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01 Banner Germanebarnes Pantheonii 01 Banner Germanebarnes Pantheonii

Germane Barnes: Columnar Disorder



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Chicago-born architect Germane Barnes explores the connections between identity and the built environment—using research, design, and activism to mine the social and political agency of architecture and uncover the spatial histories and futures of Black self-determination. 

For his first solo museum exhibition, Barnes recasts the canonical foundations of Western architecture through the lens of the African diaspora. Critically reflecting on the enduring legacy of the Classical orders—the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian—whose distinctive columns continue to proliferate in our built environment today, Barnes upends these long-standing and ubiquitous conventions by reimagining architectural orders that are instead rooted in the Black experience, history, and values.

01 Banner Germanebarnes Pantheonii

Pantheon II, 2023

Germane Barnes

Courtesy the artist and Nina Johnson. Photography by Greg Carideo. © Germane Barnes

His project centers on the design of three new columns, which the exhibition presents through drawings, collages, and commissioned sculptural works. The Identity Column celebrates the Black body and beauty, the Labor Column considers how slavery fueled American economic growth, and the Migration Column—a meditation on the intercontinental journeys of enslaved Africans— recognizes water as a site of Black memory, loss, and selfhood.

Attentive to how Eurocentric histories of classical architecture have neglected the migration of North African building traditions across the Mediterranean during antiquity, Barnes’s project seeks to recuperate this legacy through an architectural counter-narrative. By demanding a reorientation of architectural principles that acknowledges and reveres the historical role of the African diaspora, he also offers a framework for envisioning Africa and its descendants as the future of architecture.

Germane Barnes: Columnar Disorder is curated by Irene Sunwoo, John H. Bryan Chair and Curator, Architecture and Design.


Support for the Art Institute of Chicago’s presentation of Germane Barnes: Columnar Disorder is provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Creative Capital Foundation, and the University of Miami School of Architecture.

Construction of Labor Column III is generously provided by skilled union masons with the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Administrative District Council 1 of Illinois with support from the International Masonry Institute.


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