Photo: Matthew Roy, via Curbed. Mural by Lekan Jeyifo. © Germane Barnes

Architect/artist/city planner Germane Barnes in front of the Opa-Locka Community Development Corporation’s Arts & Recreation Center.

Architect, Educator, and most importantly, an Influencer – Contributor to societal upliftment; well, most architecture professionals start with hopes of being described as thus, but not all come about to be.

Born – bred in Chicago, Germane Barnes obtained an architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, making his adolescent passion his profession. Subsequent postgraduate studies from Woodbury University initiated his journey in the realm of design, where his project Symbiotic Territories: Architectural Investigations of Race, Identity, and Community was awarded the thesis prize. His practice and research manifest an approach derived out of life experiences and hence an examination of architecture – identity, and the complex and highly susceptible relation of architecture as a social and political agency is seen in his works. He manages Studio Barnes, and also works as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture at the University of Miami. His most notable work is for the Opa Locka Community Development, Miami suburb revival for which he is the designer in residence, transcending the realms of art, architecture, and urban planning. Well, a lot said, let his work speak now. Below listed are 15 of his most influencing contributions to the field of art, architecture, and planning.

1. Pop-Up Torch

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, CEPODS LLC
Client: Private

The front porch plays a significant role not just as a transition space but blurring the lines between inside and out and fostering deliberations and discourses at large, in every culture and nation-states. For the African American culture facing the brunt of laws and restrictions, this space is even more important historically and today, as a stage that straddles between the private (home) and the public (street). An 8’ x 20’ container has been imagined to have a spatial occupation where rituals and experiences of the black community are shared by converting it through motor-operated panels; and inspired by the Historic Settler’s District (The Set) of Delray Beach, FL. 

-Up Porch © www.germanebarnes.com
-Up Porch © www.germanebarnes.com
-Up Porch © www.germanebarnes.com

2. Succulent: Recipes for Architectural Consumption

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Joachim Perez
Client: Downtown Org

This particular project explores the processes and means through which the built environment is digested, a metaphoric reference to the patterns of information consumption in today’s age of technology and instant exposure to varied representations. In a way, this project is an exquisite exhibit of architecture as food and the inculcation of a five-course meal, where the succulent table measuring  8’ x 14’ x 42”, acts as a spatial being of facilitating conversation and celebrating cultural experiences and legacies.

Community Interaction at the installation © www.germanebarnes.com
Community Interaction at the installation © www.germanebarnes.com
Community Interaction at the installation © www.germanebarnes.com

3. Paradise Stairs

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Jennifer Lamy, Gabe Soomar, Moonlighter Co, University of Miami School of Architecture

An installation for the Paradise summit which is essentially a gathering of various ideas and intentions (curators, philosophers, and cultural producers), the paradise stair aims to foster varied engagements while being operational at multiple levels. It is an ensemble of a mini gallery with seating and storage spaces, model stands, and performance platform, along with sleeping corners all in one. Different areas are demarcated by color schemes further enhancing the aesthetics.

Paradise Stair installation © www.germanebarnes.com
Paradise Stair installation © www.germanebarnes.com
Paradise Stair installation © www.germanebarnes.com

4. J Residence

 Collaborators: Germane Barnes, David Lopez Construction, A+S Architects and Planners, Danny, Gutierrez Engineers
Client: Private

Situated in South Miami along a creek, the project is a complete interior remodel of the original 1960 scattered-site design, creating a new layout that focuses on increasing natural light and communal spaces with other additive functions. New circulation pathways have been created that enhance the reconfigured spaces all the while improving privacy in the precinct.

J Residence © www.germanebarnes.com
J Residence © www.germanebarnes.com
J Residence © www.germanebarnes.com

5. The North Magnolia Community Park

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Joachim Perez
Client: Curbed.com

An endeavor spearheaded by the Opa Locka Community Development Corporation, the park was created using community engagement and public participation in the creation of public space in the neighborhood. Four vacant lots were transformed into the neighborhood’s most thriving public space which caters to old and young, providing plazas and domino tables clusters, picnic tables, and area. The landscape design also looks at indigenous plantations designed to attract and benefit the non-human species.

The North Magnolia Community Park © www.germanebarnes.com
The North Magnolia Community Park © www.germanebarnes.com
The North Magnolia Community Park © www.germanebarnes.com
The North Magnolia Community Park © www.germanebarnes.com

6. Thrive Dance Studio

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Joachim Perez
Client: Opa Locka Community Development Corporation

The proposal as a part of the suburb revival through arts and culture adaptively reuses the Veteran of foreign wars building in the Opa Locka neighborhood into the creation of the dance studio. The design is such that flexible use of space is appropriated, minimal intervention yielding maximum integration, and facilitating community engagement is envisaged. The project is an example of how intent takes precedence in societal upliftment and architecture manifestation as a subsidiary tool fosters the intent.

Thrive dance Studio © www.germanebarnes.com
Thrive dance Studio © www.germanebarnes.com
Thrive dance Studio © www.germanebarnes.com

7. Forage Findings

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, John Deer, FoodScape Designs
Client:  Opa Locka Community Development Corporation

An urban farm proposal within Downtown Opa Locka, the proposal aims at combating the fresh food scarcity faced in the city which has been designated as a food desert through community engagement. The initiative of the fork to farm aims to enhance the needs of the larger city as a small start within the community precinct and evolving the community and neighborhood towards new horizons and away from the dark past.

