Justin Garrett Moore is a 41-year-old architect based in New York City planning, developing and implementing architectural ideas. His work mainly focuses on ideas that revolve around social or cultural components through his work as an urban planner.
Growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Indianapolis, Moore became aware of the structural difficulties of his community at an early age. Through projects that he carried out with his family and neighbors, he tried to rethink things in his neighborhood, which sparked his interest in architecture. His ideas enabled him to think outside the box when it came to design, problem solving, and resource sourcing to improve his creation.
“I was kind of aware and could say that things were not necessarily fair and just. In our neighborhood, our black neighborhood versus the white neighborhood, to be honest. Parks or schools, the inequality was the thing that I somehow became aware of as a child and for my community, for my environment, which in my field we call the built environment, for the way things are built, for The way they are cared for is something you can see and experience in it, it affects you, ”he said.
He recalls looking for ways to deconstruct monuments of racist historical figures in America while he was a college student at the University of Florida with a degree in design and architecture. Garrett Moore, who went straight to Columbia University after completing his bachelor’s degree, graduated in 2004 and worked as a city planner with the NYC Department of City Planning. During his time as an urban planner, he realized that the vast majority of the rooms he worked in were occupied by privileged white men who dominated decision-making.
Garrett Moore expressed that while serving in de Blasio’s administration as head of the public design commission, he understood the challenge black architects and city planners faced in order to gain respect in predominantly white spaces. As a member of the drafting committee, he had the opportunity to participate in the investigation of large new public buildings, including the district-based prison project. Much has been said about the closure of Rikers Island, New York, but there are still people in positions of power who prefer to put public money in prisons rather than schools, mental health, or homes.
“They put me alone in a room with 40 whites who were there to make billions of dollars putting blacks and browns in jail. And what I say doesn’t matter. Despite all of my actual expertise, despite all of my references, they had various conversations and questions about how these deals should be crafted and they didn’t listen to me even though I was the person theoretically empowered to do it. But all the different systems were put in place to marginalize even my voice, which had some kind of power. And that’s just something very difficult and challenging, and it happens all the time to blacks in my field because there is only one or two of you and if you are in a square of ten you don’t win. ” he explained.
Garrett Moore has worked on major projects such as the Coney Island Plan, the Brooklyn Cultural District, and the Greenpoint and Williamsburg Waterfront; However, Hunter Point South Park in Long Island City, New York is home to one of his works that he is most proud of.
“I can sit in this park. And I know that a black guy, that is me, designed this whole neighborhood and it never gets old and fulfills the feat that I managed to create a space that is a wonderful space for people to enjoy, ”said he
In June 2021, President Biden appointed four new members to the Commission of Fine Arts, with Garrett Moore being one of the four. The Commission of Fine Arts is an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress, and the federal and District of Columbia governments on design and aesthetics issues that affect the federal interest.
“It’s an incredible honor. It’s just a great opportunity to have a say and influence on some important questions and concerns about whether it will be our public and built space. Our public buildings, our monuments, our parks, all of these things that help define and shape us and reflect who we universally are, we are the people we are in America. And I hope that I can bring some insight into this, ”he said.
Garrett Moore is not only an urban designer, but also an educator. He currently teaches urban planning and architecture at Columbia University, but also at Yale, Morgan State University and Tuskegee University. Throughout his teaching activities, he has tried to involve students in discussions about the world around them and current social issues.
In addition to his normal job, he runs an independent company called Urban Patch. It is a social company that specializes in design and development. The company is currently planning and building apartments in Rwanda, East Africa. Garrett Moore’s group has created a mixed-income housing estate in Rwanda that also includes some inexpensive housing. Over time, he wants to have a greater impact on the number of housing units and development, showing that smart design and planning on a much larger scale can lead to positive outcomes and communities for people. In the long term, he wants to create a new development model that black designers use to build things in a new light. He wants this to happen everywhere in the black diaspora where it is possible, be it in Africa, America or the Caribbean.
Garrett Moore has stated that he enjoys working in groups and collectives and that he is a member of the BlackSpace collective. “It’s important to identify an individual’s work, but it’s also really great to highlight people who work with collectives, be it in the public sector, like the city council, or with independent groups like BlackSpace,” he said.