Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev

The United States of America definitely has a lot of work to do.

Long before a divisive presidential election proved creed and race remain flashpoints in American society, issues and concerns of racial representation had leaped to the fore in several industries.

To gauge what it is like for designers of color working today, below are some of the race-related challenges architects have faced throughout their careers.

Six Race-Related Architect Challenges

Here, you will be told about the renowned pioneers and uncelebrated alike, who served as inspiration, and how artists forged paths for themselves where no trailblazers were lighting the way.

1. On Race and Architecture. Leadership in the field has to be more diverse. People must see a total sea change in who is running this profession. This is because it is not just about the diversity of identity politics; it is about the work that architects make and how they impact the cities in which they work. As President Obama said, this is about creating a perfect union. It is not just about whether people accept immigrants but about whether there is truly equal opportunity merit-based; in this field, that is still not the case. It is still imperative for all of society to make that dialogue and do it better.

2. On Being Black and a Female. If you are black and female, you already know that you belong to a particular group that, in the eyes of some individuals, has an inglorious spot in history. But if there is something that you want to do, you look past it. Many encountered racism and sexism, but to succeed, you can not focus solely on that. In this profession, you are always looking for inspiration. This is because you can take in their strength when you see others.

3. On being part of the minority. Some architects see being a minority as a considerable advantage. It is a white profession, and there is not much gender or race equality. It is one of the least inclusive professions. But if you are an architect from a minority, it has a considerable advantage: In the end, you are unique. You grew up with a different background and a different culture, and it is something that has to affect how one practices architecture. There are so many areas to the practice of architecture; it is not just designing a building. It also understands how communities work and how master planning can impact the lives of so many people. And when individuals are from various backgrounds, they are the ones who know how their communities work and how they can make it better.

4. On Your Architectural Narrative. Race in modern architecture is not really about being inclusive. It is about questioning racial concepts, how one thinks racially, and how that is marked in the very things, the tools, and the discourse through which you learn and understand architecture. The lesson impacts how people, once admitted to an institution, learn the discipline. That discipline is already racialized to the nib where you are alienated; it is just like questions around gender. If you still need to see how patriarchy and misogyny are embedded in how people write and think, bringing women to it will not change it. You have to do both fundamentally.

5. Diversity In Architecture. It starts with education: say that people need a diverse voice in architecture since clients are various and cities are diverse. That perspective is necessary for neighborhoods and buildings to be designed responsibly. Because individuals come with a whole host of backgrounds, and that background is the expertise that should be and can be translated into their designs. To develop responsibly, one needs a diverse group of designers to do that work.

6. On Being Black And A Roadblock. One of the reasons artists went into architecture was because they wanted to make a variation in the built world. They tried to change the way things looked and felt. This is something people see in students now. It concerns climate change and other problems that people are taking on. This is a thrilling time to be in the profession. This is how one should deal with the roadblock of being young, without experience, and having little money. Teach continually as you work on your practice because teaching opens doors.

If you are still in doubt, visit Ronald Lee Harden’s website and check out his book on the Architectural Black History of Tampa, Florida. The Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Gaither and Bloomingdale High Schools, the Harbour Island project, Mobley Park, and Osbourne Landing Apartments, among others. These are just a few of the architectural project manager Ronald L. Harden has been a part of that have helped the Tampa community expand economically and culturally in 36 years. These projects have helped create homes, jobs, and cultural events for the city’s African-American and other mixed communities and helped them improve their lives.

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