These days in several American big cities started a process of removing Confederate monuments, statues and flags. Appeals to demount Confederate symbols became loud after a high frequency of crimes for racist reasons. City government decided to replace most controversial monuments to museums as it may help reduce the amount of violence towards other race representatives. However, blank spaces always find a substitute to fill in with. What will it be and how to keep the conversation going is the subject of genuine interest of an architect from New Orlean, Bryan C. Lee Jr.


 Architecture as a new language

Bryan C. Lee Jr. is young and prominent New Orleans-based architectural designer, artist, writer and social justice defender. His main principle is to promote diversity and present design process as an effective mean of changes for communities needs. The socially responsible orientation of his professional interest makes him involved in several art projects, promoting essential diversity and humanistic ideas.

Lee also founded his own design firm Colloqate Design in order to coalesce the efforts to fight the racism in the built environment. In addition, he built a local chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects in New Orlean and runs a youth program Project Pipeline, which offers architecture camps for young people of colour to give them experience, he didn’t have himself as a kid. He is much concerned about education activity thereby as a member of the Art Council of New Orlean established an educational program giving young people design skills, which will be a basis useful for developing their own communities in future.

Behind the name of the firm Colloqate Design is Lees philosophy of “colloquial architecture”, where buildings act as language, so that one can be easily manipulated by those, who know what these built words mean. This divergence can easily be detected in the public squares of New Orleans, where Confederate statues were standing for years. Lee’s message is to stop operating phenomena, which has something to do with violence.

“When we make decisions that do embody hatred, whether we mean to or not, it allows for society to grow along those frameworks. Our job should be to acknowledge them and counteract them and produce things that elevate the welfare of the constituents that we serve.”

As part of the philosophy in 2017, Lee offered a new initiative, which helps change the face of New Orleans authority.

Designing a justice

To help society facilitate the conversation on history and controversial social issues and support progressive steps towards equality and diversity Lee launched the Design Justice Platform in 2016. The idea is to perform Justice like a Hippocratic oath for architects by making it a part of health, safety and welfare credo which is already embodied in architecture.

He started from a workshop Design as Protest, which later transferred into a series of workshops and later became Design Justice platform, which has a plenty of creators, designers, community activists working under one roof, bringing up ideas and creating material for raising new society. It is not only a community of enterprising and talented people but a platform where they can share their opinions on issues like immigration, education and racial injustice in a structured way. Opinions can have both written and oral form. The second one is presented by open studio sessions, where participants have a dialogue touching issues, which bother the US society a lot. The dialogue involves common visitors, who discuss the problem in their own community afterwards. As the result, the dialogue usually ends up with some sort of conclusion or solution.


Monuments as a narration

As the reaction on recent happenings in big US cities, Lee performed another project called Paper Monuments. The founder meant to give citizens opportunity to re-imagine the way the modern monuments and space near them look like. The project also draws public attention to stories, which later become codified in space.

The Paper Monuments is a series of posters all over the city dedicated to people, places, events and even monuments of the city history.

“When we make decisions that do embody hatred, whether we mean to or not, it allows for society to grow along those frameworks. Our job should be to acknowledge them and counteract them and produce things that elevate the welfare of the constituents that we serve.”

The posters are made for everyone. People may come and grab one what, according to Lee’s philosophy, means that a visual image will be plastered on a narrative. The stories the posters illustrate should both affect and give some substantive information so that it keeps society discussing those issues. Project’s designers grab stories which, in their opinion, influenced both city history and its image and serve it in the way they see it themselves.

To sustain a dialogue between citizens and project’s activist people are asked for their opinions and proposals around paper monuments. The definition Paper monuments is not accidental. On the one hand, there is a temporal meaning which paper has itself, Paper monument is more like a project, sketch, something quite opposite to monumental statues. On the other hand, paper has something to do with identity. Papers are asked to prove your identity or place where you belong. Combining both clusters Paper Monuments is a way to draw your identity, plan history and project the city the way you want to see it.

All the proposals will be considered and used afterward as a basis of future changes in the city.

“We’re urging people to be a part of this because it’s not about the symbol only. It’s about the systems that the symbols represent, and how we can build into our culture, our public spaces, and our history the stories that we want to be long-term”.

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