SuperTalk Mississippi

MSU architecture freshmen showcase design skills in ‘Emmett Till River Site Memorial’ exhibition

Image courtesy of Silvina Lopez Barrera

Thirty-six freshman Mississippi State architecture students are showcasing their final first-year studio projects Aug. 28-Oct. 1 in an “Emmett Till River Site Memorial” poster exhibition at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Tallahatchie County.

Through a spring 2020 semester partnership with the Emmett Till Memorial Commission (ETMC), the students produced design proposals for a Till memorial at the Graball Landing site. 

Silvina Lopez Barrera, MSU School of Architecture assistant professor and studio coordinator, said the site sits at the convergence of the Tallahatchie River and the Black Bayou, where it is believed Till’s body was found. Since April 2008, the ETMC has attempted to commemorate the site, she explained.

“As part of my own research, we started this collaboration with the ETMC, and we partnered with the first-year studio to design the memorial,” she said. “Now, the commission wants to move forward with the development of the river site and is planning to use students’ designs to start community conversations.”


This design by MSU architecture major Kailyn M. Gardner of Madison is one of 36 student projects that will be featured Aug. 28-Oct. 1 in an “Emmett Till River Site Memorial” poster exhibition at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, 120 North Court St. in Sumner. (Photo submitted by Silvina Lopez Barrera)

Along with Lopez Barrera’s coordination, students have contributed to the community engagement project under the guidance of John Ross, MSU visiting assistant professor, and Simon Powney, studio assistant. The students’ proposals could incorporate a wide range of design intentions and sources of inspiration, but they were required to include a site entrance, space for reflection and contemplation, and bus parking area.

Lopez Barrera said by incorporating symbolic and educative features in their proposals, the students responded to specific environmental conditions of the place, which could help engage visitors with Till’s history, the civil rights movement, and the future of racial reconciliation.

“We hope the work of this exhibition contributes to conversations about the future development of the Graball Landing site and explores design visions and values that could be included in the new memorial and its restorative narrative,” she said.

Located at 120 North Court St. in Sumner, the center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. or by appointment. Admission is free.

For more on The School of Architecture at MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design , visit

The Emmett Till Interpretive Center is online at

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