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Portrait of an African American woman with short hair and brown skin. She sits leaning slightly forward with her arms crossed across her knees. She is dressed in all-black and is wearing yellow-rimmed glasses. She sits in front of a geometric volume in the background.

Portrait photo by Ball and Albanese.


Nina Cooke John

She // Her // Hers

Architect and Public Artist

Montclair, New Jersey

My practice has evolved immensely this past year and throughout the pandemic. The separation from the regular routine of work allowed for a reflection on what had been important to me in my exploration of architecture, art and public space. I took the time to make again. Making with my hands reminded me of how liberating and joyful it can be to allow the intuition in my hands to direct formal.”

Nina Cooke John is the founding principal of Studio Cooke John, a multidisciplinary architecture and design studio that values placemaking as a way to transform relationships between people and the built environment. It works at the scale of the human body — individual or collective, in the home or on the street — responding to space in everyday life, whether within the family unit or as part of the greater community. Born and raised in Kingston, she responds to the crisis of identity in moving from one world into another. Her work explores identity as a layered experience, encompassing a multiplicity of possible manifestations in the complex engagement of individuals with urban life.

Her studio’s installation Point of Action was on view at the Flatiron Public Plazas in the winter of 2020–21, while its winning design for the Harriet Tubman monument in Newark, New Jersey, Shadow of a Face, will be unveiled in the summer of 2022. Her work has been featured in Architectural Record, Madame Architect, Dwell magazine (“13 Extraordinary Women in Design and Architecture You Need to Know”), and the Center for Architecture’s 2018 exhibition Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture; it has also appeared on NBC’s Open House NY.

For twenty years, Cooke John has also worked as a design educator, with positions at Syracuse University, Parsons School of Design, and Columbia University, where she currently teaches.

Donor -This award was generously supported by the Reis Foundation.

This artist page was last updated on: 07.12.2024

Photo of an outdoor art installation at night. Six bright red architectural sculptures are constructed on the cement of a public plaza, illuminated by lights. The frames of each structure are strung with ropes, to create an inviting space.

Point of Action, 2020. Flatiron Public Plazas.

Photo by Tony Turner Photography.

Drawing of a public monument. An outline of a figure stands at the top, surrounded by a wall that increases in height as it curves around. A number of figures, outlined in red, walk around the walls or sit on benches inside.

Nina Cooke John. Drawing of proposed Harriet Tubman Monument, Shadow of A Face, 2022. Newark, New Jersey.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

A black-and-white line drawing depicting a three-story building with scaffolding constructed onto its side.

Nina Cooke John. Process drawing for the Urban Porch intervention in the West Indian community of Wakefield in the Bronx.

Photo courtesy of the artist.