By: Ana C. Forrister
Each month, DCP will highlight a graduate from the #OneDCP family. To be featured in this space, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I met Taurean in 2017 when we worked together on the City of Gainesville mid-century survey,” UF Historic Preservation Program Acting Director Cleary Larkin said. “Taurean was passionate about cultural heritage represented in the built environment. He models the intelligence, curiosity and work ethic that is required to be an architect. We at UF are proud of Taurean and the positive impact he will have in teaching the next generation of architects.”
During his time at DCP, he completed his master’s thesis, titled “Preserving Blackness, Assessing the Values and Perceptions of Historic Districts in Neighborhoods of Color,” which focused on the need for diversifying the field of historic preservation and including different cultural heritages and more communities of color. Shortly after his time in Gainesville, Merriweather worked with the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, where he conducted site visits to document interiors, exteriors, and other specifications for digital representations of buildings of interest that would not have otherwise been documented.
Currently, the Gator graduate works as a designer at the architecture firm Cooper Carry in Atlanta. He also serves as a visiting professor at Tuskegee University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in architecture. There at Tuskegee, he teaches historic preservation courses to students in the Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science.
“He continues to support African American architectural and heritage education in his new role as educator at Tuskegee,” Larkin said. “Taurean and I have kept in touch since his graduation in 2018, and I have been pleased to see him achieve many accomplishments in his career as an architectural designer, transitioning his education to practice through his work at the National Park Service and at WSP. I am sure his alma mater, Tuskegee, is pleased to have him on their esteemed faculty team.”
Q & A WITH TAUREAN MERRIWEATHER
How did DCP prepare you for your career?
Because I endeavored to dive into preservation, it allowed me to not only get the full scope of preservation regarding the training I did with building documentation, structural reports, surveys, and neighborhoods, but it also allowed me to see the full spectrum of what preservation has to offer. I saw all the interdisciplinary parts associated with it and from there I was able to hone in on my focus and what I specifically wanted to concentrate on in preservation. I continued to dive into those endeavors through my thesis, and ultimately that allowed me to have a stepping off point after graduation to do building documentation and research as an affiliate with African American neighborhoods and communities of color. That training allowed me to find ways to not only teach preservation as it relates to building documentation and building construction, but also teach those specific principles through the architecture side of preservation.
What was the most challenging part of your time as a student at DCP?
I would honestly say that there were a lot of positives, but one of the challenging aspects was trying to find assistance regarding my focus in preservation. Because my area of preservation is a relatively new perspective within the field, there isn’t a lot to pull from within that specific context. So, it was just about finding what was already there and finding out ways to pull from other sources to allow the development of a pathway for these specific concentrations to start the conversation. Even though that may be a positive in terms of the output, trying to figure out the best way to do it posed some issues, especially with me being one of the only African Americans in the program at the time. But that challenge gave me the opportunity to learn how to utilize resources from different departments to get a good stepping off point.
What was your favorite memory from your time at DCP?
I would have to say the ambiance of being in the space. The architecture, the atrium, the building – it gives an inclusive, yet individualized feeling. DCP is part of UF as a whole, but it also has its own little hub and community, relationship-wise through faculty, students, staff, and spatially with its location on campus. There were times where I had work to do and it was easy for me to go to the DCP Architecture Building, go into the office, and just work no matter night or day. It was relaxing, soothing, and it allowed me to really focus. It continuously gave me a pleasant reminder that I was in grad school.
What has had the most impact on your work as a preservationist?
I would honestly say that within my work for my master’s degree. It was a good starting point to really understand preservation, but then I also realized that there is some nuance within the field of preservation and narratives that have either been dismissed or have not been heard yet. It allowed me to see preservation with a certain set of eyes and a different vision of the field. Realizing that the field had a void that needed to be filled, I started my work, and from there that initial step allowed for the realization that there are other opportunities in preservation as it pertains to my focus and my concentration. With those additional opportunities, there were ways to fill those voids and the opportunities continued to connect to one another and branch from each other. It is not only one of the reasons why I was asked to become a visiting professor, but one of the reasons I chose to become a visiting professor at my alma mater, Tuskegee University.
What is your main goal within your work and your concentration?
My main goal is to show people that preservation is activism. Preservation is a way to shine a light on narratives that are not talked about enough, have been swept under the rug or have just not been heard of. Preservation is also all around us, and there are multiple ways to view preservation. It’s not necessarily just saving a building. The building itself tells a story; the building itself houses a narrative. Buildings are inhabited by people and those people have lives and lived experiences that make the space and tell a story. Usually, the people who are making the space are people of color, in particular, African Americans. Being able to balance the narrative and say these narratives are a part of history, just like the narratives that have already been told are a part of history, is essential to making sure these narratives are prioritized. To make sure that the full narrative is told, we must endeavor to want to know these stories. Everyone has a right for their story to be heard and for their narrative to be told.
What do you enjoy most about being a visiting professor at Tuskegee University?
Giving back to my alma mater has to be number one. I had always thought about how I could give back, besides just donating money. Donating my time and donating my knowledge was the answer to that question. It’s one of those things where you don’t realize how much knowledge or information you know until you have to teach it to someone. Being responsible for the younger minds and the younger generations matriculating through college, trying to make their footprint in the world, is no easy feat. It was something that I had no initial desire to do. That is not to say that I never wanted to teach; it was just not on my radar at the time. There were times where when I considered a different path, and it would be doing what I am doing now (adjunct professor), but I never went through the search to look for those types of positions. The opportunity just came to me, and, in that moment, I made the decision that I was going to take it. There was a learning curve, but the contracting roles I had previously with Tuskegee helped prepare me for the position. Being a visiting professor for the students and the university is a humbling experience and I am grateful to be able to leave an imprint on the students as they matriculate through college.
What would you tell prospective students who are thinking about attending DCP?
Utilize the resources available to you and trust your imagination. There are so many different things that you can do and so many ways that you can make connections with what you want to do. DCP has the resources to help anyone realize those ventures. Keep an open mind and try to really stay steadfast as you encounter challenges. Make sure to utilize the network at DCP, remain diligent in seeking helping, and see how other disciplines can enforce and strengthen what you want to accomplish.