Located off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia exists a series of land masses known as the Sea Islands. Places such as Hilton Head are considered some of our country’s most desirable beach retreats. These islands are also the ancestral home of the Gullah/Geechee culture; an African-American people for whom these islands and the adjacent coastal areas became a region of refuge and cultural development. For over 70 years this once ‘relatively’ safe space of the Gullah/Geechee culture has been and continues to be under siege from developers and the cultural mores of racism and classism. The culture is disappearing and the legacy of a unique and vital culture is in danger of being erased. If the plight of the Gullah/ Geechee ancestral lands sounds familiar it is because it rings of the contemporary problem plaguing African-American communities across the nation generally referred to as gentrification. These lands are coastal lands that are also threatened by accelerated global climate change. The work in this studio will directly address the issues of cultural and environmental sustainability.
The studio will explore the notion that one source for architectural ideas is based in methodologies and concepts born from nurtured cultural proclivities and motivations. The culture we will explore is the Gullah/Geechee culture, an African-American culture that was able to survive semi-isolated for approximately 150 years. Language and sustenance are as important as the climate, landscape and artifacts within that landscape, in piecing together a contemporary cohesive sense of place.