Profiles in Preservation

Ariana Makau

As it first appeared on Black in Historic Preservation's Instagram on 31 May 2023:

It’s still National Preservation Month, yes?

Great! It’s another opportunity to highlight a Black person who is historic preservationing … heritage conservationing … spreading some love to a building/site/sacred space. 

After spending a night at the midcentury modernist gem of architect Eero Saarinen, the TWA Hotel, we are departing JFK for California (because it knows how to par-tay), to say hello to …

President & Principal Conservator of Nzilani Glass Conservation …

Ariana Makau!

From her bio:  “Ariana Makau is President and Principal Conservator of Nzilani Glass Conservation. She is a Board Member and Health & Safety Chair of the Stained Glass Association of America; plus a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation. Nzilani’s mission of “Be Safe. Have Fun. Do Excellent Work.” The company focuses on self-empowerment through information: sharing processes, health and safety procedures, and the importance of preserving cultural landscapes and the environment.”

In the first picture, Ariana is in,” the garden of her Oakland-based stained glass company, Nzilani Glass Conservation. She is wearing a dress by a women-owned, Kenyan company Zuri Kenya, in honor of her Kenyan grandmother, Nzilani, after whom the company is named.”

Ariana is the newly appointed Interim Collections Care Director for Destination Crenshaw. Destination Crenshaw’s mission is, “Celebrating our Legacy, Building Our Future.”

Some of the stained glass window projects Nzilani has completed include: St. Vincent de Paul Church in San Francisco, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco, and Resurrection Church in Oakland for which they received a California Preservation Foundation Award.

For this profile, I asked Ariana for a preservation advocacy issue she would like for me to include. Her response:

“One of my major goals is for people to reframe preservation to be considered parallel to the fabrication of new work. And, that preservation can also be applicable to place and people.”  

Ariana is the second person in the world and the first woman to receive a Master’s Degree in Stained Glass Conservation from the Royal College of Art in London. She is the founder of Nzilani Glass Conservation based in Oakland, CA, which has been in operation since 2003, for 20 years.

Back in 2022, at the Assoc. for Preservation Technology International Conference in Detroit, Ariana and I met for the first time where, in addition to talking preservation, we also talked fashion—we both are fans of Zuri’s African print dresses.

@BlackInHistPres is a program / offering of @wrkSHapkiloWatt

a Black woman-owned design studio that illuminates possibilities in architecture, historic preservation, owner’s representation (construction project management), and racially equitable narratives and interpretations of historic sites.


- k. kennedy Whiters, AIA (kW), @wrkSHapkiloWatt

Cite this Article in APA Format:

Whiters, K. (31 May 2023) Profiles in Preservation: Ariana Makau. Retrieved from <Insert Date Retrieved>.

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