What’s Good G?

Introducing: What’s Good G?

Germane Barnes

In his new column, award-winning architect-designer Germane Barnes ruminates on the people, places, and things moving him most in this moment

Well, hello there. How’s it going? Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Germane David Barnes. My dad calls me Slick; my mom calls me #1 son. (I tend to believe she’s obligated to call me this as her offspring.) Most people call me G. If you have made it this far, you are reading the first edition of “What’s Good G?”

Architect-designer Germane Barnes. Photo © Studio Barnes

I am a Miami-based designer formally trained as an architect. My professional trajectory has been rather non-traditional. I’m a Chicago native, and after receiving my undergrad architecture degree, I moved to Cape Town, South Africa for my first architecture internship. It was during this time I witnessed the power of architecture and design in vulnerable communities.

I then acquired my Masters of Architecture degree in Los Angeles, CA, before becoming an apprentice for acclaimed French artist Xavier Veilhan. During the summer of 2012, I was fortunate to assist Xavier on his transcendent Architectones installation at the Richard Neutra VDL House.

Artist Xavier Veilhan in front of one of his acclaimed Architectones installations, cited at the Sheats-Goldstein house, set atop canyons in Los Angeles. Photo © Studio Barnes

While I was working on this project, I was simultaneously collaborating with two of my former graduate school professors—Jennifer Bonner and Christian Stayner—on a proposal in a Northwest Miami-Dade suburb called Opa-locka. Our proposal, Made-In-Opa-locka, was ultimately one of five selected for implementation in this whimsically envisioned city. I would soon move to this neighborhood to begin what is now an eight-year—and counting!—residency in South Florida.

Made-in-Opa-locka embraces community and sustainability to revitalize a Floridian neighborhood. Projects range from early childhood education facilities to urban gardens and more. As Barnes says, “...Architecture can speak to and touch people and change things, regardless of what academia or what the old guard want you to believe.” Bottom photo by Matthew Roy. All photos courtesy of Studio Barnes

I have been very fortunate to steward some timely, innovative projects in my professional career so far, all of which have centered my race and culture. Work that foregrounds Blackness is my passion and where I excel. My current research and design practice investigates the connection between architecture and identity. I attempt to mine architecture’s social and political agency, to examine how the built environment influences black domesticity.

Currently, I am the director of Studio Barnes, LLC, where my design portfolio ranges from objects to installations to buildings and urban scale projects.

Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Crown by Germane Barnes (2020), commissioned by Broward County Department of Cultural Affairs. Photos © Studio Barnes

I am also an Assistant Professor and Director of the Community Housing Identity Lab (CHIL) at the University of Miami School of Architecture. I won some pretty big awards in the last 18 months, namely the 2021 Harvard GSD Wheelwright Prize, the 2021 Rome Prize in Architecture, and the Architectural League Prize. My design and research contributions have been published and exhibited in several international institutions.

Top: Block Party, a play structure commissioned for the 2021 Chicago Biennial as part of The Available City/ Bottom: Barnes' A Spectrum of Blackness, commissioned for the acclaimed 2021 MoMA exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness. Photos courtesy of Studio Barnes

With the formalities (and informalities) out of the way, I’d like to explain the origins of this column and what I will be doing with it each month. I was approached by the lovely Anna Carnick and Wava Carpenter of Design Miami and Anava Projects to ruminate on people, places, and things that excite me—in hopes of exposing you readers to some hidden gems. Or perhaps some gems that are not hidden, but underappreciated.

So that’s what I plan to do. Every month, I will profile subjects that pique my interest. Occasionally I will jump on Instagram Live to chat with friends in the design industry and beyond who have unique perspectives that differ, challenge, and or support my own. I hope you continue this journey with me—and that we all learn something new as we proceed with this social experiment. ◆