Youth programs around the country are doing their part to diversify the profession
By now, the facts should be as familiar as they are dispiriting: According to 2015 data from the AIA, only 2% of licensed architects in the United States identify as Black, and 3% as Latino. Demographics aside, mobility and job satisfaction continue to be issues, with people of color believing they are less likely to be promoted to senior positions than their white counterparts, among other patterns. While the industry must do a much better job of retaining architects of color once they earn their diplomas and licenses, it also needs to attract more BIPOC individuals to the field in the first place. And furthermore, it must prove to these emerging professionals that a career in architecture is viable for them as a long-term path.
A first step to fixing the industry’s representation problem, many experts believe, is to introduce and demystify the field to more young people. Organizations such as Hip Hop Architecture Camp and Detroit’s 400 Forward offer youth programs and scholarships that seek to link the design practice to music, art, and social justice. Other programs aim to expose students to architecture education through their school curriculum. For instance, in 2018, the Princeton School of Architecture introduced a semester-long course on architecture and urbanism for sophomore students at Trenton Central High School.
In a similar vein, the National Organization of Minority Architects runs a program called Project Pipeline, a series of camps and workshops across the country that aims to introduce Black students to the profession and practice of architecture. More than 100,000 individuals in some two dozen cities have participated since its founding in 2005, says NoMA president Kimberly Dowdell. “There’s an initial primer, where students often take walking tours of their neighborhood and talk about the different styles of architecture and parks, the different ways design impacts the built environment, and how architects shape that impact,” she says to AD PRO. “Sometimes, they see what has resulted from disinvestment, and how important it can be to work on improving our own neighborhoods.”