Germane Barnes, the self-identified manga nerd behind this year’s futuristic Lexus LED and Steel pavilion at Design Miami, has been quietly working to disrupt the architectural field in the United States for about the past decade or so. The Chicago native knew he wanted to be an architect as a child, but first pursued the law to appease his wary parents of architects. He returned to the design path, knowing that this was where his heart really was, and went on to earn a BA in Architecture from the University of Illinois and an MA from Woodbury University. He founded his own design company, Studio Barnes in 2016, became Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Miami in 2019 and this year won the prestigious Wheelwright Prize, an honor bestowed by the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. His practice centers on “cultural identity and space and how these cultural practices materialize in constructed form,” and he explores these ideas through commercial and residential projects and facilities and settings. research-based work.

For the Lexus Pavilion (which sponsored a press trip to Design Miami that ELLE DECOR attended), Barnes sought to conjure a carbon-free future with its new electrified vehicles. We sat down with him to find out what turns his wheels, drives his work and keeps him inspired.

ELLE DECOR: You obviously love architecture from a young age. When did you become fascinated by buildings?

Germaine barnes: Most of the time, it was just being a kid in Chicago. When you live in such a large and diverse city, you see it everywhere. You play in a park in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright house, or your mom works at Sears [now Willis] Tower. When I was a kid my siblings and I also used to play “this is my house”; as we drove down the street we would point out beautiful homes and claim them as our own.

Barnes’ installation for Lexus at Design Miami this month.

Courtesy of Lexus

ED: How would you rewrite or adjust the architectural canon as you understand it?

FR : People have always sidestepped this question — I think they are afraid of my answer. I don’t think the barrel should be erased; I just think it needs to be expanded. We have this Eurocentric idea of ​​what architecture is meant to be, and it’s a very, very small representation of a field that is actually very diverse. The refuge has been around since the dawn of time, and you’re trying to tell me that places in sub-Saharan or South America do not have a material culture when it comes to architecture?

ED: Very true! What are some of the specific Miami architectural issues that you are grappling with?

FR : Many of them deal with built up space and the number of individuals originally from Black Miami who are constantly displaced or displaced, either due to segregation, exclusionary policies or “climate gentrification”. [a type of gentrification in which housing prices spike in neighborhoods less vulnerable to climate change]. This is another reason why my partnership has worked so well with Lexus: When black neighborhoods are torn apart to build freeways, the carbon emissions from those freeways impact the black people remaining in those areas.

I don’t think the barrel should be erased; I just think it needs to be expanded.

ED: How is your research process going?

FR : There are still a significant number of community meetings. I’m talking to local elders — they can be church parishioners or something like that. I’m going to do the job with my squad and then bring it back to the locals, that’s where I have a client. If it’s something that I do myself, I write a lot first to understand what interests me intellectually and I try to turn that into some kind of architectural object. It’s like keeping a journal. I learned this from my mentor Jennifer Bonner [an associate professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design]. She said that each project is a story. I think that’s where my legal education comes in — I use architecture to make a point.

german barnes
A detail of the Barnes pavilion.

Courtesy of Lexus

ED: What were your first thoughts when you found out you were partnering with Lexus?

FR : It was pretty cool! He went through a few iterations. What you saw was the fourth version. In the end I was really happy. I have been to Design Miami every year since living here, and had never seen the University of Miami represented.

ED: What do you think are the most urgent topics to tackle in architecture?

FR : Lack of affordable housing. This shit is annoying! The whole developer housing process discourages genuinely affordable properties because the developer will not make enough money on them. If you are in the United States, there is a huge stigma associated with social housing, but if we do it right, who cares?

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