By JENNIFER BOSCIA SMITH
Published May 5, 2023
Students in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning will have the opportunity to explore questions of social equity in architecture with visiting scholars over the next three years, thanks to a new fund established by faculty member Despina Stratigakos.
The Despina Stratigakos Visiting Fellowship will support research on the built environment as a vehicle for the creation of more inclusive communities, with a focus on gender and sexuality in architecture. A writer, historian and educator, Stratigakos has also gifted more than 150 books from her own shelves to form the Despina Stratigakos Women in Architecture Book Collection in the UB Libraries. The collection will serve as a resource for fellows and the public.
Stratigakos, whose research examines how power and ideology function in architecture, says it’s incumbent upon the field to understand how inequities based on wealth, race, gender and physical ability are reinforced by patterns of land use and ownership, the organization of cities, and the design of space and place.
A former vice provost for inclusive excellence, Stratigakos stepped down from that post last year to return to her position as a professor in the Department of Architecture. A prodigious scholar, she has spent the past 20 years working to diversify the field of architecture through scholarship and public advocacy.
Fellowships will be awarded in each of the next three years to a candidate determined by the dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. Visiting fellows are also supported by a match grant from the chair of the Department of Architecture. The position invites fellows to mine the Stratigakos book collection in their research and develop a public event fostering dialogue on equity in architecture.
“In this moment of societal change, I realized I had a resource in my living room, which was the last 30 years of collecting books focusing on women and sexuality in architecture,” says Stratigakos. “Without intending to, I had created this unique collection. I realized what I had needed to be in a library. That is something I could give to our students and faculty.”
After donating the books, Stratigakos started thinking about a greater purpose for the collection and how to make them more accessible. “We are in a moment when people are hungry for this knowledge, so establishing a fellowship entices those who are interested in this area to come to UB. The books become a vehicle for conversations,” she says.
Stratigakos says her inspiration to give stems from the belief that faculty can contribute to their universities beyond scholarship and teaching, noting that providing philanthropic support is an “opportunity to entrench the progress that we want to see, and to solidify what we’ve been pushing through our scholarship and community work.”
The inaugural Stratigakos Fellow is Adam Thibodeaux, UB clinical assistant professor of architecture, whose work centers on the uncovering, preservation and reclamation of architecture that once sheltered populations marginalized by difference.
An avid contributor to inclusive design and social justice, Thibodeaux pursues his research through built works, public installations, writing and grassroots activism. As part of the fellowship, Thibodeaux will present “Queer(ing) Space," the 2023 Stratigakos Symposium June 3 at Kingfish, a queer-focused project space he directs on Buffalo's West Side that builds on the premise that queer spaces are not created but rather put to queer use, examining “queer” methods of intervention through appropriation, deconstruction and activism.
The symposium will open a month-long exhibition featuring student-led interviews with six authors from the Stratigakos Collection and work from three graduate architecture seminars on inclusive design.
Stratigakos says the fellowship will foster new conversations among the architecture and planning community about the direction of their fields.
“How amazing to bring that conversation here to Buffalo,” she says. “These are points of view that are being curated by others — and in ways that I would not have thought of myself. I would love for our students to take away a very solid foundation and strong tools to immediately participate in the conversations around diversity that are happening [in the industry].”
Korydon Smith, professor and chair of architecture, lauded Stratigakos for her support of new research and public dialogue on equity in architecture.
“I’m very grateful to Despina. Her reputation and work on gender in architecture is well known and well regarded. Having the opportunity to bring in new fellows allows us to add an external perspective and fresh ideas on topics that we care about,” adds Smith, who is also founding co-director of UB’s Community for Global Health Equity.
Smith says the Department of Architecture will seek future fellows who specialize in gender and sexuality in the built environment and can advance synergies in research, teaching and the public mission of UB.
Stratigakos’ gift also supports the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, Boldly Buffalo, which is seeking to raise a billion dollars to elevate student success, empower faculty research and drive change in the Western New York community and around the world.