Mabel O. Wilson


Studio &, founded by Mabel O. Wilson, is a collaborative transdisciplinary practice whose projects and scholarly research navigate between the fields of architecture, art, and cultural history.  Mabel's writings, design, art and curatorial projects investigate space, politics and cultural memory in black America; race and modern architecture; new technologies and the social production of space; and visual culture in contemporary art, film and new media. 


Mabel’s practice works on speculative design, multi media installations, and built projects. Ongoing projects include Who Builds Your Architecture? an advocacy project about design and construction workers rights worldwide. WBYA?'s research was recently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago and the collaborative recently published the WBYA? Critical Field GuideMarching On, a collaboration with Bryony Roberts and commissioned by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, was recently performed by the Marching Cobras in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park as part of Performa 17. She is currently part of a team with Höweler and Yoon the is completing designs for the University of Virginia's Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers. She has been a competition finalist for several important cultural institutions including lower Manhattan’s African Burial Ground Memorial and the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture (with Diller Scofido + Renfro). The Art Institute of Chicago, Istanbul Design Bienale, Wexner Center for the Arts, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s Triennial, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and SF Cameraworks have exhibited her installations and projects. Her multimedia work, the (a)way station, is in the collection of SFMoMA. She was recently one of twelve curators contributing to MoMA’s current exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Architecture.”


Mabel has authored Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016) for Smithsonian Press. In 2012, the University of California Press published Mabel’s cultural history Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums. Yale University Art Historian Kobena Mercer praised Negro Building as a “highly original study of the role of world's fairs in the making of a black public sphere [that] vividly illuminates the transition from Reconstruction to Afro-Modernity with page-turning brilliance.” Her scholarly essays have appeared in books on art, architecture, critical geography, and memory studies. Journals and magazines such as Artforum, Journal for Society of Architectural Historians, Places, eflux, Harvard Design Magazine, Elastic, ANY, Assemblage, and Public have published her critical commentaries and essays. She has lectured widely on her work at universities, community organizations and museums across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Africa. 


In fall 2017, Mabel served on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers.  For 2016 she was named a YBCA 100, an annual list of inspirational creative minds put together by San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  In 2011, United States Artists honored Mabel as a Ford Fellow in architecture and design. She has served on numerous advisory boards, juries and panels for organizations and institutions in architecture, the arts and humanities.


As a Professor of Architecture, Mabel teaches architectural design and architectural theory/history courses at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she co-directs GSAPP’s Global Africa Lab. She also serves as the Associate Director for the Institute for Research in African American Studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Virginia, a Master of Architecture from Columbia’s GSAPP and a Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University.