Jamaican-Born Architect Becomes Director of Graduate Program at University of North Carolina

Sekou Cooke, an architect, researcher, educator, and curator who was born in Jamaica, will leave his post as an assistant professor in the Syracuse University’s School of Architecture to join the University of North Carolina (UNC) as the director of the university’s Master of Urban Design (MUD) degree program.  Cooke has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University. He is licensed to practice architecture in New York State. He will begin his new job in August 2021, joining Blaine Brownell, columnist for ARCHITECT, who also serves as director at UNC’s School of Architecture.

Cooke applies his thoughtful processes and rigorous experimentation to projects of many kinds, including public, nonprofit, and residential work in New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina. He is also involved with mixed-use projects and tenant improvements in California and speculative developments both locally and globally.

His current research focuses on Hip-Hop Architecture, an emerging theoretical movement that reflects the basic concepts of hip-hop culture in creating meaningful impacts on the built environment and allowing marginalized and underrepresented communities to have a voice within design practice. He has published writings on this topic and given lectures and symposia to promote the concept. A monograph entitled “Hip-Hop Architecture” by Cooke is pending, and his work is featured in the exhibition “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America,” which is on view at the Museum of Modern Art through May 31, 2021.

According to Blaine Brownell, the director of the UNC School of Architecture, Cooke is “a rising start” in the world of architecture with a national reputation marked by his “innovative, activist-based approaches to elevating Black voices in the field.” Brownell said that with the hire of Cooke as the new director of the Master of Urban Design program, his scholarship on Hip-Hop Architecture and urbanism and his prior experience teaching in one of the top architecture programs in the United States will make immeasurable contributions to UNC, its School of Architecture, and the city of Charlotte overall.

Image courtesy of UNC Charlotte’s School of Architecture