Brooklyn By Design

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Architectural Digest, step aside! Blacklines is a new quarterly magazine devoted to African-American architecture and interior design. The Brooklyn-based project is the joint effort of three women–publisher Kathleen Ettienne, a Trinidad native, Shella Cadet and Atim Annette Oton–all full-time architects new to the world of publishing.

At 60 pages, the premiere issue includes a mixture of editorials, interviews, architecture and design profiles, an essay on the essence of hip-hop in architectural design, and a profile on Daniel Christopher Hall, the new president of the National Organization of Minority Architects. “We are trying to reach the overall population, black and white,” says Ettienne, sitting in her Flatbush apartment, which doubles as Blacklines headquarters. “We want this to be the type of magazine that anybody can pick up and have an appreciation for.”

But the main inspiration for the magazine, says Ettienne, was the trio’s desire to create a resource for budding black architects. “We have many youngsters growing up in our community who are not aware of our master builders,” says Ettienne, recalling America’s first African-American architect Paul Williams (1896-1980) and Afrocentric designer Jack Travis, who recently completed the interior of the Los Angeles home of actor Wesley Snipes. “Black students need something to identify with,” she adds.

It wasn’t easy. None of the women had any experience in publishing, and quite a few magazine industry professionals tried to dissuade them from launching the magazine, says Ettienne. But they rounded up the money nonetheless, convincing friends and employers to buy ads in their first issue. “We begged for ads, and the rest came from our pockets,” she says.

Ettienne and her co-publishers are now working on the second issue of their magazine, which will examine African-American aesthetics, the role of community development in design practice and the sources of design inspiration.

The magazine can be purchased by subscription online at www.blacklines.net.