Africatown shot to the forefront of the world’s consciousness with the sensational May 2019 discovery of the sunken slave ship Clotilda in the Mobile River Delta. It illegally brought 110 kidnapped West Africans to America’s shores in 1860. After a short enslavement, and unable to return home, 32 of the Africans formed and governed their own community in 1865. Their descendants and the community they founded exist today, but Africatown suffers from generations of benign neglect and industrial encroachment.
The Africatown International Design Idea Competition leverages the spectacular Clotilda find to give multi-disciplinary design teams a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to imagine a revived Africatown, with 16 land and water-edged venues on 4 sites across 3 cities that interpret and honor its history.
Taken together, the 16 venues are destined to constitute a major new cultural heritage tourism destination system called The Africatown Cultural Mile™. We believe it can attract millions of visitors and generate billions of dollars in revenue for the economy of Africatown, the Cities of Prichard and Chickasaw, and the greater Mobile region.
African forms for African communities.
Jack Travis, FAIA NOMAC, JURY PANEL CHAIR
Connect the dots
The Africatown Cultural Mile™ will be a network of well-designed cultural amenities—welcome center and museums, Clotilda boathouse, performing arts venues, signature spa hotel, water taxis, boutique retail, restaurants and more—across 3 cities in the Mobile area. All are connected by Africatown’s unique history. Collectively, they can be among the biggest cultural heritage tourism assets in the State of Alabama.
Besides tourism amenities, the Idea Competition also seeks well-designed concepts for community amenities like new housing, school updates, and green spaces that attract new Africatown residents, who can reinvigorate under-served neighborhoods in and near The Africatown Cultural Mile™. All things work seamlessly together to create equitable collective social impact for Africatown and its environs.
This multi-site Idea Competition seeks architectural concepts using African design principles, creative placemaking and world-class destination planning. Winning designs should: honor the Africatown story; anchor current and future redevelopment plans; preserve Africatown’s unique cultural identity; and spark community economic revitalization.
Designs should incorporate the latest digital technologies, imbued with “Wakanda Forever” Afrofuturistic sensibilities. Additionally, LEED® architectural standards and ways to produce sustainable green energy solutions are encouraged.
The Africatown International Design Idea Competition’s 16-member jury panel (8 design professionals, 8 local leaders and professionals) is headed by Jack Travis, FAIA NOMAC. The architect, author and educator deeply explores Afri-cultural mores, specializing in architecture and interiors fused with African iconography. He founded The Studio for Afrofuturism in Architecture and Design. He runs workshops on Afrocentric design themes and on black communities, with a focus on social directives.
Africatown was built by the hands of Africans who come to the Americas with thousands of years of science embedded in their DNA, not only the science of tilling the soil for nutrients for our bodies, but scientific knowledge of shaping the soil into architectural monuments.
Nmadili Okwumabua, NOMA, JUROR, Founder, Community Planning & Design Initiative Africa (CDPI Africa)
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Organizers & sponsors
“Africatown enshrines & preserves the indomitable spirit of our ancestors. That it continues to exist, validates the genius of its builders, the embodiment of their West African spirituality, intelligence & skills. Thus, Africatown is an American ode to Africa, a symbol of resiliency in the face of slavery’s treachery. Africatown is an example of community-building in the 19th century and the Africatiown International Design Idea Competition is a blueprint for its revitalization in the 21st century.”
Dr. Natalie S. Robertson, JUROR, Author
The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Making of Africatown USA: Spirit of Our Ancestors
© 2018-2020. The Africatown International Design Idea Competition.
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