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Bryan C. Lee Jr. is coming to Chattanooga to discuss with local architects, designers and residents how the city can use design as a form of protest. He will be leading events both Tuesday and Wednesday this week for the community.

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If you go:

Bryan C. Lee Jr. will host a workshop on Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 12-4 p.m. At the Barking Legs Theater at 1307 Dodds Ave. The public is invited.

Mouth Gremlin will host a dinner from 4-6 p.m. After the workshop.

Lee will then provide a keynote address from 6 - 7:30 p.m.

Lee will participate in a live interview at the Edney Innovation Center on Wednesday, Aug. 15, from 11:30-1 p.m.

 

 

Over a year ago, the city of New Orleans joined other cities nationwide in a movement to remove confederate monuments and memorials from public spaces, sparking backlash and protest from many residents.

In the Louisiana city hundreds of miles away from Chattanooga, Bryan C. Lee Jr., a young, black architect, saw the potential in turning these now vacant public spaces into something valuable that told the stories of the people, places and movements that have contributed to the city's rich history. This week, Lee will visit Chattanooga to spark a conversation among community members and residents on how Chattanooga can now use design as a form of protest against social, racial and political injustices.

The local chapter of The American Institute of Architects, or AIA, is organizing the event, which is hosted by Acme Brick Tile & Stone and a part of AIA's quarterly lecture series. Jared Hueter, president-elect of the local chapter and architect at the Workshop: Architecture firm, said that one of the organization's primary goals is to illustrate the importance of design and architecture in a community and how it impacts residents on a daily basis.

Hueter said Lee takes on some difficult and controversial issues, but it's something the industry needs and has needed for a while. Lee will be leading a workshop and keynote Tuesday and live interview on Wednesday at the Edney Innovation Center.

"Chattanooga has a very specific narrative that we tell over and over again that is very positive and sometimes leaves out those in the community not faring as well as others," Hueter said. "I think (Lee) can help us identify those issues and how we can approach them."

Lee answered a few questions by email ahead of the event. The young architect is founder of the nonprofit Colloqate, which was founded on the belief that for every injustice in the world, there is architecture that has been designed to perpetuate it. Lee said the nonprofit was born out of the "seemingly unending apathy" from his chosen profession on social justice issues.

"Our job is to not only recognize the injustice in our environment but actively seek to responsibly and beautifully neutralize it," he said about Colloqate.

Lee said he doesn't know a lot about Chattanooga, but he's interested in learning and building with the city, which he describes "at the intersection of racial justice centered theology and southern progressive politics."

'The beautiful thing about the 'design as protest' workshops is that we come in with no preconception (and) only a framework for community building that allows the existing community to clarify the power structures, the injustices, the physical manifestation and the opportunities to design a better block, neighborhood and city," he said.

The workshop is to help community members brainstorm ways the city can use design as a way to protest, but the brainstorming has already begun even ahead of the event. The local AIA chapter has placed signs around the city — in places like coffee shops, laundromats and elsewhere — that ask locals to write on the signs what social justice issue they think design should address in Chattanooga.

At the Velo Coffee Roasters off Main Street, people had ideas on the poster such as equal access to grocery stores and farmers markets, equity in education, people-centric transportation and affordable housing.

The quarterly series is not just meant to be a lecture series, and Hueter said the local AIA members are trying to find ways to turn ideas into action. For the series in November, Hueter said the focus will be on affordable housing.

"This isn't just about architecture," Hueter said. "It's helping people better understand design's power."

For more information about the events this week, visit AIA's Facebook page at facebook.com/aiachatt.

Contact staff writer Allison Shirk at ashirk@timesfreepress.com, @Allison_Shirk or 423-757-6651.

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