Mabel O. Wilson



Mabel O. Wilson navigates her transdisciplinary practice Studio & between the fields of architecture, art, and cultural history. As the Nancy and George E. Rupp Professor, she teaches architectural design and architectural theory/history courses at Columbia University’s GSAPP, where she also directs the graduate program in Advanced Architectural Research. She co-directs GSAPP’s Global Africa Lab and the Project on Spatial Politics. She also holds an appointment as a Senior Fellow at GSAS’s Institute for Research in African American Studies. Mabel’s design experiments, scholarly research and advocacy projects focus upon space, politics and cultural memory in black America; raciality, technology, and aesthetics; and the globalization of architectural practice. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Virginia, a Master of Architecture from Columbia’s GSAPP and a Doctorate in American Studies from New York University.


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 abroad. Recent projects include the photo and video exhibition Listening There: Stories from Ghana with Peter Tolkin. She has been a competition finalist for several important cultural institutions including lower Manhattan’s African Burial Ground Memorial (with Paul Kariouk) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture (with Diller Scofido + Renfro). The 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 with Paul Kariouk, the (a)way station, is in the collection of SFMoMA. In 2011, United States Artists honored Mabel as a Ford Fellow in architecture and design. Her projects have been written about in The New York Times, Architect, Metropolis, The Architect’s Newspaper, Domus, L’Arca and dwell.


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 Design Observer Places, Elastic, ANY, Assemblage, and Public have published her critical commentaries. She has lectured widely on her work at The Menil Collection, Harvard University’s GSD, Princeton University, the Dia Foundation, ETH, Zurich and elsewhere in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and Africa.