It’s Black History Month and to mark it, we asked Black architects and designers to name a fellow Black contemporary whose work they admire.
Last year for Black History Month, we got a dozen renowned Black architects and designers to name a peer who they felt deserved greater recognition.
In 2023 we asked the people that appeared on last year’s list to take up the baton and nominate another Black designer or architect who they want to draw attention to. As with last year, two designers chose to nominate more than one person.
This year’s list features architects working in big firms, multidisciplinary designers running their own studios and educators, as well as a Black-owned fashion brand.
Here are 10 more Black architects and designers you should know:
Erica Funderburk, North Carolina-based graphic designer
Nominated by Zariah Cameron
“Erica is a mentee of mine and a junior at North Carolina A&T. I’ve known her since she was a freshman and since then I’ve watched her blossom. She places HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] culture at the forefront of her design and photography work, amplifying the voices and the experiences that often aren’t highlighted in mainstream culture.
“Her design work encapsulates the beauty and essence of who we are as a Black culture. She’s also just one of the most kind-hearted and giving people I’ve ever known. She’s thoughtful and encouraging, and anyone who has had a chance to be in her orbit is truly blessed by her love and light.”
Tejumola Butler Adenuga, London-based multidisciplinary designer
Nominated by Eve de Haan
“Tej has been one of my favourite designers for some time. He has a distinct, minimalistic style that has become inseparable with his work. He has recently pivoted into making furniture inspired by West African fictional mythology. The works are a fantasy of an African utopia without external interference.
“Tej often uses sustainable materials to create pieces that are both aesthetically pleasing and highly functional.”
Selasi Setufe, innovative sites programme manager at Be First
Nominated by Yohance Harper
“Selasi Setufe is an affront to the typical notion of what architecture is, who it benefits and who it’s delivered by. Working at Be First on projects in her home borough of Barking and Dagenham, her designs are delivering socially responsive affordable housing and specialist homes in an innovative model which are on their way to being case studies in good practice.
“As a co-director of Black Females in Architecture, she is a catalyst for diversity, race and gender equity in the architecture, design and construction industries. Ultimately she exemplifies a professional who is pushing an architectural ideal that better reflects and responds to society and its context.”
Savannah Williams, architect at Foster + Partners
Nominated by Yohance Harper
“Alongside her work at Fosters + Partners, Savannah demonstrates a sustained and exemplary commitment to nurturing diverse cohorts of up-and-coming designers and architects by creating a framework of support and mentorship.
“She is an advocate for representation within the professional sphere of the built environment and her initiative with people of colour in architecture is actively engaged with being part of the solution.”
Iona McCreath, creative director of KikoRomeo
Nominated by Moran Carl Munyuthe
“Iona is the creative director of Kenyan fashion house KikoRomeo.
“Through her work she explores the use of regenerative and sustainable textiles, referencing vernacular knowledge and leverage modern technology to generate timeless pieces rooted in her heritage.”
Cynthia Abila, Nigerian fashion brand founded by Cynthia Otiyo-Abila (pictured)
Nominated by Emmy Kasbit
“I’ve chosen the brand Cynthia Abila because it’s a sustainable brand and Black-owned. They bring traditional staples to the modern age and also work closely with local artisans to produce handwoven fabrics used in their collections. This also is a way of giving back to society because they’re empowering the local community, and that to me is super amazing.
“A Cynthia Abila woman is powerful, bold and elegant and this can be seen with each piece that struts the runway during fashion week.”
Armstrong Yakubu, senior partner at Foster + Partners
Nominated by Albert Williamson Taylor
“Armstrong Yakubu has been part of Foster + Partners for over 30 years and is a respected, senior member of the team. He has a unique role, which combines his responsibilities as a permanent member of the design board with close involvement in a few, carefully selected projects that benefit from his specialist expertise.
“I would like to nominate Armstrong because his whole approach to design, at which he is amazing, consists of continuously inspiring the people around him. He influences design in a very calm and clear manner leaving people around him with the confidence that they own the design. He is someone of influence of the future.”
Gary Bates, co-founder of SPACEGROUP and Make Make
Nominated by Albert Williamson Taylor
“I nominate Gary due to his understanding of the future challenges that architecture and the environment faces looking forward to the future; his understanding of the complexities that designers will have to face producing architecture while dealing with the inevitable issue of the changing planet and having a realistic grasp of the post-colonial influence of Black culture on the American consciousness.
“His insight embeds north European environmental architecture with the American black Jumrah. This is reflected in his engagement with his teaching at the Syracuse and Cornell architecture departments. He is already influencing the next generation of designers in the US.”
Rick Griffith, Denver-based designer, writer and printer, and co-founder of Matter
Nominated by Terrell Griffith
“Rick Griffith (who, coincidentally, has the same name as my father) is a brilliant designer, masterful printer, and very stirring writer. Radical in his approach and message, Rick’s work is piercing.
“It makes you stop and think – if even for just a moment – about the devastating systems in place both yesterday and today, but also the futures in which the once-marginalized (with a particular emphasis on Black futures) are thriving. In the sea of shared quotable squares on Instagram in the summer of 2020, Rick’s work stuck out to me because of the undying, ‘I’m not new to this, I’m true to this’ energy that was very evident in his work and his writing.”
Ife Salema Vanable, founder of architectural workshop I/van/able and PhD candidate at Columbia GSAPP
Nominated by Alicia Ajayi
“I believe the first time I heard Ife speak was during a Zoom faculty meeting. I was transfixed by her poise, phrasing, and, most importantly, the content of what she was saying. Her deep critical lens of architecture and its curriculum offers something fresh and necessary.
“She understands the power of the polemic and encourages her students to sharpen their purview with intention and rigor, all while doing it with a dramatic flair. If I had to sum it up, the woman is just dope.”
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