First Steps: Recognition and Gratitude

Kenesha Sneed, Artist and Designer, Tactile Matter. Photo: Bill Gentle.

The architecture and design worlds have been graced by many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals whose artistry and vision have shaped the environments in which we live, but their contributions have often been overlooked.

Knightsbridge Park is committed to promoting a fuller picture of the diverse talent that propels our field forward.

Mark Gardner and Phil Freelon are two African American architects whose names you should know.

Philip Goodwin Freelon (1953–2019) grew up in Philadelphia and left an indelible mark on the landscape of Washington, DC, by leading the team that designed Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016.

Over the course of his career, Freelon worked on numerous important cultural institutions in the United States, including the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Mark L. Gardner founded Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects (J/GA) with Stephan Jaklitsch in 1998. Gardner earned his MA in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and is currently an Assistant Professor of Architectural Practice and Society at Parsons School of Design.

Gardner is involved with many educational and design organizations, including the Advisory Board of MathMinds, which provides high school students of color with after-school programming in computer science, engineering, and entrepreneurship in the tech space. J/GA has recently been awarded an AIA National Honor Award and has also received design awards from Architizer, NOMA, and AIANY.

Designers Marie Burgos and Leyden Lewis are two visionaries whose work is transforming interiors around the world.

The founder of Leyden Lewis Design Studio, Lewis made his debut at the High Point Market in North Carolina in 2019 by curating an exhibition called Beyond the Mask, which featured work by members of the Black Artists + Designers Guild. He has roots in Trinidad and Tobago, and he brings a sense of Caribbean color, aesthetics, and materiality to his creations, including stair treads covered in leather.

Founder of Marie Burgos Design, Burgos brings a wealth of knowledge and a global perspective to her interior design practice, which now has offices in New York and Los Angeles.

Burgos, who is a Feng Shui Master, takes Feng Shui seriously and applies its principles to all the projects she undertakes, which over the years, have included residences as well as work for major hospitality companies. Her aesthetic is modern and cosmopolitan, and she collaborates closely with a group of trusted architects, craftspeople, and builders to realize her vision.

Kenesha Sneed and Tonja Adair are two more talents we’ll be watching for a long time to come.

If you’re looking for more inspiration and visual delight in your Instagram feed, be sure to follow the multitalented artist and designer Kenesha Sneed (@tactilematter).

You may have seen Sneed’s illustrations while reading articles in the New York Times, but Sneed’s practice encompasses much more than that. She has created original designs for a variety of companies, including Under Armour, Warby Parker, Google, Microsoft, and Apple. She also creates original works of art through her ongoing project, Tactile Matter.

Tonja Adair is an architect who cofounded Splice Design, which has offices in New York and Georgia. Adair earned her BA in architecture from Wellesley, an MA in architecture from Georgia Institute of Technology, and an additional MA in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia.

In their practice, Adair and her team seek to “reorient” people’s perspectives and understanding of their surroundings, getting clients to appreciate that their project will be part of a broad context and community, not just an object floating in space.

The Knightsbridge Park team knows how important it is to look up and around, indoors and out, at the beauty of the built environment, and we’re happy to continue to see, learn, and share more about the full history and community of creators and designers of that beauty.