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.


The studio will research and travel to two locations within the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor: Charleston County SC and St. Helena Island SC. The Sea Islands offer a unique location for the study of architecture and its role as a cultural signifier in our contemporary age. Within the region are canonical examples of Euro-American settlements which clearly established a formal and spatial identity for the United States, such as Savanah, GA and Charleston, SC as well as contemporary leisure towns such as Myrtle Beach, SC. Embedded within and on the peripheries of these locations exist African-American Gullah history, simultaneously intertwined. It is the purpose of both the research and the travel to reveal the remnants of that space and graphically communicate the information through critical architectural drawings, diagrams and models. This includes but is not limited to mapping(s) and analytic drawings/diagrams of material artifacts and places. Research will be conducted in teams of two or three and design projects will be individual.


There are two primary architectural issues engaged in the studio; a critique of historic and contemporary museum typology and the translation of cultural ideas into tectonic and spatial strategies. Students are tasked to create a formal introduction, a gateway, into the Gullah/Geechee corridor. The students are asked to design a multipurpose building with a hybrid program, that will operate between the typologies of museum, monument, memorial and functional structure (derived from the semester’s investigations) of approximately 40,000 s.f. not including outdoor space.

All Semesters

Fall 2019
Advanced Design Studio: Archipelago
Elia Zenghelis, Violette de la Selle
Fall 2018
Advanced Design Studio
Lyndon Neri, Rossana Hu, Andrew Benner
Fall 2016
The Aesthetics of Accelerationism
Michael Young
Fall 2015
Advanced Design Studio: Harlem Mart 125
Sara Caples, Everardo Jefferson, Jonathan Rose