African Design Magazine April 2016 - Page 63

Feature Interview Jack Travis, FAIA, is an African-American architect, author, and educator with a deep commitment to exploring Afri-culture in architectural expression, and investigating “blackness” of culture, mores, and sensibilities. Concerned with the dynamics of how people, particularly people in black and other under-served communities, use space and react to formal expression, Jack focuses on architecture, interiors, and urban planning that exudes a strong black cultural impact visually and tactilely. He recently spoke with STHETIC A fter graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Arizona State University in 1977, and a Masters in Architecture from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1978, Jack established his namesake firm in 1985, after working in the New York offices of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the Switzer Group and Sidney Philip Gilbert. Jack Travis Architect specializes in architecture and interiors fused with African iconography. Despite an impressive client roster that includes Giorgio Armani, Time Warner Inc., corporate spaces for Spike Lee’s Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks, and residences for Spike Lee and Wesley Snipes, the firm maintains an ardent commitment to public service, primarily in underprivileged communities. He is the author of African American Architects in Current Practice, Princeton Architectural Press, published in 1992. In 2004 he received the prestigious honour of being inducted into the American Institute of Architects (AIA)’s College of Fellows. Driven by the idea of inclusion in a world of exclusion, Jack’s devotion to the education of cultural dynamics in architecture led him to found the Studio for Africulturism in Architecture and Design in 1994. Coupled with being an adjunct Professor at four New York City design institutions, Jack also runs six-week workshops for students of all races to study Afrocentric design themes and design issues relating to black communities where he engages and challenges young people to think about social directives. Foremost of his many roles is that of Messenger, believing that assimilation into the prevailing architectural discourse ignores the wonderful differences between cultures and does not provide the groundwork for the respect and celebrations of these differences. Describe your first impulse to become an architect. JT: The story I tell, whether it is accurate today or not, is the following: I remember being in fifth grade at St Joseph’s catholic elementary school, in Las Vegas, Nevada, when Sister Juanita Marie asked the class to write on any subject 63