History Doesn’t Exist


Wai Architecture Think Tank Funambulist
Designed as part of WAI’s Manual of Anti-Racist Architecture Education (2020), rather than being a definite device for the reading of history, this map proposes to stimulate the anti-racist, ant-ableist, anti-capitalist, transfeminist imaginations as we continue to dream other forms of architecture and other worlds that are possible, urgent, and necessary.

HISTORY DOESN’T EXIST. Historical narratives do really exist, like propaganda: though rendered with ideology, they are real productions that satisfy the positions of settler-colonization, ruling classes, capitalism, white-supremacy, and heteropatriarchy. Architectural History™, which organizes the reduction of systems of extraction, accumulation, capture, and predation to white-washed accounts of style, aestheticized movements, and depoliticized asymmetrical power relations, is incapable of presenting a critical account of its alliance with systems of human oppression and ecological spoliation. Architectural theory has been its masterpiece. At the root of the canonized architectural history lie a thousand theories that reinforce the status quo. As hegemomic regimes shape and fund architectural histories and theories that multiply like trees in a forest, anti-racist forms of historical narrative must dig down into the soil of ideology and address architecture’s white-supremacist, capitalist, and heteropatriarchal roots. Among these, the multiple iterations of Charles Jencks’ “Evolutionary Tree” highlight the construction of historical narratives that overemphasize Eurocentric worldviews, while overlooking and erasing the systems of extraction that have historically fueled, funded, and shaped them.

Through an anti-racist approach, this chronocartography rethinks the concept of the ‘evolutionary tree’ by re-centering three global anti-Black regimes in relationship to events, institutions, inventions, and propositions. By including Jim Crow in USA, Apartheid in South Africa, and White Australia Policy in Australia, the diagram invites a more critical understanding of historical matter and its relationship to architecture during the last 140 years. By decentering uncritical readings of whiteness and highlighting regimes of anti-Black oppression, the diagram connects the history of colonialism and imperialism, the construction of architectural and urban institutions, and the ongoing struggles of those historically left out of mainstream narratives of history.

Just as it displays how Philip Johnson attended a Hitler Youth Rally the same year that he founded the Architecture Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the graphic also creates a continuous current between subversive, anticolonial, and anti-capitalist imaginations that bind the Loudreaders in the Tobacco Factories at the beginning of the 20th Century with forms of indigenous resistance, police and carceral abolitionism, and transfeminist rights in 2021.