Charles L. Davis II, PhD (MArch '02, BPS '00), is a leading scholar on race and architecture, a distinguished alumnus of UB, and former member of our faculty. He rejoins the Dean's Council after serving as one of its founding members, from 2013-17.
After serving on the faculty of UB's Department of Architecture from 2017-2022, Charles departed UB to join the University of Texas at Austin as associate professor of architectural history and criticism.
He received his PhD in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Arch and B.P.S. from the University at Buffalo. His academic research excavates the role of racial identity and race thinking in architectural history and contemporary design culture. He has published articles and essays in Architectural Research Quarterly, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Harvard Design Magazine, Log, Aggregate, Append-x and VIA.
Charles is currently working on two book projects. The first is a sole-authored monograph tentatively entitled “Black by Design: A Social History of Black Architectural Modernity," which recovers the overlooked contributions of Black artists and architects in shaping the built environment from the Harlem Renaissance to Black Lives Matter. It argues that Black social movements have radically shaped the built environment by bringing together licensed architects, patrons, activists and artists to achieve a social mission of betterment and equality in the face of anti-Black racism. This collaboration is a historical culmination of the expertise that Black communities have used to shape the built environment, from the Black master builder and the licensed architect to the socially progressive entrepreneur and radical homemaker. Extending authorship of the built environment beyond the professional architect enables us to tell the story of Black placemaking in a more holistic way.
A second book project is a co-edited volume that examines the racial underpinnings of the historiography of nineteenth-century American Architecture. This volume critiques the modernist bent of past history surveys to recover the contentious debates of American nationalism shaping the built environment: from U.S. sectionalism and the Civil War to the migration of nonwhite subjects in the wake of the Spanish-American War and the expansions of American imperialism, the nineteenth century was a period of debate and redefinition that should be reexamined for its influence on contemporary patterns of racialist and nationalist thought.