The Thrival Geographies of Shani Crowe, Andres L. Hernandez, and Amanda Williams
An interview for Sixty Inches From Center
Andres L. Hernandez and Amanda Williams are architects and longtime friends. They met over twenty years ago at the beginning of their careers while studying architecture at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Since then, they have continued to stick by one another—turning to the other when they need a like-mind to think through new ideas, sharing information, and occasionally lamenting the dismal numbers of those like them in their field and its knock-on effects. And, every so often, there are magic moments when they’re able to collaborate.
In 2017 it was announced that they would both be joining the exhibition design team at the Obama Presidential Center, a crew led by Ralph Appelbaum Associates that includes Civic Projects LLC, Normal, and fellow artist and designer Norman Teague.
When that was announced they were almost a year into the joint commission A Way, Away (Listen While I Say) at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, a project that questions and extends the life cycle of architectural structures and urban landscapes by stretching the perceived confines of a vacant lot and challenging the idea that demolition is the end of a building’s story.
Then, seven short months later, it was announced that they would represent the United States at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, which resulted in Thrival Geographies (In My Mind I See A Line) (2018), a collaborative, inhabitable sculpture they created with artist and master braider Shani Crowe.
Thrival Geographies is one of many projects and collaborations that make one thing clear–Hernandez and Williams aren’t just architects. They are also transdisciplinary artists working across sculpture, sound, movement, painting, and installation and whose work is informed, too, by their roles as educators at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Hernandez) and the Illinois Institute of Technology (Williams). These are some of the reasons why it’s impossible to read their work solely through the lens of architecture.
Their sensibilities as artists bring their work to the edge of seemingly uncharted territory — especially when placed within an architecture context — which has its benefits and drawbacks. The overwhelmingly positive response to their projects, particularly Thrival Geographies, fuels the rising trajectory they’ve been on for quite a while. However, with new territory comes the possibility that the authors of history within these professional fields, art and architecture, haven’t found the language to describe or engage makers like them quite yet, which leaves the work lingering in a suspended state, waiting to be locked down by a versatile and adept scholar, curator, or other wordsmith who can hold their own within and speak wholly to the concepts that they are constructing. But the silver lining of it all — and a benefit from the perspective of the curators and art historians of the world — is that there is plenty of room to maneuver and experiment within these new waters.
Read the full interview here…
 The 2018 U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Bienniale. The image shows an exterior view of the U.S. Pavilion at dusk with light glowing from the windows of the gallery spaces. Photo © Tom Harris. Courtesy of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.
 Detail of Thrival Geographies (In My Mind I See a Line) by Amanda Williams + Andres L. Hernandez, in collaboration with Shani Crowe at the 2018 U.S. Pavilion. The image shows a further detail of the outer structure, focusing on two large braids falling along the exterior. Photo © Tom Harris. Courtesy of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.
 Andres, Amanda, and Shani in a studio at Bridgeport Art Center, 2018. The image shows Andres sitting on the ground, Amanda and Shani sitting in chairs near him and Amanda is speaking as the other two listen. Photo by Ally Almore.
 Three separate close-up portraits of Shani Crowe, Andres L. Hernandez, and Amanda Williams in a studio at Bridgeport Art Center. The three of them are standing and looking directly into the camera. Photo by Ally Almore.