InDialogue: Elleza Kelley and Isabel Strauss

In conjunction with the forthcoming digital publication for The Available City, this conversation will consider the relationship between spatial practice, refuge, and how personal histories create collective power within our cities.  

Moderated by The Available City curatorial fellow, Lauren Speigel, this conversation features 2021 CAB essayist Elleza Kelley and 2021 CAB contributor Isabel Strauss of Riff Studio, who will discuss how their practices and CAB contributions engage Black aesthetic, spatial practice, and housing reparations.


Elleza Kelley is a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University in the departments of English and African American Studies. Her current book project explores black spatial knowledge and practice through African American literature and visual art. Kelley is a co-founder of the Black Student Alliance at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she acts as a senior advisor, programming symposia and producing publications related to blackness and architecture. Kelley writes and teaches on a range of subjects from black aesthetics and black geographies to historical fiction. Kelley’s writing can be found in Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, The New Inquiry, Cabinet Magazine, and elsewhere.

Isabel Strauss recently completed her master’s in architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. She received her AB from Harvard College with a concentration in the history of art and architecture. She has a professional background in museum collection management and scenic design. She has worked for Johnston Marklee, Michael Maltzan Architecture, SOM New York, Todd Rosenthal Scenic Design, the Goodman Theater, and the Whitney Museum. Strauss worked to establish the African American Design Nexus with the Frances Loeb Library in 2017 and contributed to research for the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Project from 2020 to 2021.

Lauren Speigel is the Curatorial Fellow with the Chicago Architecture Biennial and a Senior Researcher at Code for America. She recently advised MASS Design Group on the national Gun Violence Memorial Project and is passionate about using rigorous research and human-centered design to reduce inequities for urban communities. Previously, she was the inaugural research director at the Policing Project at NYU Law and a senior policy advisor to Mayor Emanuel. Lauren holds a master's in public policy from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of Bowdoin College.


Chicago Architecture Biennial’s 2021 InDialogue Series is generously supported by Hindman Auctions.

Hindman, an internationally recognized fine art auction house, offers its clients an unyielding focus on service and holistic solutions to connect to the global art market. Hindman conducts over 100 auctions annually in 52 collecting categories such as fine art, jewelry, modern design, books and manuscripts, furniture, native American art, decorative arts, antiquities, couture, and Asian works of art. Founded and headquartered in Chicago, Hindman is now represented in 13 cities in the United States and operates five salerooms, more than any other auction house in the country.

Left: Isabel Strauss Right: Elleza Kelley