February 2, 2022 Duvall Decker Leads Students to Examine Authority in Form and Remake a Library for the Public Good

headshot of Anne Marie Duvall Decker

The College of Architecture and Design is pleased to announce the appointment of Anne Marie Duvall Decker, FAIA, as a spring 2022 Visiting Professor of Practice in the School of Architecture. Using the programming and design of a public library as a test case, she is leading a 4th-year Integrations studio that focuses on redistributing the traditional authority in form to be more open and plural, to promote the public good. The studio challenges the students to design equitable and accessible forms and spaces to acknowledge the architect’s responsibility to the larger community, to each individual who encounters or inhabits his or her creative work.

Duvall Decker is a founding principal of Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a recognized contributor to the advancement of the profession. She is a former Trustee and 2021 chair of the AIA Trust, and she is currently serving on the Industry Advisory Group of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. Duvall Decker is often invited to share the firm’s work and her experience as a lecturer, critic, teacher, and design juror. Most recently she served on the jury for the 2018 AIA Institute Honor Awards for Architecture and as a selection committee member for the Architectural League of New York’s American Roundtable initiative.

In this unique collaboration of academia and the profession, Duvall Decker is partnering her students with the professionals in her firm to immerse them in the study of a public library project in downtown Jackson. They will investigate the slow demise of the public library as the storehouse of public knowledge and how this demise impacts contemporary culture. The goal of the studio is to propose proactive responses to what formal and programmatic possibilities the future public library might engender.

“The promise of libraries now is unfulfilled,” Duvall Decker said. “With the loss of common purpose, we lose yet another public space, [thus] an opportunity that brings citizens together.”

Originally intended to be the most democratic of institutions, a gathering place for a community and a place where information and truth were accessible and discoverable for all, today’s libraries have been made obsolete by smartphones and access to endless information. Today, as commercial interests and entertainment begin to dominate public space, cities become functional, segregated and overlaid with structures of authority. As a result, they offer fewer opportunities for broad civic engagement and individual inquiry.

Focusing on the premise, “A new library for the public good,” students are investigating how this new architecture might work. They will visit significant civil rights sites, historical sites and memorials throughout the South to understand the impact of closely held public authority in the transformation of America’s cities.

“In our practice, we are interested in form that invites individual inquiry by shifting authority from institutions to individual investigation,” Duvall Decker said. “To revive our disenfranchised, functionally segregated inner cities, we promote density, mature diversity and mixed-use and mixed-income community development,” she said.

Duvall Decker Architects is an expanded design practice whose work includes architectural design, community planning, real estate development and facility maintenance. The firm has been honored with many peer-reviewed design awards and has been selected for national design excellence projects such as the new Federal Courthouse in Greenville, Mississippi, (a GSA Design Excellence project) and the new Springdale, Arkansas, Municipal Complex (a Walton Family Foundation Design Excellence project).

The firm’s work and approach have been highlighted in publications such as The New York Times, dwell, ARCHITECT Magazine, the Journal of Architectural Education, the Oxford American, and in exhibits such as “A South Forty” at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale. In 2017, the Architectural League of New York selected Duvall Decker as one of its Emerging Voices, and in 2019, the firm was highlighted as a “Game Changer” by Metropolis.

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