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New faculty deepen school's sociocultural traditions in design and planning

Joining the school's faculty this year are architectural historian Charles Davis II (left) and Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah, who holds a joint faculty appointment with Department of Urban and Regional Planning and UB's Community for Global Health Equity.

By Rachel Teaman

Published August 21, 2017

Two faculty additions will advance the school's rich traditions in teaching and research that situate design and planning in their social, political and historical contexts. Exploring fields as diverse as land tenure and racial criticism, both faculty members will advance knowledge and modes of practice that are both culturally sensitive and equitable.

Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah, who holds a joint faculty appointment with Department of Urban and Regional Planning and UB's Community for Global Health Equity, will explore the relationship of planning and governance of land tenure in Global South settlements to environmental sustainability and food access.

Charles Davis II, a UB architecture alumnus inspired by the school's legacy of historical cultural criticism in architecture, joins the Department of Architecture to advance a series of detailed studies exploring the racial and ethnic discourses of American Architecture.

Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah

Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah’s position on the urban planning faculty was created in partnership with UB's Community for Global Health Equity to bridge an existing research gap between urban planning, governance, and international development.

Trained as an urban planner in his native Ghana, Boamah works to integrate traditional planning with a better understanding of governance and public policy to effect economic, social, and political change.

As a transdisciplinary scholar, Boamah engages fields as diverse as law, environmental science, geography, political science and social psychology to interrogates issues related to urban health, public policy, environmental governance and sustainable urbanism in both Global North and South countries. His research focuses in particular on issues of land tenure - or the access granted to individuals to use, control, and transfer land - a complicated system linked to political, economic and social structures. Land tenure in informal settlements of the Global South have been shown to impact environmental sustainability, governance processes, and food security for populations around the world.

Boamah holds a PhD in Urban and Public Affairs with a specialization in urban planning, sustainable development, and environmental planning and governance from the University of Louisville, Kentucky. His dissertation project examined how collaborative governance in the Middle Rio Grande urban watershed is shaped by factors such as social capital, trust, social-ecological risks, access to information, and political power. His recent work ranges from agent-based, game-theoretic models that simulate collaborative governance networks to explorations of historical schools of thought in political economy to inform planning policy in postcolonial sub-Saharan Africa. 

A champion for students, Boamah emphasizes that the teaching environment is the first place he can make a difference in the field of planning. Boamah strives to create classroom environments that inspire critical thinking and dialogue and expose students to unfamiliar policies and practices. Among his teaching plans is an international studio curriculum that links students with partners throughout the world for first-hand understanding of urban informality and land tenure in the Global South.

Charles L. Davis II, an alumnus of UB's undergraduate and graduate programs in architecture, joins the architecture faculty as an assistant professor of architectural history and criticism. His research explores the integration of race and style theory in modern architectural debates.

As a student, Davis was inspired by the School of Architecture and Planning's heritage in experimentation and theorization. He cites as his influences the school's founding in the 1970s as an alternative to conventional models of practice, and the internationally recognized legacy of former faculty member Peter Reyner Banham on "historically inflected cultural criticism."  

Charles Davis II

Says Davis: "My decision to return to UB is in part fueled by a desire to contribute to the social and cultural commitments of this tradition. I believe that I have developed an approach to architectural history that can advance the founding ideals of the school in entirely new directions."  

The Buffalo native is also passionate about the city and its remaining working- and middle-class material fabric  - assets that have disappeared in the nation's denser urban areas. Says Davis, "There is a lot of expertise in Buffalo that can establish new strategies and techniques for preserving this material culture...I believe that Buffalo can be a place where we learn to celebrate the positive events and occurrences of America’s lingering working and middle classes."

Davis says his next research focus will focus on the regionalism of race in American Architecture. Such "racial and ethnic particularities" are unique to each region of the U.S, from the European revivalisms that dominated the East Coast to the hybridized styles of modernism that appeared on the West Coast.   

In his teaching and research, Davis celebrates a socioculturally contextualized approach to design: "I have come to define 'architecture' as a material form of social praxis. This approach has deep historical roots: in the spirit of the classical Greek term for praxis (πρᾶξις), it requires students to aspire to create more than just an iconic material form—they must create forms and spaces that concretize the social and political values of the institutions or cultural groups they serve."

This fall Davis will teach two courses that apply architectural history to inform our interpretation of contemporary buildings and spaces. “The Modernist Spaces of African American Literature” explores the utopian architectural thinking of black protest writers in the 1960s and 70s; and “Race and Place” examines the material effect of racial discourses on different architectural typologies, from the college campus to museums, memorials, and different types of housing. He is also developing studio concepts on adaptive re-use in underserved neighborhoods that challenge students to research and respond to fragments of the built environment in culturally sensitive ways.

After earning his BPS in 1999 and Master of Architecture in 2002 from UB, Davis received his PhD in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania.