In the 19th and 20th century, cigar rollers working day in and day out hired one of their literate comrades to spend the workday reading out loud. What started as a way to pass time evolved into a means of formal education that later gave way to collective liberation and anti-colonial discourse. Referred to as lectores or “loud-readers,” the oratory practice continues to today with LOUDREADERS, a free and accessible trade school and platform of public architectural pedagogy led by Cruz Garcia and Nathalie Frankowski, cofounding partners of WAI Architecture Think Tank.

Garcia and Frankowski started the vocational program in 2020 when many traditional universities and institutions turned to virtual learning. The education platform offers how-to workshops, loudreading sessions, and a place to study critical and affirmative thinking by “spatial practitioners.” In addition to its first in-person gathering this year, LOUDREADERS is offering paid research fellowships for architects, designers, activists, and others.

tropical plants with red flag and newspaper

While the school’s ethos and ideas are rooted in the Caribbean, the political and social issues it addresses span the globe. Among these issues are racial violence in the U.S. as well as uprisings against colonialism and imperialism. Recently, to address race, LOUDREADERS published A Manual of Anti-Racist Architecture Education, a compilation of diagrams and texts that reflect a need for social and ecological justice.

An upcoming summer program in Puerto Rico will pilot an on-site Trade School where architects, designers, historians, authors, philosophers, scientists, policy makers, activists, can partake in lectures, workshops, and events. This will be presented in tandem with a fellowship program to develop projects and research and exchange ideas on topics related to architecture and space in the Caribbean.

“The school returns to the roots of LOUDREADERS, seeking to challenge colonial boundaries to establish, explore, and stimulate exchange and dissemination of spatial practices produced within and beyond the Caribbean,” Garcia and Frankowski shared in a description. “We believe that the Caribbean has always produced knowledge and imaginaries necessary to understand the urgent challenges of our times.”

Previous LOUDREADERS sessions are available online. (Courtesy LOUDREADERS)

Awarded fellows will be compensated and provided the opportunity to share research and findings either online or in-person in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico during the summer session of the LOUDREADERS Trade School that runs from June 23 to July 2. The ten-day event is free and all in attendance will receive a certificate acknowledging participation.

Fellowship applications will be accepted through April 20 on a rolling basis; summer school enrollment is open now. LOUDREADERS is sponsored by The Tank via The Producer Hub, with additional support from the Mellon Foundation Humanities in Place and Re.Arc Institute.

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