Society’s Cage: an Interpretive Design Pavilion for the Black Lives Matter Movement
Society’s Cage is a timely interpretive installation on the National Mall in Washington, DC on view from August 28-September 13. The project was conceived and designed by the architecture firm SmithGroup in partnership with the Architects Foundation in the aftermath of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders as our society reckons with institutional racism and white supremacy. The public installation features a bold interpretive pavilion sculpted to symbolize the historic forces of racialized state violence. The experience educates visitors and functions as a sanctuary to reflect, record and share personal thoughts. It is conceived in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement as a mechanism for building empathy and healing.
The initial installation coincided with the March on Washington in support of Black Lives, held in Washington, DC on August 28, 2020, and is located on the National Mall at 12th Street and Madison Drive NW.
Society’s Cage reminds visitors that the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are not anomalies, but rather the latest examples in a 400+ year historic pattern of unmitigated, unbound, systemic anti-Blackness in the United States. The installation provides an opportunity to acknowledge and reckon with the severity of the racial biases inherent in the institutional structures of justice and creates a space for collective reflection, contemplation, sharing, and healing.
The pavilion is a series of bars that are hung to form a cube with a cavernous void that symbolizes our imperfect society and justice system. The void is shaped by historical data and serves as a visual metaphor to represent the primary institutional forces of racism that embody the Black American experience.
Financial donations to this Virtual History program will support this project, and the possibility of bringing it to Baltimore. Additional donations will benefit the Architects Foundation’s Diversity Advancement scholarships.
Dayton Schroeter, AIA, Julian Arrington, and Chris Wood, SmithGroup
Dayton Schroeter, AIA
Dayton is a Design Principal who has championed Design Justice advocacy throughout his career at SmithGroup. As a leader of the firm’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, his charge is to lead design projects that address the systemic injustice that architecture and planning have perpetuated for historically disenfranchised communities of color. Leveraging his tenacious passion for design justice with authenticity and creativity, he is currently leading Antiracism efforts in design projects including an installation called Society’s Cage that sheds national awareness of the intersectional effects of racism on our society’s collective health, safety and welfare.
Julian Arrington, Associate AIA
Julian Arrington is a lead designer in SmithGroup’s DC Cultural Studio. A proud graduate of Howard University, Julian has shaped concepts for multiple museum projects including a museum to address the history of slavery in Richmond, Virginia, the Universal Hip Hop Museum, the Museum of Pop Culture and others. A proponent of community-informed design, Julian has helped to lead stakeholder-engagement efforts to craft designs that reflect the goals and aspirations of the people they serve.
Chris Wood, AIA LEED AP BD+C
Chris Wood has led all phases of museum and collections center work, from visioning and programming through construction. As director of the Cultural Studio at SmithGroup’s Washington, DC office, Chris has helped to sustain and build a team of interdisciplinary designers focused solely on Cultural work – something rarely found in the architectural field. He believes that focus is necessary to tackle the unique challenges inherent in these projects – successfully integrating the institutional mission, collections care, and the visitor experience.
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