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DAAP Research Earns Prestigious National Recognition

Dennis Mann’s research regarding African Americans in architecture has landed him on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and in many other national publications. And now, his work has just earned a prestigious annual award from the American Institute of Architects.

Date: 1/22/2007 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley

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About 15 years ago, Dennis Mann, University of Cincinnati professor of architecture, began working with a colleague to collect information for what would become the nation's first-ever Directory of African American Architects.

Dennis Mann
Dennis Mann

Since that time, Mann and his fellow researcher – Bradford Grant, chair of architecture at Hampton University – have continuously worked on updated versions of the directory, translated it into an online version, tracked trends regarding African American architects and surveyed those same architects. For instance, they recently noted that the number of African-American women practicing as licensed architects has quadrupled in the last 15 years.

The value of that research has just been recognized with a prestigious American Institute of Architects’ 2007 award for collaboration achievement. The award – the Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievements – pays tribute to distinguished achievement in the advancement of the architectural profession.

“The directory’s existence helped give a presence to African-American architects. It helped people contact each other and thus helped to reinforce the creation of a community of architects,” according to internationally renowned architect and AIA Fellow J. Max Bond, Jr.

This is not the first recognition provided Mann’s research efforts, part of a 40-year teaching career in UC's top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). His work landed Mann on the front page of The Wall Street Journal in the late 1990s. It’s also been applauded in outlets ranging from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and many other newspapers and magazines.

"It's research work that needed to be done. It's the kind of painstaking work that we in academia need to contribute to the profession," explains Mann.

And it’s work that contributes to architects’ lives in a very powerful way. Mann recounts, "I received a letter not long ago from an African American architect who had just discovered the directory online. He wrote that he never saw a black architect when he was growing up. There was no one he could talk to about his ambitions at the time. He grew up thinking there was no one else around who shared his interest in design. He said that finding the directory was overwhelming for him, just to know that he isn't alone in the profession."

Dennis Mann

It's that kind of feedback that makes the tedious work of the directory worthwhile, Mann states. He adds that his work is painstaking. For instance, recent new entries for the directory were developed after he received an e-mail containing a list of African American graduates from the University of Oklahoma's architecture program dating back 20 years.

Explains Mann, "I have to seek out from other sources whether these hundreds of grads are now licensed architects. That requires consulting other sources and might require a phone call or e-mail to each one. I'm always on the hunt for new names, but it takes a great deal of time and effort."

Modestly, Mann claims that the research has done more for him than vice versa. He asserts, "It's changed me for the better. There is a community of people in the profession passionate about this issue. We're more than a community of colleagues. We're friends."


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