Rebecca Choi, “White Man’s Got a God Complex”

Aerial view of New York City, with sections colored in blue, green, red, and yellow.

The GSD’s Spring 2021 Public Programs are all virtual and require registration.

Scroll down to find complete registration instructions and additional information about accessing the GSD’s programs.

Event Description

In 1976, Chicago developer Charles Shaw bought nearly one million cubic feet of air above the Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Modern Art for 17 million dollars, relieving the Museum of their debt problems. Bought under New York City’s Transfer of Development Rights, Shaw used his rights to air space in the construction of a 56-floor apartment tower on 53rd Street. Mayor Beame hailed the “self-help project” a success, claiming that the transaction showed “how government and the private sector can cooperate in achieving the common goal of improving lives in the city.” Transfer of air rights was not new, however the relationship between architects, Harlem, and MoMA in presenting experimental, bureaucratized architectural visions to the public is specific to the late 1960s. This talk discusses these visions and the context of Harlem, where a range of surreptitious and highly choreographed mechanisms of abstraction were tested out and exhibited at MoMA in a demonstration plan for the neighborhood in 1967.

Audience members are eligible for 1.5 AICP Certification Maintenance credits and/or 1.5 AIA Continuing Education Learning Units after attending this event. Please visit the AICP website or AIA website for more information.

Screenshot of a virtual event. Rebecca Choi appears in a small square on the right and wears a black turtleneck shirt. A larger rectangle contains her PowerPoint presentation, which shows a black-and-white photograph from a protest, where a sign reads "Stop Killer Cops." Rebecca and her PowerPoint are surrounded by a green background.

Screenshot from a virtual event. Two rectangles show Erika Naginski and Rebecca Choi side-by-side. They are surrounded by a green background.


Dr. Rebecca Choi is a postdoctoral fellow and visiting lecturer at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta Institute) at the ETH Zürich. Her research considers how movements for racial justice have had a pivotal role in the making of urban America. Choi is currently working on a book project which expands and deepens her doctoral work, Black Architectures: Race, Pedagogy and Practice, 1957–68. Developed through oral histories and alter-institutional archives, Black Architectures is an atlas of resistance that pushes for greater intersectionality between architecture, critical race theory and environmental studies. She has contributed writing to Harvard Design Magazine, The Avery Review, ARDETH Journal, and Places Journal.

How to Join

Register to attend the lecture here. Once you have registered, you will be provided with a link to join the lecture via Zoom. This link will also be emailed to you.

The event will also be live streamed to the GSD’s YouTube page. Only viewers who are attending the lecture via Zoom will be able to submit questions for the Q+A. If you would like to submit questions for the speakers in advance of the event, please click here.

Live captioning will be provided during this event. A transcript will be available roughly two weeks after the event, upon request.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].