Urban Farm © www.germanebarnes.com
Urban Farm © www.germanebarnes.com
Urban Farm © www.germanebarnes.com

8. The Booth

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Akima Bracken

A kiosk inspired by the rich musical history of New York, in Socrates Sculpture Park at its entry point, functions as folly by use of steel, wood, and moveable polycarbonate panels. The cultural Icon is interpreted in contemporary times where the utilitarian approach is enhanced by its sculptural quality, providing different user experiences.

The Booth © www.germanebarnes.com
The Booth © www.germanebarnes.com
The Booth © www.germanebarnes.com

9. Dark Zone

The relationship of the figure and the figure-ground has been imagined at varying scales such that multiple scenarios of black production are possible. The spatial narratives that are built provide for manifold observational criteria through which the black body is manifested. Varied terms herewith are referred to as gestures in the process and they in the location of Miami, referred to as positions, revealing the political and social agency of architecture creating different legibility. The exhibition provides for a new perspective and in many ways encourages a paradigm shift in how things are perceived with a tweak in the positions of the viewer and viewed.

Dark Mode © www.germanebarnes.com
Dark Mode © www.germanebarnes.com
Dark Mode © www.germanebarnes.com

 10. BLDG BLOX

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Joachim Perez
Client:  Curbed.com

The neighborhood of Opa Locka boasts of Moorish style of architecture, inherited through time; as it sets towards new directions the designers envisage the potential use of the Hurt Building to be adaptively reused as the first science and technology preschool in the city. The programming of the preschool has been so integrated with the existing structure such that the dome on the second floor is used as a planetarium and projectors; the terraced roof converted to an urban farm. The structure itself fosters learning through means of spatial integration of the programmatic requirements.

Building Blox © www.germanebarnes.com
Building Blox © www.germanebarnes.com
Building Blox © www.germanebarnes.com

11. Opening Reception Desk

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Elie Merherb, Donnie Garcia, Avleigh Du, Marco Construction
Client:  Art of Fresh Barbershop

This project is an addition to the Art of Fresh Barbershop, which is both a hair salon and art gallery combined in one. The place features pop up galleries and events, accustomed to which the interior design has been enhanced. The custom made reception desk is a multifunctional use product design, blurring boundaries of being utilitarian and sculptural by use of sleek curvy lines that accentuate the functioning of the place as an art gallery, where the desk becomes a part of the exhibit itself.

Opening Reception Desk © www.germanebarnes.com
Opening Reception Desk © www.germanebarnes.com
Opening Reception Desk © www.germanebarnes.com

12. Parental Advisory

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Joachim Perez, UM Fabrication Lab, Yasser Abualfaraj, Owen Berry

The proposal is a metaphoric interpretation of the gangland sub-culture of the United States, where communities of color have faced the brunt of the associated activities propagated by daily violence and drug trafficking. Bringing to fore the identity of varied discarded and overlooked portions of America, the proposal brings to light the life of residents in circumstances where dodging and careful treading among bullets and against norms has become a way of life.

Parental Advisory © www.germanebarnes.com
Parental Advisory © www.germanebarnes.com
Parental Advisory © www.germanebarnes.com

13. Projecting Triangulation

Collaborators: Germane Barnes

An exercise in visual and spatial perception, the project is a wooden structure that provides the necessary framework to explore the various inconsistencies experienced by a user. The play of proportion and scale added to the visual quality and applied materiality creates for a unique expression.

Projecting Triangulation © www.germanebarnes.com
Projecting Triangulation © www.germanebarnes.com
Projecting Triangulation © www.germanebarnes.com
Projecting Triangulation © www.germanebarnes.com

14. Sacred Stoops

Collaborators: Germane Barnes, Jennifer Lamy, Gabe Soomar, Akima Bracken

Constructivist design exercise which essentially features the modulation of nine square grids, the proposal creates porches of varied kinds as manifestations of how important that space is in the narrative of the larger collective identity embodied by the black communities in the American context. The Brickell City Center pop up event and the installation facilitated a discourse regarding the spatial use of built and the subsequent experience by the black community.

Sacred Stoops © www.germanebarnes.com
Sacred Stoops © www.germanebarnes.com
Sacred Stoops © www.germanebarnes.com
Sacred Stoops © www.germanebarnes.com
Sacred Stoops © www.germanebarnes.com

15. Coastal Negotiations

Collaborators: Germane Barnes

A futuristic and necessary approach to the creation of massive robot vessels, named the Visionaries as a solution to the displacement of entire species of fish, on the Salton Basin. The high salinity in the water creates an atmosphere of doom for the non-human entities, because of the many implications as a result of man’s interventions in nature, this proposal is about negotiating the coastal interfaces where survival is ensured and habitat is preserved.

Coastal Negotiations © www.germanebarnes.com
Coastal Negotiations © www.germanebarnes.com
Coastal Negotiations © www.germanebarnes.com
Coastal Negotiations © www.germanebarnes.com
Coastal Negotiations © www.germanebarnes.com

Author

Shiza Christie is a Masters in Urban Design student at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She is an observer of the phenomenon of time and forever enchanted by the power of words. These days she spends her time deliberating on urban complexities, its constituents and place making.

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