Architect Magazine

UMMMMMMMMMMMM.....I was interviewed by Architect magazine in their most recent issue about the underrepresentation of Black women in architecture . Wow.I am SO very disappointed in the choice of quotes. They didn't mention anything I said in my email interview, only my blog, and even from my blog entries that i referred them to (apparently a bad move and duly noted), they didn't mention any of the solutions I mentioned to the atrocious underrepresentation of people of color in the field. Nor did the article mention how my present position positively impacts the profession by preparing young people of color to be ,architects and builders with an environmental and social conscious. I specifically asked to view the article before it went to print and wasnt granted that request. I will be writing a letter to the editor and I hope for my sake (personally and professionally) that it is published. I really feel like I was represented in an unbalanced way in the article and I want to take this opportunity to respond. I do not apologize, nor am I embarrassed by my criticisms of the profession, but I wish that my dedication to righting the wrongs of the profession was more apparent. Instead words like, "complained" and "decried" are used to describe non contextual quotes and according to my friend and colleague who saw it before me...(yeah you would think they'd send a copy???)...i sound 'bitter' and like a 'rabble rouser'. i don't so much mind rabble rousing as long as its for something meaningful and transformative...which I think is what I'm engaged in.

Here is the exact text of my responses to interview questions

First, the basics...
Your age: 29

Architecture school:
University of Washington

When graduated:2006

Experience in the field:

total of one year (2 internships...one at Environmental Works and the other with a one woman architect Donna Brown AIA.

Your job now:

I manage the high-school architecture + construction education programs in the Chicago Public Schools. I work with 60 teachers who serve over 6,000 students on delivery and development of careertechnical education + partnerships within these fields. (http://www.etcchchicago.com/) The architecture program operates from a new curriculum partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation which focuses on green architecture (http://www.architecture.org/hscurriculum.html)

What made you interested in studying architecture?

Aside from my aesthetic appreciation of the built environment, my fascination with human intervention in the landscape, and (the problem with )privatization of public space...I entered architecture school as a speculative endeavor. My previous experience in social justice work and community based public art practice led me to wondering how to combine the two in order to use architecture in a subversive way to impact social change. My contention about architecture began with my assumption that the tools and practice of architecture are diverse and complex: Architecture is not limited to creating residential and commercial objects for consumption and thusly, the practice of architecture can also operate as a catalyst for new power relations.

What made you decide not to pursue a career in the field?

I haven't sworn it off for good. If the right opportunity comes along to do work that I believe in, is not wasteful and benefits the masses, and not just the elite...I'd at least consider it. However, this particular time in my life with the atrocious underrepresentation of people of color in the 'profession', I feel my time is better spent cultivating a new generation of architects and builders who will be skilled and experienced innovators with a social and environmental conscious. My priorities at this point are:

A) Educating and Exposing students of color to the breadth, scope and hands-on experience of design and building.

B)Exploring a creative practice that pushes the boundaries of what people traditionally define architecture to be toward something that is relevant to people who need it and not just those who can afford it.

Do you think there are problems endemic in the field that discourage architecture school graduates--and black women graduates in particular--from becoming licensed?

see this blog entries 7.22.2005 and 7.05.2005 one of which links to an archinect discussion which i commented on regarding parenting and architecture (I have two children 5+10mos.)...but basically I think the issues are exposure, mentorship, the convoluted and long path to licensure and the expense...both fiscally and personally. let me know if you need more information after looking at those blog entries.

(the other entry links to my response to the diversity study by the AIA from 2005...mentioned in the article)


AIA diversity
the other day i sat for a 45 minute phone interview with a firm who is conducting a survey for the national AIA on the profound diversity issue within the profession. the woman conducting the interview was particularly stricken by the 1% of licensed african-american architects which has not changed in 30-40 years...also by the number of women in architecture school (usually 50/50) and the # of licensed women architects which also has a huge discrepancy. there were numerous questions but the final one was this:

what are the major inhibitors/barriers to people of color? (african-american in particular since she was focusing on my experiece and perspective) students/practioners in architecture and what can be done to resolve this issue.

my answer: major money and energy needs to be put into: early exposure to architecture in secondary and presecondary education to cultivate the interest and love of architecture, funding for students of color in the post secondary education process and MENTORSHIP like nobody's business.

a) exposure: given the percentages of architects of color, you are less likely to come in contact with an architect of color as a young person of color. your uncle, grandmother, cousin is not likely to be an architect. schools don't neccessarily promote architecture as a profession to pursue. for most people the main professions youth know about are: doctor, lawyer...maybe engineer. then there's teachers, law enforcement etc. etc.

