FSU Interior Architecture and Design students win design competition to memorialize local enslaved population 

FSU Interior Architecture and Design students Hannah Smith, Alana Houston and Sarah Rifqi.
FSU Interior Architecture and Design students Hannah Smith, Alana Houston and Sarah Rifqi.

Three Florida State University Department of Interior Architecture and Design graduate students have been selected as winners of the Goodwood Museum & Gardens Memorial to the Enslaved Competition.

Students Hannah Smith, Alana Houston and Sarah Rifqi, who were mentored by Assistant Professor Meghan Mick, were awarded $1,000 for their winning design of “A Bridge to the Stars.”

Once constructed, the structure will serve as a memorial for those who were enslaved on the Tallahassee property between 1832 and 1865 and will serve as a place to honor the past, heal in the present and encourage social justice in the future.

“This design offers the potential and powerful means to recall and honor memories through its use of space, water, light and text,” said Jill Pable, chair of the FSU Department of Interior Architecture and Design. “Each of these elements serves to celebrate and pay respect to the lives of the enslaved and encourage visitors to engage in meaningful dialogue.”

Goodwood is working with the student designers, local artists and fabricators to determine the timeline and costs for construction.

“This collaborative design is the capstone of several years of planning by a diverse group of stakeholders including a descendent of one of Goodwood’s enslaved workers, scholars, historians, researchers and artists,” Humayun said. “We are committed to sharing an honest and inclusive history with the public and this is another way we can do so.”

Now known as Goodwood Museum & Gardens, the former plantation was located between the Ochlockonee and Aucilla Rivers and was one of many in Florida that benefited from the labor of enslaved individuals.

“The lives of the enslaved were rarely documented but Goodwood has painstakingly combed through historic documents and archival sources to learn the names and histories of as many of them as possible,” said Jennifer Humayun, executive director at Goodwood Museum and Gardens. “The design of this memorial serves as a place where people gather to learn, commemorate the lives of the enslaved and honor them as the individuals they were.”

According to Humayun, despite numerous efforts, the exact location of the slaves’ quarters and graves are unknown. The competition is a continued effort to preserve this history.

“After walking through the Goodwood property and recognizing the treatment the enslaved experienced, I was encouraged to embrace their hidden identities and struggles that were underestimated in the memorial design,” Rifqi said. “I really hope our design will help appreciate these individuals and give the community of Tallahassee something back in return.”

The students’ proposal is a multifaceted design that will feature a bridge with beams to symbolize strength that the enslaved embodied as they carried the weight of being forced to work in bondage. The design concept envisions visitors crossing a low bridge, reading the names of the enslaved. In the evening, lights will illuminate the space. Reminiscent of stars, the lights represent a life of freedom those enslaved did not get to live.

“Alana, Sarah and Hannah really embraced this design challenge and came up with a unique and thoughtful solution — one that is rooted in stories of the experiences of the enslaved while at Goodwood,” Mick said. “In addition to highlighting the documented history, their design invites visitors to engage further, change their perspective and hopefully see these people in a different light. It is a powerful message, and one that I’m happy will become part of the grounds at Goodwood.”

To honor the winners, participants and supporters of the Memorial to Enslaved Design Competition, Goodwood will hold a public reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on March 30.

For more information about Goodwood Museum & Gardens, please visit https://interiordesign.fsu.edu/ and https://www.goodwoodmuseum.org/.