Faculty members Menna Agha and Ozayr Saloojee contribute to Places Journal series on Design Activism

January 11, 2023

Assistant Professor Menna Agha and Associate Professor Ozayr Saloojee are among the contributors to a series published by Places Journal on meaningful change across design pedagogy and practice.


The seven-part narrative survey, Field Notes: Design Activism, features short articles from more than six dozen designers and design educators worldwide. They share perspectives on the issues they consider most urgent and offer ideas for specific actions and practical interventions.


Places, a journal of public scholarship on architecture, landscape and urbanism, asks: “How is the field responding to the interlocking wicked problems that define our time — climate crisis, structural racism, unaffordable housing, rapid technological shifts? To the increasingly passionate campaigns to decolonize the canon, to make schools and offices more equitable, ethical, and diverse?”


Dr. Agha co-wrote an article with Jess Myers, an assistant professor of architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, titled The Cluster Hires Will Not Be Silenced, which discusses their situation as new members of faculty in architecture schools.

The piece speaks from their experience in university structures which as they put it, “are not ready for us.” Brought in to address deep imbalances in race, gender, and class, the authors point out that simply hiring a few people does not bring about social justice or effect change in institutional structures.


“But, to be clear, this trend is not a blessing bestowed on us by White university systems,” they write. “It is rather a result of pressure by Black, Brown, and Indigenous protest movements that rendered our political agendas unavoidable and unsilenceable — in concert with students’ demands for faculty who share their political commitments to a just future and the expansion of architectural knowledge.”


To see the full text, scroll down to the third article here. 


In his piece, Tenure and adjunct systems are colliding, Dr. Saloojee writes about the need to address low wages and job insecurity among adjunct faculty, contract instructors, and graduate students who teach in architecture schools.


“Current institutional infrastructures of higher education, radically transformed over the last 40 years by neoliberal and market austerities in both the United States and Canada, put (and keep) precarious faculty in profoundly destabilizing and extractive conditions,” he writes.


“It’s an issue of human and labour rights, of basic and elemental justice, of equitable pay, collective bargaining, the protection of intellectual property.”


To read it, scroll down to the fourth article here.


For the November 2022 survey, Places editors asked survey participants:

• If you were writing a handbook for design activism, what would be your #1 area of profound urgency?

• What would be your #1 tactical, practical suggestion for grappling with that urgency?


Field Notes contributors responded with reports on studios and syllabi; recommendations regarding political and institutional responsibility; reflections on historical precedents; calls to reshape relations between designers and clients, universities and scholars, firms and employees, the work of building, and the work of care and repair.


Here’s the link to the complete series: https://placesjournal.org/series/field-notes-design-activism/