Unearthing the Black Aesthetic

“Unearthing The Black Aesthetic” highlights South Central Los Angeles’ (or Black Los Angeles’) unique positioning as a dynamic hub of Black culture and creativity. While every historically Black neighborhood in Los Angeles has experienced displacement, Watts was hit particularly hard. As more and more Black Angelenos are forced for one reason or another to relocate, we are losing our history and connection to Los Angeles. As a way to fight this gentrification, we are developing an architectural language derived from Black culture.  

Until 1968, Black people had no rights to own property in Los Angeles, while others began the race of acquiring land in 1492, building homes and communities in their image, we started running 476 years after the race began. How then can we advance the development of a Black aesthetic in architecture? 

This project, most importantly, is a collaboration with the community in Watts. We have spoken with members about the design and approach to this new aesthetic that will be for us, and by us. Our goal is for us to take control of our image in architecture; To elevate, not denigrate Black life and culture. Ultimately, we envision repeating this process in 9 historically Black cities in America to develop this architectural language, that will vary based on the history and specificities of Black culture in each area. The Black Aesthetic highlights global design, music, art, fashion, and academia, addressing past and future opportunities open to a diverse populace. It also presents Black culture as a unique framework uniting the hearts and minds of a global community.

Project Goals are as follows:

Build a house that captures, speaks to, is developed from, Black culture specifically based off of the values, norms, morals, and lifestyles of Black people in Watts, CA. Watts has a motto- We Are Taught To Survive (WATTS). Instead of being taught to survive based on the small number of resources available to them, the house will be able to teach them how to thrive. With solar power, water collection, and sustainable building methods. The house will serve as a live-work unit for a new artist residency program where the resident will live and work. 

Build a fence The fence line along the front yard is 253’ long. Instead of the common fence seen in Watts, we will build an interactive fence that includes: 

1-Canvases for the local artists to display quarterly exhibits. 

2-A free outdoor library for the community to take and give books. 

3-A hanging garden with free fruits, vegetables, and spices as well as seeds and pamphlets on how to start to grow their own. Watts is a food desert and only has 1 grocery store where the community can get fresh fruit and vegetables from. In order for the community to self sustain and thrive, they need to be able to depend on themselves for resources as much as possible. 

GoFundMe Donors: If you give $150 or more you will receive a print by Demar Matthew’s (Project Designer) as a thank you gift. 

TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS: If you or your organization are interested in becoming a project sponsor please message us for an official sponsorship packet and to give through the A+D Museum, a 501c3 non-profit fiscal sponsor.

This project is the conceived of and organized by OffTop Design, The A+D Museum is participating as the Fiscal Sponsor. 

Project Partners:

Demar Matthews, Project Designer

Janine Watkins, Property Owner

Dreamhaus, Art & Exhibitions Directors

Robert Clarke, Architectural Designer


JULY 2020