Black Artist and Scientist Series
Spotlight Artist: Dorian Moore

Written by Dunia Roba

My name is Dunia Roba, and I am a biochemistry student at the University of Windsor and a Research Assistant at the INCUBATOR art lab. Being in the sciences, I'm unfamiliar with the newest innovations in the visual arts and the built environment. So, I sat down with Dorian Moore, Assistant Professor at the School of Creative Arts with a cross-appointment in Interdisciplinary and Critical Studies, to learn more about his practice and what's next in architecture.

Dorian Moore was born and raised in Detroit, MI, across the border from Windsor. From an early age, he has been fascinated with buildings and structures. He cites childhood visits to big cities like Montréal and New York to be the push that led him to architecture and urban planning. While some architects focus on singular structures, Dorian personally views architecture and city design to be one and the same. His interest lies in exploring how his building can work with the complexes around it and how their sum is greater than the individual structure.

For the past 30+ years, Dorian has co-led an architectural design firm called Archive Design Studio in Detroit. The studio primarily works on adaptive reuse projects, where an old building (ex., a warehouse) is converted into new housing and master planning. His team also engages in post-occupancy evaluations, where they evaluate their projects 5, 10, or even 20 years later. They investigate how people engage with the space, if it is being used, and what changes can be made in future projects. There is a cause-and-effect aspect to the evaluations: How would you feel if the ceiling was higher? If there was less light in the space, would you be comfortable? In Dorian's work, there is always room for improvement.

When working on a new project, Dorian first utilizes his knowledge reservoir, a.k.a. his experience studying over 350+ cities worldwide. He then seeks to understand the context of the task: what are the cultural and physical characteristics of this community? The next step is to determine what would be appropriate for that neighbourhood. If something with little relevance to the community is built, no one will use it. He synthesizes all this data to form sketches, computer renderings, and physical models. In total, a single project can take anywhere from 6 months to 6 years, depending on the scale.

Dorian Moore stays motivated by interacting with the world and filling his knowledge reservoir. Through travel, he gains hands-on experience of cities around the world. While the communities are unique, they can share cultural and physical characteristics with other neighbourhoods. Using these commonalities, Dorian applies what he has learned to his work. It also allows him to provide his students with new perspectives– different from what they might find in a textbook. It results in engaging content and inspires students in their projects.

One of the central themes in Dorian's work is sustainability. An architect's creation should last for decades upon decades. It is, therefore, important to use a long-term view when working on a project. With his Detroit-based firm, Archive Design Studio, he works on community master plans. Master planning is a concept in urban design where an entire community is planned at once. Streets, sidewalks, parks, buildings, etc., are all designed together, and their use is extrapolated for the future. This leads to investigations into what the neighbourhood might look like in 20, 30, or 40 years. He notes that sustainability in his practice is not necessarily technological sustainability but rather a study of a community's resilience. This extends into environmental sustainability. Moore quotes that "… the greenest building is the building that is already built."

Another key value in his work is equity. Like houses, communities acquire equity over time. Therefore, the longer a community is maintained, the more its value is understood. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. This has led to the cultural idea that living in a city or urban area is less desirable than living in a new suburban area. Dorian and his team try to help neighbourhoods understand their value by designing structures tailored to the community's strengths and needs. This highlights a difference between Dorian's practice and other fields of art. Artists sometimes create what they wish to bring to the world, and their creations are open to acceptance or challenge. A city builder, urban designer, or architect often will take a less controversial route and instead adapt their plans to the specific district they are creating to highlight the assets of that community.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the American Gulf Coast. Dorian was part of a team of 100 architects gathered by the governor of Mississippi to redevelop 11 cities in the region. There, he and his colleagues studied the characteristics of each city. They then synthesized the wants and needs of the communities to create master plans that made a difference after the natural disaster.

Dorian recommends that aspiring artists or educators synthesize what they want to do with what is needed. He suggests to students that when your work goes beyond individualism, it is given a higher purpose. This helps to find a lasting, sustainable form of inspiration for your work. He suggests blurring the line between the academic and practical and letting these two forms of knowledge inform the other. Like architecture and urban planning, it does not have to be either/or, and it can be both. Dorian's newest project is developing 7000 square feet of space into numerous affordable housing units. The task allows his team to explore their creativity while simultaneously making a big difference in that community– synergizing what they want with what is needed.

Find Dorian and his work on these socials:
Dorian Moore's LinkedIn:
Archive DS website:
Archive DS Instagram: @archivedesignstudio