diasporic communities. Collectively, the conference seeks to create a learning environment whereby geographically distant participants are connected synchronously to share their research and creative work, forming a global constellation of Black consciousness.

Caleb Negash, cochair of Black in Design, is a MArch candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). While at the GSD, he has worked as a researcher for the African American Design Nexus, writing profiles on Black contributions to the built environment, and cohosting the podcast The Nexus, exploring the intersections of design, identity, and practice through interviews with Black artists, designers, writers, and educators. Before attending Harvard, he taught architecture studios as an International Fellow in the School of Design and Environment at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore, and received a bachelor’s in architecture from Princeton University. His interests lie in documenting and narrating Black contributions to the built environment, which have traditionally been disenfranchised, discredited, or simply ignored within architectural and urban history.

Tomi Laja, cochair of Black in Design, is a MArch II candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), holding a bachelor of architecture degree from Iowa State University. Currently, she is an editorial assistant at Harvard Design Magazine and a program assistant at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Before attending Harvard, her previous experiences include contributing to The Funambulist by Its Readers: Political Geographies from Chicago and Elsewhere and the Making Futures Bauhaus+ Mobile Workshop with Raumlabor for the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial; and assistant editing The Funambulist Magazine: Politics of Space and Bodies in Paris and Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, and Political Economy in Berlin. With professional interests in research based architectural and exhibition design and writing, her research includes afro-futurist and eco-feminist perspectives as they relate to agency, consciousness, and the built environment.

Stephen Gray is an associate professor of urban design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and founder of the Boston-based design firm Grayscale Collaborative, with experience working in complex urban environments alongside municipal agencies, colleges and universities, private developers, nonprofits, and the public. His interests lie at the intersection of design and engagement as tools for empowerment as well as drivers for the production of progressive urbanism. His research focuses on (1) humanist approaches to urban design at the intersection of politics, power, race, and place; (2) socio-ecological urban design approaches to urban resilience; (3) urban peacescapes that integrate peacebuilding, development, and urban design; and (4) implementation strategies for urban design projects across social, political, spatial, temporal, and geographic scales. Prior to joining Harvard, Gray collaborated with and led cross-disciplinary teams at Sasaki Associates and was a lecturer at the School of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at Northeastern University.

The Graduate School of Design educates leaders in design, research, and scholarship to make a resilient, just, and beautiful world.