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The Africatown International Design Idea Competition Submissions Imagine An Afrocentric Future for Mobile’s Historic, Global Community

(Mobile, AL, May 19, 2023) — The designs are in to The Africatown International Design Idea Competition, the world’s first multi-site design challenge centered on Afrocentric visuals and architecture, created to benefit a specific Black Space: Africatown, a globally significant, yet highly under-served heritage community in
desperate need of historic preservation and community regeneration.

According to
organizers M.O.V.E. Gulf Coast CDC and studio|rotan, the designs and essays submitted to the Competition are as spectacular as the initial 2018 Clotilda Discovery (publicly confirmed in Spring 2019), which launched their unique and innovative problem-solving tool for the Africatown community five years ago.
For the designers and the Competition organizers alike, this architectural challenge represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apply African/African-American aesthetics to a uniquely historical, globally significant community. Africatown is the only 19th-century settlement created by a group of Africans, among the 110
souls who were pirated to Mobile, Alabama, from Dahomey (present-day Benin) as human cargo aboard Clotilda, the last known ship that sailed to Africa in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The Competition website received more than 21,000 page views from countries around the world — from Andorra, Australia, Barbados, Benin, China and Cyprus to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It logged 118 registrations, with 169 design boards and 142 pages of essays from 23 final submissions for the 4 Sites outlined in the challenge, which touches 3 cities and connects 2 continents.

As Professional Competition Advisor, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Associate AIA/NOMA, expertly orchestrated the challenge. The master urban planner /design activist is CEO of studio|rotan, the Birmingham, AL-based cultural heritage/civic design firm that specializes in achieving design excellence for clients with complex projects.

“The designers responded exceptionally well to the challenges posed to them in the design briefs,” says Kemp-Rotan, who conceived the Competition and wrote its program. “The level of thoughtfulness these designers put into their culturally-relevant, world-class concepts and essays will elevate the conversations about how this unique global community we call Africatown can look as its leaders, residents and supporters plan its future.”

In 2018, M.O.V.E. Gulf Coast CDC commissioned studio|rotan to organize M.O.V.E.’s vision for a unified Africatown redevelopment strategy that builds on the community’s own past, present and future plans. Its vision leverages the extraordinary Clotilda Discovery to jumpstart the process via cultural heritage tourism.

“We believe that, without a unifying vision behind Africatown’s community plans — which must be coupled with powerful visual concepts that people can dream about and manifest — the people there will continue to suffer,” says Vickii Howell, M.O.V.E.’s President/CEO. “Seeing is believing. The power of design can inspire strategic actions that people living in this under-served community can take to improve their own condition.”

New York-based architect Jack Travis, FAIA NOMAC, will lead the 16-member jury panel of architectural professionals, Africatown leaders, Clotilda Descendants, and community advocates to review the designs and essays submitted to the Competition. The jury will choose the winning teams or individuals, who will receive cash prizes totaling up to $100,000, provided by Better Place Foundation. Their winning designs will be showcased during the Competition Awards Ceremony on Juneteenth (June 19th) 2023 in Mobile, Alabama.

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