Architecture PhD student Destiny Kirumira receives McGill’s first IBET Momentum Fellowship
Kirumira, whose work attempts to reconcile the roots of racism in both art and architecture with an emphasis on Black narratives, began her doctoral studies in the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture this Fall.
Six Ontario universities launched the Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology (IBET) Momentum Fellowship earlier this year to address the systemic barriers that exist in STEM fields for Indigenous and Black scholars.
Since its launch, IBET has expanded to include 12 partnering institutions, including McGill University. The program provides support and increased opportunities for those wanting to pursue Ph.D. degrees
Destiny Kirumira, an accomplished visual artist and scholar, is McGill’s inaugural recipient of this fellowship. Kirumira began her doctoral studies in the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture this Fall. According to the McGill Reporter, her work “ attempts to reconcile the roots of racism in both art and architecture with an emphasis on Black narratives.”
“It’s significant for the Faculty of Engineering to support Black and Indigenous scholars because we’re still so underrepresented in STEM. I can’t even describe the things that have taken for me to get to this point, says Kirumira in an interview with the McGill Reporter. “Generations of people, including my parents, have worked tirelessly to even put me in a position to have access to this opportunity. And so IBET is a chance for other people and for future generations to get these opportunities as well.”
Born in Germany, Kirumira lived in the Western European country for about nine years and grew up around vibrant architecture, alongside relatives and family friends who are architects, As a product of her environment, the scholar was inspired by her surroundings and decided to become an architect early on: “As a kid, if you see someone that looks like you doing incredible work, you’re excited, right?” says Kirumira.
Kirumira’s Ph.D research will focus on the architecture of Black Settlements in Canada from 1780-1930, when there were large influxes of Black migrants who had moved to the country in hopes of having a better future.
“The first thing I hope to try and understand is their spatial experiences up to that point, which is rooted in where they moved from and what types of architectures they were exposed to. Next, I hope to understand more about their cultural backgrounds, and then how that was manifested into the architecture of the settlements,” says Kirumira.
Kirumira’s research to-date has included the design of schools in certain Black settlements. Many churches were converted into schools to be able to facilitate a safe space for kids because many of the neighbouring schools were still segregated. According to Kirumira’s research, the reason some of the churches were also built to look like houses, or “camouflaged,” was a way of safeguarding them due to their spaces being vandalized, torn down, or burned: “To me, that’s an example of such an intentional and intricate design decision. My hope is to really understand the design decisions they made and honestly champion and celebrate them.”
Kirumira hopes to be able to design Black spaces, and not from a place of “I know the answer,” but “we can find the answer together.”
“I need this research to be able to understand, as a designer, the decisions I should be making, as well as how to listen to a community,” says Kirumira.