Distinguished Emerita Professor Angela Davis receives the Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for her contributions to architecture

Distinguished Emerita Professor Angela Davis.

University of California, Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor Emerita Angela Davis helped popularize the concept of the prison industrial complex while traveling the world to help instigate the prison abolition movement.

Now Davis, who taught in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments, is being honored with the 2024 Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for Contribution to Architecture.

“Angela Davis’s activism and leadership is as relevant and pertinent to architecture as it has ever been,’”  Eleanor Beaumont, deputy editor of The Architectural Review, said. “Her work highlights the complicity of architecture as a tool of violence and encourages architects to advocate for spatial justice.’

The award is bestowed by the The W Awards, formerly known as the Women In Architecture Awards,  in association with The Architectural Review and the Architects’ Journal. The W Awards started a decade ago to raise the profile of women and non-binary people in architecture across the world while calling for respect, diversity and equality.

In her advocacy work and scholarship, Davis draws upon her own experience in the early 1970s as a person who spent 18 months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” She has also conducted extensive research on numerous issues related to race, gender and imprisonment. Davis’s latest book Abolition: Politics, Practices, Promises, Volume 1 will be published by Penguin next month.

Davis’s work has heavily influenced the public conversation about the latest  developments in the realms of architecture. Her book Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003) was explored in detail in Rachel Komich’s imagining of a world without incarceration in the November 2021 issue of The Architectural Review. 

In another influential piece in the same magazine, Léopold Lambert, who made the forceful argument that the designers of prisons are complicit in an oppressive system, used Davis’s work to bolster his position. 

“We live in a system that craves a dose of self-critique that ultimately reinforces its violent logic,” Lambert wrote in the essay. “Architects, often recognised as being part of a relatively liberal profession, are very active in this reinforcing process.”

“From the design of ‘better prisons’ to the participation of other components of what Angela Davis calls the ‘prison industrial complex’ (1999), such as police stations or the various other physical apparatuses dedicated to surveillance and policing in our cities, they are complicit in a system that has become expert at suspecting, arresting, and incarcerating impoverished and racialised bodies as a form of governance,” Lambert continued. 

Faculty and students, including Davis and UC Santa Cruz Feminist Studies Professor Gina Dent, helped launch the Critical Resistance movement, which is now a nonprofit organization advocating for prison abolition and better conditions inside prison walls. In 1998, Davis and Dent helped organize the first Critical Resistance conference, which is often characterized as the beginning of a new generation’s activism against the U.S. prison system.

In 2019, Davis was inducted into the National Women’s Hall Of Fame. Her fellow inductees include  attorney and activist Gloria Allred, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Native American lawyer and professor Sarah Deer, actress and activist Jane Fonda, United States Air Force officer Nicole Malachowski, former member of U.S. Congress Louise Slaughter, composer Laurie Spiegel, biologist Flossie Wong-Staal, and artist/activist Rose O’Neill.