Weekend News Roundup – August 20, 2021

UP FRONT

On August 5, the board of directors of the California chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA CA) declared a climate emergency to “immediately accelerate the de-carbonization of the built environment.” Their measures and recommendations include developing policies that encourage adaptive reuse of existing buildings over new construction.The announcement came just days before the release of a sobering report by the UN Panel on Climate Change. If you’d like to read the report–which, fair warning, is NOT a fun weekend read–you can find it here

President Biden has nominated Charles Sams for Director of the National Park Service. The agency has been without a director for more than four years. 

CREATIVE PRESERVATION

A preserved 18th century farmhouse in Philadelphia is serving as a vessel to interpret layered Black histories through an artistic collaboration by Black Quantum Futurism. The project draws on real histories of Black Philadelphians who are often left out of histories and narrative. “We have to speculate as Black people on our histories and on our futures, because we’re so often cut off from the future, so often left out of history, and so often compressed into the present,” Rasheedah Phillips, one of the collaborators, told WHYY. 

In St. Louis, a nonprofit called Dream Builders 4 Equity is engaging, educating, and employing young people in the redevelopment of their communities. The organization offers a comprehensive summer program combining youth jobs, leadership development, vacant property rehabilitation, support for minority contractors, financial empowerment, and arts-based entrepreneurship.

The historic Second Baptist Church in St. Louis church could become a museum and education center dedicated to the history of gospel music. A group of local developers plans to raise at least $22 million to convert the church, located in the Central West End near Delmar Boulevard, into a gospel music hall of fame that would also include a performance space, movie theater and production soundstage.

DIVERSE HERITAGE

In Pittsburgh, an effort to save a former headquarters for a Black opera house faces challenges as the property continues to deteriorate. Named one of the nation’s most endangered places by the Na­tional Trust for His­toric Pres­er­va­tion, the Queen Anne-style home welcomed Black musicians, entertainers and other celebrities since 1941 as the headquarters of the National Negro Opera Company. It was abandoned in the 1970s, falling into disrepair, until it was recently purchased by Jonnet Solomon, who plans to restore it.

Earlier this month, Denver City Council voted to approve designation of the La Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood as a historic cultural district. The district will be the second cultural district in the city and comes after years of work alongside families and longtime community members in the area. 

Colonial Williamsburg is uncovering America’s hidden queer history. Through a Gender and Sexual Diversity Research Committee, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is uncovering the hidden history and personal stories of queer Williamsburg and other colonies. 

FUN READS

CityLab published an ode to the Plexes of Montreal–the narrow and deep buildings of stacked apartments that came to dominate Montreal home construction in the second half of the 19th century and remains ubiquitous.

Atlas Obscura brings a fun photo story about photographer Barry Gfeller, who somewhat mysteriously devoted his time to making thousands of photographs of towns in the United States and Canada. 

Mexican historians offer a more nuanced and accurate reflection on the 500 year anniversary of the 1521 Aztec surrender to the Spanish. As the author notes, “Scholars very seldom speak with one voice, but there is broad consensus that understanding the events of 500 years ago as a binary clash between ‘Spaniards’ and ‘Natives’ is simply wrong.”