Wilkins Featured In The Detroit News, "Smithsonian Honors Detroiter as Visionary Mind"
Craig L. Wilkins, lecturer in architecture, has been honored as one of 11 recipients of the 2017 Smithsonian National Design Award and has been featured for his work in a Detroit News article “Smithsonian Honors Detroiter as ‘Visionary Mind.'”
The article describes Wilkins’ work and impact within architecture and urban studies for the past two decades. The director of the Cooper Hewitt Museum Caroline Baumann explains that the award is given “in recognition of a visionary who has had a profound impact of design theory, practice, or public awareness…[and] has elevated our understanding of what great American design is and what it can do.”
The article features several video clips of Wilkins speaking about architectural design in relation to Detroit. Reacting to the disparity between the Detroit of new development and the Detroit of crime and failing school systems, Wilkins says, “ You can provide access for all kinds of people to live here -- not just one side. But you have to want all types of people.”
Wilkins' writings have focused on the ability of hip hop culture and technique to be a model for architectural design. In this way, a designer “explores the fluid, improvisational nature of the genre and tries to apply it in the design of buildings and spaces in urban neighborhoods and communities.”
He explains this idea in another portion of the article:
The Dequindre Cut Greenway offers a perfect example, he said, as he sat near the Wilkins Street entrance of the two-mile pedestrian-bike path built on a former Grand Trunk Railroad line. The greenway is considered by many an urban oasis, he added, with its smooth, clean asphalt path that is below street level and often surrounded by walls of graffiti and art that was created when it was an illegal gathering spot.
“I’m a big fan of the Cut,” Wilkins said. “It’s taken space that was abandoned, that was considered disposable, and turned it into to an amenity for the city. That is sort of the core of hip hop culture.
“When people began re-appropriating the space unofficially — against the rules of the city; graffiti artists, other painters, people just running there — all of a sudden, folks started to see this can possibly be something good.”
The principle of this idea is that hip hop originated as an experimentation with record-playing turntables, which were considered disposable after the rise of CDs and tapes. Primarily black and latino artists used these disposable tools to make something new, much like an architecture that takes abandoned or underused spaces and makes them an amenity for the public. This idea was first published in Wilkin’s article “(W)rapped Space: The Architecture of Hip Hop.”
Wilkins has continued to write about Hip Hop Architecture as well as advocate within Urban and Architectural Design and research the relationships between race, class, and the built environment.
Craig Wilkins will be awarded and celebrated at the Cooper Hewitt Museum Awards Ceremony in New York on Thursday, October 19th, 2017. The event will award the achievements of 11 individuals promoting excellence and innovation, with Wilkins being honored with the “Design Mind” title.