Imani Day

Design Teaching Fellow, Dept of Architecture, Cornell AAP

  • March 4-22, 2024

  • John Hartell Gallery, Sibley Hall

Imani Day
is a licensed architect, writer, and founder of RVSN Studios. In 2015, Day moved to Detroit at the height of the city’s bankruptcy to focus on community-oriented work, designing and building socially inclusive spaces across multiple different scales of impact. Her interests and advocacy efforts support the equitable evolution of under-resourced neighborhoods, the authenticity of culturally grounded spaces, and revising design processes to focus on tangible social progress. 

Dialectics is an exploration of coded graphic language; it is an interrogation of the reciprocal relationship between architectural representation and the rich traditions of quilting as defiant forms of communication and resistance within the context of the African American experience. These seemingly disparate disciplines have inherent potential to be social vehicles for preserving stories, building community, and asserting agency in response to economic and social subjugation. This exhibition will examine the tectonics and complexities of creating quilts as neighborhood relics and identify means of using architecture as a conduit for broader cultural transmission and continuity.

Central to Dialectics is the concept of a proposed dialogue between architectural and textile-based practices. Through interpreted oral histories of the Underground Railroad Quilt Code, several quilt patterns were used as mapping to discreetly direct runaway enslaved people to the next steps on their journey to freedom. Along their path, the tenth pattern, called “tumbling blocks”, suggested a spatial, three-dimensional optical illusion of stacked boxes and was often hung from fences as a warning sign to “box up” and keep moving.

Drawing upon ideas of continual movement, displacement, erasure, and black neighborhood resilience, the possibilities of utilizing quilting as a modern-day, materialized mechanism of anchoring and place-keeping offer a new depth to which communal creative practice may be integrated into architectural form. The various patterns highlight how quilting techniques, infused with multi-faceted symbolism, share a similar disposition as a tool of survival and quotidian utility in the face of precarity. 

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