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Award-Winning Architect to Share Story of Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery

President’s Distinguished Speakers Series faculty spotlight event will feature architect and educator Julian Bonder

BRISTOL, R.I. – Ten years after being commissioned by Jean-Marc Ayrault – the French prime minister who at the time served as mayor of the City of Nantes, for centuries France’s largest slave port – the award-winning Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery opened in March 2012.

Sited on the banks of the Loire River in the heart of the city, the Memorial is the product of Wodiczko + Bonder, a design partnership created by Architect and Roger Williams University Professor of Architecture Julian Bonder and Krzysztof Wodiczko of the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

On Thursday, April 11, members of the public are invited to spend an evening with Bonder as part of a Faculty Spotlight edition of the President’s Distinguished Speakers Series at Roger Williams University.

The architect and educator will offer ideas on architecture, memory and public space and share the story of the Memorial – which received, among other awards, a Special Mention from the Biannual European Prize for Urban Public Space, an Honor Award from the Boston Society of Architects and a nomination for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture / Mies van der Rohe Award – a unique space that invites visitors to contemplate slavery and the slave trade, celebrate resistance and abolition, and consider the continuing struggle against present-day forms of slavery.

“Not only has it earned glowing reviews from the French prime minister himself, Julian Bonder’s Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery has encouraged healing in the City of Nantes and inspired visitors from across the world to consider slavery’s legacy even today,” says RWU President Donald J. Farish. “This event offers the chance to learn the story behind the preeminent work of our colleague and friend.”

Born in New York and raised in Buenos Aires, Bonder is a longtime architect and educator based out of Cambridge, Mass. In his design projects and writings, he concentrates on exploring the relationships among memory, trauma, architecture and public space. His body of work includes projects focused on events including the Civil War, the Desaparecidos of Argentina, the Holocaust, civil rights, slavery and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Since 2001, Bonder has served as professor of architecture at Roger Williams. Previously, he taught architecture at Universidad de Buenos Aires, Syracuse University and as the Hyde Chair of Excellence Professor at the University of Nebraska. He is principal of Julian Bonder + Associates in Cambridge.

The Wodiczko + Bonder partnership began in 2003. The partners focus on art and design projects that engage public space and raise issues related to social memory, survival and struggle and emancipation related to urban and domestic violence, war, immigration, global displacement and genocides.

Wodiczko + Bonder’s Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery involves the transformation of 350 meters of the coast of the Loire River in downtown Nantes, France. Unique in its kind and scale in Europe, the project includes the adaptation of a pre-existing residual space, a product of the construction of embankments of the Loire in earlier centuries. The 130-meters-long sub-surface space, “found” in archival documentation along and often below the level of the water, is the heart of the memorial. A three-day celebratory opening of the Memorial took place on March 25, 2012.

The April 11 presentation at Roger Williams will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Global Heritage Hall, Room G01, on the University’s Bristol campus at One Old Ferry Road. The event is free and open to the public; no advance tickets are required. For more information, call (401) 254-3201.

Launched in 2011, the President’s Distinguished Speakers Series at Roger Williams University invites thought leaders from a wide range of disciplines to share perspectives, inspire conversations and enrich the intellectual lives of students, faculty and staff at Roger Williams as well as members of the local community. As part of the series, each guest is invited to devote much of the daylong visit to direct engagement with students in classroom sessions, offering RWU students unique opportunities for one-on-one interactions with some of the world’s leading authors, scholars, artists and public servants.