Community Narrative: Christiansburg Institute

I want to investigate the relationship between social narratives, the role of an architect, and creating community spaces. I want to understand how the involvement of community members can influence the design process. As a case study, my thesis will explore the Christiansburg Institute as a direct influence on the African American community in Southwest Virginia. Specifically, I will work to understand my own heritage and connection to the institute. In reflection, I will establish my own approach to honor the legacy built before me through architecture and planning.


My research will begin by interviewing four legacies of the Christiansburg Institute; my grandmother, grandfather, great-aunt, and great-uncle. I expect that the interview candidates may grow to include other relatives and close peers. For larger groups, I can facilitate COVID-friendly focus groups either online or in spaces approved for in-person discussions. However, my main objective at this time is to hear the four distinguished candidates’ specific stories.


I will document the responses for “experiences at the Christiansburg Institute and community spaces.” I believe my findings will show me the rituals and spaces that formed the community. These will be documented through in-person and video interviews. I plan to use their responses as a guide to what I will design to honor the space.

Please check out the interviews below and see how they influence the final product.

Christiansburg Institute voices

Eash interview listed below was from a former attendee of Christiansburg Institute. The Institute officially closed in 1966 when the Board of Education legally integrated all schools. The members were asked a series of questions to express their memories of the school in relation to community and architecture. The six primary questions were developed by the host to better understand how individuals functioned on the campus and how it has impacted them. As a result of the interview series, the information will be documented to influence the thesis design proposal for redeveloping Christiansburg Institute. This includes architecture details and site programming.

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Interview 1

Christiansburg Institute Attendee

1961-1965

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Interview 3

Christiansburg Institute Attendee

1963-1966

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Interview 2

Christiansburg Institute Attendee

1962-1965

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Interview 4

Christiansburg Institute Attendee

1957-1961