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‘Hood Century’: How One Man Is Redefining Midcentury Modern Architecture

In 1928, a black congregation in Cincinnati purchased a German Gothic brick structure originally inbuilt 1865 as a synagogue. Revelation Missionary Baptist Church, as they called it, was later run by civil rights leader Fred L. Shuttlesworth and hosted the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. when he visited.

In the Nineteen Seventies, the congregation modernized the constructing with a contemporary addition, giving the church an aesthetic that became a logo of black progress in urban centers within the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. But in 2019, this transformation was cited as the rationale why the church couldn’t receive a historic site designation, paving the way in which for the constructing to be demolished in 2019 to make way for a football stadium.

The destruction deeply hurt Jerald Cooper, 39, who grew up in Cincinnati and still lives near the church. “A contemporary accessory was the whole lot to me,” he said. It was best for me outside in a small courtyard. It was a secure place. This was our event center. That’s where all my memories live.”

He decided to attempt to do something to preserve what he calls the “eave age”, a play on mid-century architecture and interior design, giving room for brand spanking new ways to explore and study style. He began with an Instagram page called now @hoodmidcenturymodern and plans a crowdsourcing map to catalog the history of modernism in black culture to higher understand and ultimately preserve it. He said many individuals have no idea the history of their neighborhoods. “This lack of awareness is why we began this,” he said.

Mr. Cooper developed three definitions of “black modernism” as a part of the Hood Century project: modernism intended for black people, modernism “given” to black people, or modernism that has turn into culturally significant in black popular culture.

A creative consultant who rose within the hip-hop industry, Cooper studied communications and marketing in college but has no formal education or training in architecture or design. However, he loves and appreciates the buildings that defined his childhood growing up in Cincinnati’s College Hill neighborhood. His posts on his Instagram page caught the attention of heavyweight stars like GloRilla, the Grammy-nominated rapper photographed recently in Memphis by Mr. Cooper.

His goal is to make architecture and design more accessible, using secular language to interrupt down the barriers normally created by white scientists with advanced degrees, and educate more people who find themselves now empowered by social media to comment on the structural great thing about the modernist tower:The joint looks like a carport siding 🔥🔥🔥.”

So it is solely modernism filtered through a special cultural lens, opening up recent ways of taking a look at the past, present and future, or as Mr. Cooper put it, “same document, different language.”

He lives and works in a sparsely furnished 8,000-square-foot studio in Cincinnati’s West End. Wooden columns stoically divide the space like a grid of streets – almost harking back to the district itself. In a recent interview, he shared a family archive stuffed with Revelation Missionary photos and memorabilia. He also boasted of his father’s collection of 45s, mainly from the 50s and 60s, which he’s learning to spin.

Nearby College Hill, where he grew up, was the middle of the Underground Railroad and the middle of the activities of Levi Coffin, a white abolitionist. By the time Mr. Cooper grew up there, it was very red.

After graduating from Mount Saint Joseph’s College, Cooper traveled to Los Angeles and London before returning to Cincinnati in 2019, when the church debate was in full swing. Mr. Cooper launched an Instagram page in December.

And now he’s working on a “Hood Century” site that may feature a crowdsourced map database where users will find a way to upload text, images, audio and video from geotagged locations overlaid on Google Maps. Mr. Cooper was inspired map querying, a preferred map site where people upload their stories and memories of places all over the world.

It all ties back to Revelation Missionary. For over 60 years his mother, Joyce Cooper, was an lively parishioner. He still lives in a close-by house that he has owned for over 40 years. “My mom cannot walk some blocks in her neighborhood since it reminds her of this church,” Cooper said. “It was a small space, but in her mind it’s big. It’s an infrastructural injury.”

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