b) funding/support:this is expensive! usually, if there are any, the grants, fellowships, scholarhips, assistantships are few and far between....let alone support in particular for the retention students of color. many students of color (and other students with financially challenging backgrounds) have to work and go to school. architecture isn't really something that can be done part time...and working and going to architecture school is brutal. i'm not saying some people can't make it work...i know many who do but its one more factor that makes it hard.

c) mentorship:the architectural education process is long and arduous. if you don't have someone rooting for you and pushing you it can be easy to give up. how many faculty of color are there? are professionals reaching out to students? as professionals are seasoned professionals reaching back to the newer generation?

d) payoff: the education, internship and licensure process in general is long as hell. and the resulting salaries are crazy LOW compared to the other "professions". for many people of color picking a career path usually is without the priveledge of "doing something you love"...conversely it is directly related to transcending financial struggle. those who don't have that financial struggle i think still are looking for a certain level of prestige that architecture doesn't offer.

Do you have a picture you could send me?

hmmmm. i'll have to track down a picture...the only pictures i have of myself are ones with kids in them! i'll try to get you something tomorrow...whats your deadline?

okay my bad for sending the picture that they published which in context with the others looks like I'm on CRACK....



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a black male Architectural DESIGNER I have only passed 4 of the NCARB exams. I graduated from Temple University with a BA in Arch.

I read the article in Architect magazine and I read your comments on that article. You sound hurt and disappointed they left out the "meat" of your interview but you have to remember their intention was not to help out the blight of Black women architects just report on it and maybe fill up a few pages.

Personally, I feel worn out by architecture most of it my fault but the licensure track can be draining if you approach it the wrong way. I finally got over the IDP hump and I am on my way to being a licensed architect.

The firm I am working for has the local School District for a client. So I am stuck on school projects for obvious reasons. Other members of the firm (white and Hispanic) are learning new software and implementing it on a private sector clients project. They are whining and complaining about learning something new while I am stuck doing shop drawings. Like the women in the article my opinions/suggestions are ignored yet they look at me strange when I don't want to socialize with them after work.

I feel as though I am stuck here until I am licensed but the longer I stay here the worst my resume get.I can't see being taken seriously at a interview saying "I did CA for 2 years but now I want to design." (I had to get that off my chest)

The studio culture in non-HBCU schools can be tough. I think the toughest part of school is surviving studio life. A young black person thats been living in a black community have to make a serious adjustment immediately to an all white community. I think the key to getting more black students through school is to encourage them to HBCU's(if applicable). Of course local chapters of Black professional organization will help but student usually don't seek them out.

I have a lot more to say but I can't type and this has taken a good minute to type. LOL

Hit me up hape1264@msn.com.

Blogger yamani said...

Thanks for the time and energy to write such a thoughtful comment. I am not so much hurt as I am disappointed in a missed opportunity to really spread a message on how to solve this problem. The sentiment you mention...about being burnt out by the profession is something that many people experience and this was something I was trying to get across in my criticism of the profession....but not as an ending point...rather as a point of departure for finding solutions to how to retain young people...women and people of color in the profession....also to have some respect for allied professions.

You raise an excellent point and I've discussed this with many of my colleagues with architecture degrees from cornell where i went for undergrad (not for arch. though)and with others with degrees from the more "high power" schools. We always say, why don't we just all try to get on faculty at the HBCU's and take this programs beyond the status quo? Get beyond the stigma of the HBCU?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey Yamani. i"m a student in a design school in Isral and i"m doind a final project about urbanic-orgnic in a contact of a culture that affect on a culture all aroun d the world. i took the the conctact bitween the organic and the urbanic and i"m discus about the desire of athe pepole to "take"the nature in to the city and make it as kind of the urban view . i"m think to do a model of city made of mud and to combine a plants mad of stil in the mud city.

i saw on of your desings it"s i think made of still and an orange cloth on it look like a kind of bug . and i would like to know more about it ,and what is your point of view about the combine of organic and "urbanic" in our world.

in our project the lecture ask as to have a contact with a person some where around the world and to have his/her design as a back round to our prject. so i"ll be happy if you"ll be my partner over sea in my project.
also i want to say that i like your design that i saw in the blog .
have a nice day
thank u.
Ofer nave'
my mail:naveofer@yahoo.com

Blogger 劉德華Andy said...



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