The House That Herman Built



Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch is now exhibiting a powerful collaboration between New Orleans-based artist Jackie Sumell and former prisoner and Black Panther, Herman Wallace. Wallace was a member of the Angola 3, who was wrongfully convicted of the 1972 murder of a prison guard; likely framed due to their political activism. Wallace spent nearly 42 years in solitary confinement and died just days after his conviction was overturned. The project Wallace worked on with Sumell began when she asked him, “What sort of house does a man who has lived in a 6-foot-by-9-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?”

The House That Herman Built is an on-going project that began as an exchange between two individuals and has expanded into an international art exhibition, a book, a documentary film, and is now in the fundraising stages of building Herman Wallace’s dream home in the city of New Orleans. The exhibit includes a life-sized replica of Wallace’s prison cell, selections from his correspondence with Sumell, books from his reading list, and, now in the library’s main lobby, a model of the dream house that he designed. In the wake of his death, this project, in all of its forms, speaks to Herman’s struggle and the struggle of all people forced to endure wrongful convictions and the inhumane conditions of long term solitary confinement. Go see it at BPL or take a look at the video below put out by Democracy Now!


Pay Phones To Pop-Up Libraries in NYC


Image by John Lock

Architectural graduate John Lock creates plywood consoles that slip over payphones as neatly as aprons. So far two New York City phone booths have been outfitted, sponsored by Locke’s imaginary Department of Urban Betterment. More to come!

Robert Frederick Bernstein: Architectural and Sculptural Works, 1975-1993


My father, Robert Frederick Bernstein (1950-1993) lived and worked as an artist and architect in Los Angeles, California. He died when I was 13 years old. Recently I have developed an archive of his known works using the Web-based content management system, Omeka. It is my hope to gather as many materials as I can representing the artistic and architectural work that my father produced in his lifetime.

Images of my father’s work have been preserved for close to 20 years now in my mother’s garage, or else generously donated to me by his former clients, co-workers and associates. It has really been a wonderful experience for me getting in touch with so many of these people. I am learning more and more about Robert with each phone call, email, and letter I receive. Thank you 1,000 times over to all of you who helped me make this collection come to life.

The Urban Library as Magnet for Economic Development


Exterior of the Rockville Library at Night by Montgomery County Public Libraries, MD

Recently, Tod Newcombe, GOVERNING’s editor and columnist for Urban Notebook, pointed out that libraries anchoring new development have taken hold. “Library executives and developers notice that putting a library into mixed use retail and residential areas brings numerous advantages. In Rockville, Md., a $352 million redevelopment project in the downtown district includes 644 condominiums, 180,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a new public library — Montgomery County’s largest. Developers like having libraries in their developments for the visitors they bring and because libraries don’t compete with local businesses.”

Today’s urban library branches are situated in malls and other high-traffic locations, bringing more people into the library, and by extension, bringing more people to the shops. These libraries may not invoke the romantic feeling of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library or New York City’s 42nd Street Branch, but they do project the purpose and power of a user-friendly and accessible public space. Rockville Branch Library patrons agree:

“Free parking, free wifi. At the heart of Rockville Town Center. What’s not to love? I love hanging out in here.”

“A great library in a fun location.”

“Stunning architecture and comfortable seats. It’s my favorite part of the newish Rockville Town Square.”

Yelp reviews for Rockville Branch, Montgomery County Library