The Brave Architect

Liz Ogbu CMU SOARCH Spring 2020

Liz Ogbu at the Kresge Theater of CMU, for the Spring 2020 School of Architecture Lecture Series

Liz Ogbu from Studio O was the second speaker of the CMU School of Architecture Spring 2020 Lecture Series

To start at the end, her lecture culminated with a poem titled “Invitation to Brave Space” written by Micky ScottBey Jones. Liz reminded us that, as architects, we have the power to change the spaces, and thus the lives of people inhabiting them. She urged us to be brave architects ourselves and to become accomplices – not just unintentional actors – of the communities we impact with our projects. “Cutting ribbons at public openings is not enough”, she warned us. 

Her own practice constantly deals with spatial and racial injustice and the connection between the two. Through a visualization exercise, she explained how space is an armature for us and how entire communities suffer if that armature is broken. Yet, discomfort is a starting point for healing and Liz is brave enough to start right where it hurts the most. 

She has been involved in projects inside and outside of the US and usually dedicates lots of time to community listening sessions. She has talked openly about how sometimes these are venting sessions for the residents of suffering neighborhoods, but that holding these sorts of events is how you build relationships and trust with communities: one meeting at the time. “More interactions, less transactions,” is almost a motto for her. 

Liz Ogbu invited everybody to work for what she called the “collective justice” and showed us how she has been doing it over the years. There is an hilarious short graphic novel titled “Rick and Dick – a Visual Primer for Social Impact Design” that you can find on her website. Spoiler alert: It is about how to “be a Rick and not a Dick” when it comes to involving the community. Her point is that you cannot avoid listening to people and you always have to put your skin in the game. 

Image from Liz Ogbu’s website; project by the Equity Collective and illustrator Ping Zhu

Liz Ogbu’s work can be followed on social medias at @lizogbu and on her website 

Invitation to Brave Space

Together we will create brave space

Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” —

We exist in the real world

We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.

In this space

We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,

We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,

We call each other to more truth and love

We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow. We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.

We will not be perfect.

This space will not be perfect.

It will not always be what we wish it to be


It will be our brave space together,


We will work on it side by side.

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