The House That Herman Built


The Dream House.

The House That Herman Built – New Orleans, LA USA

The House That Herman Built is a collaboration between Herman Wallace and Jackie Sumell. Herman Wallace has been in solitary confinement for almost 40 years, the vast majority of which was spent in the infamous 18,000 acre former slave breeding plantation in Angola, LA, the Louisiana State Penitentiary. In the course of their lengthy correspondence, Jackie asked Herman about the dream house he would like for himself, and thus began this incredible project.

Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King Wilkerson are collectively known as the Angola 3. In 1971 the formed a chapter of the Black Panther Party as a means to end prisoner rape, improve inhumane conditions and facilitate race relations. They organized hunger strikes, educated other inmates and became reputable jail-house lawyers.

Through several exhibitions in cities around the world and numerous stories in the media, the name of Herman Wallace and his struggle for justice has become known to millions. With every day that passes, the fight for freedom moves closer to victory.

In January of 2007, I read the amazing story of Herman Wallace and Jackie Sumell in Domus Magazine. I was so inspired that I immediately wrote to Jackie, responding to their call for a pro-bono architectural services. I told her that this project needed design services from someone who would work in support of the art, and work to make the minimum number of modifications in order to stay true to Herman’s vision. My experience working with the artist James Turrell primed me well for this role on Jackie and Herman’s team and thus began our collaboration.

MAISON ORION is providing design documentation for this project to see that it is realized with faithfulness to Herman’s vision with the absolute minimum of modifications.


Jackie, Herman and a sample of their correspondence.


A visitor to the exhibition views the architectural drawings.


Front and Back elevation of The House That Herman Built.


In November 2002, after months of correspondence, Jackie asked Herman a simple question: “What kind of house does a man who has been kept in a six-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?” The answer is contained in an incredible exchange that has now lasted five years. Through over 300 letters, several phone calls and visits to the prison, the artist and activist Jackie Sumell has given voice and substance to Herman Wallace’s imagination.

Domus Magazine, December 2006

You can download a PDF of the Domus article that brought me into this wonderful collaboration.

Please also visit the website for the documentary film on this project, Herman’s House by Angad Singh Bhalla.

Donate to the help complete The House That Herman Built. All donations are tax deductable. Click here for more details.