KEVIN SHERROD

LOS ANGELES, USA

Diversity: Seriously

It is no secret the field of architecture has a serious, and arguably negligent, lack of diversity. As of May 2011, the American Institute of Architects (AlA) indicates there are over 105,000 licensed architects in the United States; of that, the AlA accounts for 83,000 members, they document: 1% licensed architects identify as African-American, 

0% identify as American Indian/Alaska Native, 5% identify as Asian/Pacific Islander, 72% identify as Caucasian, 3% identify as Hispanic, and 1% identify as Other; what’s more, a mere 15% of this aggregate identify as female. These statistics affirm Architecture to be more exclusive to minority groups. This is not an accusation to suggest the profession of Architecture has xenophobic tendencies. Rather, the prevailing notion is that Architecture has made effective efforts to resolve inequality. It is imperative for the continued success of Architecture to be more inclusive, weaving a tapestry of thought that is comprehensive through multiplicity. This writing attempts to illustrate a single line of thought about Architectural disparity from an African American’s point of view. This singular African American male perspective does not elucidate an ample depiction of the inequality, making it essential for all minority groups to represent these disparities in the field. With a cohesive representation, it would facilitate an understanding of specific concerns and promulgate superior resolution. 

Thoughts about Architecture from a singular (African American male) perspective: The field of architecture is encapsulated by antiquated traditions and systems, that inherently limit the potential for people of color to find their voice or place in the field. Modern architecture and design are often celebrated for its ability to create progressive and modern space. However, despite forward-thinking design elements, the industry falls behind the modern culture shift of social inclusion and representation of all people. At first glance, the overt lack of diversity is disappointing, but does not seem to impose an overall threat. The inverse is true, diversity in the field of architecture is not a nice-to-have, superficial attempt at inclusion, it is a must. Without it, the brilliance of architectural beauty and experience, will be diminished by a singular expression that represents one cultural view. The different ethnic and cultural backgrounds provide varying worldviews and life experiences that ignite an array of diversified design perspectives and styles. 

Now more than ever architecture plays an integral role in quality of life, and public health and safety. It is widely recognized that the built environment has a direct impact on people’s daily living and health. As a result, it is imperative for architects to design with a social service perspective in mind, to create space that serves the needs of the community; especially as it relates to impoverished communities. Architects from diverse ethnic backgrounds may intrinsically have a deeper understanding, relatability, and connection to the urban environment. As a result, important cultural elements are more likely to be integrated into the design process, and ultimately be well received by those who inhabit or use the spaces. 

So, what can be done to reverse the homogeneous trend that thwarts cultural representation Within the architectural community? The answer is complex and requires a multidimensional approach. Frontrunners in the field must recognize the gross lack of diversity as an issue and call for change. A restructuring of the systems which limit the opportunities for minorities such as the steep tuition costs, revamp low paying positions post-college which create an enormous barrier for economically disadvantaged students, and emphasize ethnic role models. Higher education institutions must introduce a curriculum designed to cover a multitude of cultures and groups of people. Additionally, a pipeline program should be introduced which provides support, encouragement, and guidance on the tedious path to graduation and licensure. Lastly, it is necessary to begin encouraging younger minority generations, as early as elementary school and show that architecture is a pursuable career path. 

Perhaps the most important vehicle for change lies within the hearts and minds of peers. As the next generation of great designers, we are responsible for encouraging this change and eventually opening the doors for younger generations to follow. When we invite diversity into the architectural community, the field as a whole will expand its capabilities, and we will have more culturally rich and interesting communities. As previously discussed, this understanding isn’t nullified by its lack of multiplicity, but lacks a comprehensive understanding the issues that contaminate our field. What’s more, the resolutions identified in this writings’ summation, only promulgate change in specific communities namely the African American community. This method does not traverse the divide in disparity, this furthers the problematic trajectory Architecture is currently situated in. It is not widely believed discipline of Architecture is not an unscrupulous mechanism. Thus, a superior confidence effectuating change through synergetic campaigns are afoot. 

Architecture should strive to be more synergistic in its approach. This writing contends the necessity for more individual compositions that describe cultural associations towards architecture. Elucidating cultural disconnects to peers and facilitating the new discussions. A comprehensive discussion with all cultural understandings is necessary to effectuate this change. Thus, the synopsis of interpretations, discernment, and technical expertise circulate an environment that produces growth and development in Architecture. Perhaps it is this generation’s task to facilitate this discussion and effectuate this transformation. In a time of countless advances within the field, it seems obligatory to rectify the lack of diversity in the interest of the furthering the development of Architecture.


APRIL 2016