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“How can we save our hoods if we can’t identify the assets in our hoods?” asks Jerald Cooper, the curator behind @hoodmidcenturymodern. Founded in 2019, the Instagram account is a growing archive of modernist architecture spotted in Black neighborhoods. Cooper, who aptly spoke with me over Zoom from inside a Richard Neutra residence in Los Angeles, sees the project as a historical preservation committee for the Black community. He may not have an architectural background, but that’s not the point. “I want to encourage someone who may just appreciate it,” he says. “I’m learning right now.”
Composed of his own photographs as well as submissions from across the country, Cooper’s project is motivated by a nuanced stance on gentrification that is personal and deep-rooted. A few years ago, the church his family had attended for decades was purchased and destroyed — the loss of a cultural treasure that had a memorable impact. “We don’t even know what’s coming in our hood ’til it’s up,” he says.
Hood Century is about educating the Black community, and preserving an identity that is often overlooked because it doesn’t fit a wider socioeconomic story. This is why documentation of historic architecture in neighborhoods under pressure from gentrification is key to keeping these Black community artifacts alive.
Cooper took us on a tour of some of his favorite Hood Century finds in Los Angeles.
“This building here is one of my favorites, because of the breeze block. A breeze block is so air can get through cement. It’s lit.”
“This business is called Simply Wholesome. It was established in 1984 and is owned by a Black family. It’s one of the most important examples of a California architecture style called Googie in the world.”
“It’s important to not just photograph the architects’ design, because they’re designing for the environment. If I had a style to my photography, it’s about what’s around it and how it fits.”
“This is an Eric Wright-designed spot, right next door to the Silver Lake Reservoir. It’s one of those cribs that I always thought looked good. It has a lot of mystery to it, doesn’t it?”
“I bet everyone passes this shit so fast. But it’s interesting to me because it has my favorite awning.”
“I said to this guy, ‘Man, this building is beautiful.’ And he said, 'Yeah, but they’re raising the price on us.’”
“Sometimes when I’m driving in LA, all the roofs are flat. But this one has sort of a wing shape.”