Society's Cage – A Statement on the Forces of Systemic Racism

Society's Cage Dusk Monument SmithGroup

Society’s Cage is a timely interpretive installation born in the aftermath of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders as our society reckons with institutional racism and white supremacy. The public installation features a bold interpretive pavilion sculpted to symbolize the historic forces of racialized state violence. The experience educates visitors and functions as a sanctuary to reflect, record and share personal thoughts. It is conceived in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement as a mechanism for building empathy and healing.

Financial donations continue to be needed to meet the goals for the future of Society's Cage, including traveling to new locations and funding scholarships through the installation.  Please see SUPPORT below.


Society’s Cage reminds visitors that the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are not anomalies, but rather the latest examples in a 400+ year historic pattern of unmitigated, unbound, systemic anti-Blackness in the United States. The installation provides an opportunity to acknowledge and reckon with the severity of the racial biases inherent in the institutional structures of justice and creates a space for collective reflection, contemplation, sharing and healing.

The pavilion is a series of bars which are hung to form a cube with a cavernous void that symbolizes our imperfect society and justice system. The void is shaped by historical data and serves as a visual metaphor to represent the primary institutional forces of racism that embody the Black American experience.



Society's Cage SmithGroup Black Lives Matter Pavilion Washington DC
Society's Cage Diagram SmithGroup Washington DC Black Lives Matter BLM Pavilion

The Cube – The perfect cube form suggests a fair and equitable societal construct.

The Void – Carved out of the cube, the void is an obstacle-filled path symbolizing Black Americans struggle for survival.

Gravity – Data is physically manifested to demonstrate the odds stacked against Black Americans; inside, the weight of oppression is experienced.

Bars – The perfect cube of bars represents the systemic oppression of white supremacy actively subverting Black progress.

1 in 4 – One in four bars physically touches the ground, representing the statistical probability of being imprisoned as a Black American.

The Data – Systemic racism creates obstacles in every facet of life: employment, housing, education, police violence, mass incarceration.

The Exterior Experience: Educate

Wrapping the edifice of Society’s Cage is an interpretive educational experience about racist lynchings, police terrorism, mass incarceration and capital punishment as the primary institutional structures of anti-Black state violence. Visitors are directed to additional educational resources through QR codes.


Society's Cage Rendering Interior SmithGroup

The Interior Experience: Empathize 

The interior of the installation offers the visitor an emotive experience. Enveloped in a soundscape commissioned for the installation, beneath a constellation of lights, this second interpretive experience is designed to build empathy and understanding. Inside the pavilion is an opportunity to participate in a universal exercise of holding one’s breath for as long as one can. This exercise is inspired by the indignities performed on George Floyd in the 8:46 in which his life was tragically and unnecessarily stolen. The visitor is then encouraged to record a video on their own smartphone state how long they were able to hold their breath and provide brief reflections to upload to a social media platform with a unique hashtag specific to this installation.

The initial installation was timed to coincide with the March on Washington in support of Black Lives, and was located on the National Mall at 12th Street and Madison Drive NW from August 28 - September 12, 2020.

Experience Society's Cage Digitally 

To extend the Society's Cage installation online, this text document features all the educational and interpretive content from the physical installation, paired with additional resources. The augmented reality simulation below allows anyone to interact with a digital twin of the pavilion from anywhere.





Society's Cage Team SmithGroup Washington DC
Support Title

Immediate donations are needed to fund the installation and its ability to travel to future locations. Sponsors who are invested in fighting for justice for Black lives, in uplifting the voices of Black artists and designers, and in bringing awareness to the historic continuum of anti-Black state violence are desired. Download the donation information package.

We are partnered with The Architects Foundation on this project, and whose mission is complementary to ours: to attract, inspire and invest in the next generation of architects who will create inclusive spaces, places and communities. Funds raised beyond the total needed for the installation go to the Foundation’s Diversity Advancement Scholarships program.

The Architects Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, EIN 59-3819154. Make your tax-deductible donation in support of Society’s Cage and learn more about The Architects Foundation at

Individual donations and corporate sponsors are welcomed.


Donation Portal Society's Cage SmithGroup Washington D.C.


Help the installation reach new audiences with a financial donation


Sponsors SmithGroup

Lead Sponsor

SG Wordmark BLM Black Lives Matter Society's Cage Pavilion Washington DC




Fiscal Sponsor

architects Foundation SmithGroup BLM Black Lives Matter Society's Cage Pavilion Washington DC



Corporate Sponsors

D | Watts Logo Herrero Builders Logo Bonstra Haresign Logo Kohler Logo Center for Racial Equity and Justice Logo Advanced Thermal Solutions Logo LKA Logo Tarkett Logo

In-Kind Sponsors

Gronning Logo Alan Karchmer Photographer Logo Architecture Black Lives Matter Society's Cage Silman SmithGroup Black Lives Matter Society's Cage Installation Washington DC