Opportunities for Equity in Architecture

I wanted to wrap up our informal series on accessibility, authenticity, and equity in the architecture profession with a summary of everything I’ve put out there and how it all ties together.

Architecture is a profession with a lot of steps to it, and I don’t mean the practice of project delivery, which certainly has lots of steps too. I’m talking about the steps involved in going from a young person in primary or secondary education that thinks, “hey, I want to be an architect when I grow up” to actually becoming a licensed professional architect. Every single one of those steps is an opportunity for architecture to open its arms to that young person who dreams of becoming an architect — or not.

Inspire and Welcome a Diverse Group to Become Architects Through Authenticity

We started the series with a look back at my experience with Sekou Cooke’s outstanding exhibit, “Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture.” In the Hip-Hop Architecture movement I saw an ethos that could push architects to become more authentic, which in turn could make our profession more accessible to all sorts of people, including those considering architecture as a career. Embracing Hip-Hop Architecture could also be a way to make design easier to relate to and more engaging for everyone, as I witnessed first hand. The exhibit and what I learned from it where a clear call to action to get real about equity in architecture.

Make the Path to Licensure Much More Accessible

Next, we explored the topics of education, licensure, and continuing education. Making the three experience prerequisites of licensure (education, work, and exam) and the means of maintaining a license more equitable and accessible is key to helping our profession become more diverse. We saw that learning doesn’t have to happen in an expensive, long-winded school experience. There’s also room in the ARE for it to cover the important topics that let candidates show their understanding of the diverse country for which they’ll be designing buildings and spaces. Continuing education is a prime example of how we can rethink what health, safety, and welfare are all about — let’s not lose HSW for buildings, but instead add HSW for people and communities to our CE requirements. All of these topics are opportunities to capture data we can use to monitor our industry’s progress towards equity and accessibility.

Train Our Emerging Professionals Better

How we train architecture professionals, whether it’s their first job or fiftieth (I know that’s a lot, but I bet it applies to someone out there) offers another great opportunity to make architecture more equitable and accessible. There are other industries that combine good training with a welcoming approach to diversity and architecture should draw inspiration from these approaches. Ridding ourselves of toxic attitudes around hiring and training is yet another opportunity to be better and level the playing field for everyone.

Stay Away from Racist Clients

The United States’ prison machine is an instrument of racism and abuse. We reviewed the myriad of reasons why architects keep working on prison design (hint: 💰). We can’t talk about making the world better while our profession continues to make it worse by designing prisons.

Make the Business of Architecture Equitable

There’s plenty of opportunity when it comes to the basic business model that most firms follow. Thinking about opportunities in the business of architecture leads us to look not only at the biz models, but also project delivery methods, and of course compensation. An equitable business is a diverse and fair business for all.

It’s Time to Move

It’s embarrassing that architecture is a profession that’s mostly white and mostly male.

It’s embarrassing that we put colleagues in charge of our educational institutions, businesses, and trade organizations that perpetuate our industry’s lack of diversity by focusing on all the wrong things.

It’s embarrassing that architects are talking about the change we can design into the built world as a part of our country’s efforts to end systemic racism before we resolve the systemic racism in our own profession.

We need to get real about the opportunities that are out there in each step a person takes on the path to becoming an architect. It’s going to be hard because we’re set in our ways, because change is hard, and because we have a lot of other things on our plates too. But all it takes is focus and goals to get there. Let’s make architecture a profession to be proud of not for what we design, but for who we are and what our community of professionals represent.

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