Carl M. Sapers Ethics in Practice Lecture: Milton S. F. Curry, “Citizen Architect: Paradoxes of Race in Democratic Culture”

Gray-toned image of military vehicles and young boys amidst a plaza with large buildings.

Raymond Depardon, Photographer. (Copyright: CriticalProductive, Inc. 2012) Tanks on the Plaza de las Tres Cultural after the bloody repression of student demonstrations.

A recording of this event is available with audio description.

Event Description

Through a more robust framing of the “Citizen Architect” who is positioned as an innately egalitarian force in democratic space, the discipline of architecture can engage in democratizing cultural production and revitalizing subaltern thought. Race and Blackness, as theoretical vehicles, are essential towards rethinking the democratic present in the face of an apocalyptic and autocratic future. How does a racialized subject come to know themselves – physically, socially, psychically? The American postcolonial subject is operating amongst the vexed forces of intellectual and social history, the forces of the “humane horizon” (unattainable ideals of meritocracy, egalitarianism, freedom, liberty and equality), and the forces of lived experience (living under constant threat and precarity). In addition to laws and codified norms, democracy is organized around concepts of space and sociality that cohere polities to one another. The discipline of architecture has a significant role to play in reclaiming our ideals, actualizing change and performing transformative repair. 


Headshot of Milton Curry.Milton S. F. Curry, MArch ’92, graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Design with a Masters in Architecture Post Professional degree; and from Cornell University with a Bachelors in Architecture. He is Professor of Architecture at the University of Southern California School of Architecture; where he was Dean and Della & Harry MacDonald Dean’s Chair in Architecture from 2017-2022. As dean at USC, he pivoted the School towards an ethos of the “Citizen Architect” that expands the architect’s role in societal issues, and initiated new academic and research programs focused on city design and pre-college access. He is currently on a one year research leave from USC and is a Visiting Scholar at Harvard GSD in Fall 2022.

With leadership and faculty positions at USC, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Cornell University and Harvard GSD, Professor Curry is committed to the democratic project of the American university; and believes that linking the design arts, humanities and technology produces nonlinear creative thinking that synthesize humanist and technical know-how in ways that produce new knowledge. Professor Curry founded CriticalProductive and has produced seminal writings and creative work that link architecture to the pressing societal issues of post-war Americas – such as race, class, urbanization and postcolonialism.

Among many service commitments, he serves on the Museum of Modern Art New York Board of Trustees Acquisitions Committee on Architecture and Design, on the Abode Communities Board of Directors and Finance Committee, and is a General Services Administration Design Excellence National Peer Reviewer. 

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