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Behind the Scenes: The Design & Significance of the Memorial "The Embrace"

Hosted By UVA Clubs
Event Details
Understanding the historic significance of The Embrace's location and the design process behind this powerful memorial.

On April 23, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on Boston Common, America's first public park, before a crowd of 22,000 and called for the city to live by its highest ideals. And 13 years earlier across town, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott met on a blind date in January 1952 at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Seventy years after that first date, "The Embrace", a statue depicting the loving connection shared between the couple after MLK was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, will be unveiled on Boston Common on January 13 and dedicated on January 15. The monument aims to memorialize the civil rights work of the Kings while the plaza in which it sits also honors 65 figures who contributed to the civil rights movement.

We invite Jonathan Evans (ARCH '04 ), lead architect for The Embrace and Principal at MASS Design Group, to talk with fellow alum and colleague Katie Swenson (ARCH '00, PAR '23), Senior Principal at MASS Design Group, about the historic significance of the memorial, and the design process behind this powerful sculpture.

The Zoom link to join us will be sent via email before the event.

For more information on this event, please contact Robin Stafford (PAR '17), Senior Associate Director, UVA Clubs, at

*Note: These events are being recorded by audio, video, and photographic means. By participating, you grant the University of Virginia the right to use your voice/likeness in any depiction of these events, including sharing on social media. Video is not required to participate in this event. UVA Clubs is committed to providing universal access to our events. Please contact us at to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.

This event is #open to all alumni, parents, and friends. #DigitalEvent

Jonathan Evans, RA

Jonathan Evans is a Principal and architect with MASS Design Group in Boston, Ma. Jonathan studied architecture at the University of Virginia, and received his MARCH from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design where he was awarded the Alpha Rho Chi medal for leadership, service and promise of professional merit. Jonathan has dedicated his career to architecture with measurable community value and public interest, from affordable multi-family housing to planning and urban design work for nonprofits and public agencies.

Jonathan is the lead architect on The Embrace, a memorial dedicated to the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, located on the Boston Common. He is currently working on building out MASS’s portfolio in affordable housing projects, including upcoming developments in Cleveland, Ohio and Brighton, Massachusetts.

He has taught undergraduate and graduate level studios at the Boston Architectural College and Northeastern University, and has lectured at the conference of the National Organization of Minority Architects and at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Jonathan is a Mayoral Appointee to the Boston Civic Design Commission, where he serves on a panel that reviews significant projects that impact the city’s public realm.

Katie Swenson

A nationally recognized design leader, researcher, writer, and educator, Katie Swenson is a Senior Principal of MASS Design Group, named 2022 Architecture Firm of the Year by the American Institute of Architects. Katie’s work explores how critical design practice can, and should, promote economic and social equity, environmental sustainability, and healthy communities. Katie has over 20 years of experience in the theoretical and practical application of design thinking and is a talented global public speaker and thought leader.

A prolific writer, she authored Design with Love: At Home in America, and In Bohemia: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Kindness, both published in August 2020. She co-authored Growing Urban Habitats: Seeking a Housing Development Model with William Morrish and Susanne Schindler. She is a contributing author to Activist Architecture: Philosophy and Practice of Community Design and Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism. Katie was awarded the AIA Award for Excellence in Public Architecture in 2021.

Prior to joining MASS, Katie was the vice president of Design & Sustainability at Enterprise Community Partners. An alumni of the Enterprise Rose Fellowship’s second class, Swenson was tapped to lead and grow the program in 2007. Katie has a B.A. in comparative literature from UC Berkeley, and a MARCH from the University of Virginia, and founded the Charlottesville Community Design Center in 2004.