December 22, 2023

In Memoriam: Ángel David Nieves (1971-2023)

Dr. Ángel David Nieves passed away on December 5, 2023 in Boston. Dr. Nieves was an architectural historian and digital humanities scholar whose work critically examined the social, political, and technological dimensions of the modern racialized landscape.

Dr. Ángel David NievesDr. Ángel David NievesTrained as an architect (B.Arch. with honors, Syracuse, 1994), anthropologist (MA, Binghamton, 1996), and architectural historian (PhD, Cornell, 2001), Dr. Nieves drew on a diverse set of disciplinary methodologies and theoretical frameworks to innovate new approaches to spatial histories of the United States and South Africa. He pursued a groundbreaking academic path that led from professional schools through the humanities, knitting together communities of activists and scholars. At the time of his death, Dr. Nieves was Dean’s Professor of Public and Digital Humanities, Professor of African American Studies and History, and Director of Public Humanities at Northeastern University. He held positions at the University of Colorado, Boulder Black Studies Program, the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning, Hamilton College’s Department of Africana Studies and Digital Humanities Initiative (which he founded), and San Diego State University Department of History. He was also Presidential Visiting Associate Professor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) and the DHLab at Yale University (2017-2018).

Dr. Nieves’ professional path is also reflected in his groundbreaking scholarship. He was the author of An Architecture of Education: African American Women Design the New South (University of Rochester, 2018) and co-editor of ‘We Shall Independent Be:’ African American Place Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the U.S. (with Leslie Alexander) (University of Colorado, 2008) and People, Practice, Power: Digital Humanities Outside the Center (University of Minnesota, 2021) as well as a range of digital history publications and experimental online platforms. Among these are “Soweto’76,” which drew on digital archive and virtual reality research to document the student uprising in Johannesburg, South Africa that followed the murder of 12-year old Hector Pieterson and led to the anti-apartheid movement’s eventual victory. “Soweto ’76” was part of Nieves’ larger project, Apartheid Heritages: A Spatial History of South Africa’s Townships, a series of digital collaborations as well as a digital book project. Dr. Nieves received support for his work from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. A committed advocate of justice and equity, Dr. Nieves left an indelible impression on not only the growing body of scholarship on race and the built, imagined, and destroyed environments but on the many communities that he helped to catalyze through his life’s work.

By: Lawrence Chua, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Architecture, Syracuse University