MoMA show will feature Prof. Barnes' designs

Special to UM News, 08-06-2020

Urban Porch Activities, by Professor Germane Barnes


By Steve Wright

Assistant Professor Germane Barnes will explore the expansive identity of blackness within the built environment as part of an exhibit opening in spring 2021 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

The exhibit, featuring 10 black architects-designers, was planned before the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people. It is much more relevant since the killing of George Floyd and the renewed fight for equity and equality.

“MoMA has the oldest (museum) architecture department in the country. It is supposed to be modern and less old guard than other museums. “(But) it’s my understanding that there are fewer than five works in their permanent collection from black artists & architects,” said Prof. Barnes, who also is Principal at Studio Barnes Design Firm in Miami. “That is both alarming and serious. This show is certainly a step in the right direction, but there needs to be continued efforts in this vein.”

Prof. Barnes has explored black culture themes in exhibits in Miami looking at the traditional use of the front porch and the dining table. He said all those ideas will be wrapped into his portion of the 10-artist show at MoMA.

The Chicago-native’s relocation to Miami, first to oversee a project and now to teach at the University of Miami School of Architecture, inspired his investigation of the “non-uniformity of blackness.”

“My exhibit will describe the spectrum of blackness in Miami,” he said. “It will highlight the diverse ethnicities found in Miami – such as Haitian, Dominican, Bahamian, Jamaican and Trinidadian. I’m creating original architectural installations that that explore the unique identities of these different cultures. I’m working with perspectives from each ethnicity – four of the 18 elements are created.”

Prof. Barnes said his exposure into so many rich cultures in Miami motivated him to look at what common building elements – such as the porch and the kitchen – mean in each culture.

“I literally asked a lot of friends. How does the kitchen function in your culture? What does the porch and the way it allows you to interact with neighbors mean to you?,” he said.

Steve Wright (@stevewright64) is a Pulitzer-nominated, award-winning writer who blogs daily at: