Saturday, April 6, 2013

Welcome to Archi-torture.

Bear with me, Architects aren't writers...
It all started when I was 5 years old. I really wish I had grown out of that "I wanna be an architect!" phase when I was a kid but here we are 20 years later and I'm hooked. Actually I didn't know it was called architecture when I was 5, I just wanted to draw stick figures in bathtubs and chillin' in houses. But here we are after 20 years, 3 colleges, 1 degree, a brief infatuation with "rainforestology", and I'm obsessed with building design.

After getting my degree in Interior Design (apparently the bastard child of architecture, as I'm told), I decided to pursue my master of architecture so I could be a licensed architect. I never thought this was going to particularly be a huge deal. I was great at Interior Design, I'm smart, I'm nice, I work really hard, and I really wanted to help people with architecture.


I was never prepared for this culture of architecture.

I really don't think there was any way that I could have been. I say to my boyfriend everyday how architecture would be easy if I could just study ARCHITECTURE, you know, the study of buildings. But I'm not just studying buildings. I'm studying people and culture and everything else. And the biggest thing that I'm learning is how architecture isn't designed to include me. I have to design to include myself. Of course, I'm used to being the only black woman in class. Since I was in preschool I can remember being browner than everyone else. I'm a minority, it's to be expected. But the numbers on female architects are shocking. African Americans make up 1% of the architecture population and if you throw being female in that mix, we're .01%. That's barely a number! I can probably fit all of us into my apartment without breaking any sort of fire code!

I wasn't prepared to stand out and fade into the background at the same time. Everyone notices the black girl in studio, but no one wants to talk about how she's the only one there. The only time we talk about black people in architecture is when we're designing an urban project. Even then it's in a "shhhh, don't speak, just go over there, and be black while the architects decide what's best for you" type of way. Of course I know this needs to change but sometimes it's difficult to know where to start. I definitely don't have the answer but I can only hope that talking about my experience and the experiences of others like me (male or female) will get people to address the fact that architecture deals with race issues by being silent and silence is getting us nowhere.

This blog isn't just for me it's for every black woman (or man) who has arrived to studio and been the only one or one of a few. Or walked down the halls of architecture buildings to get the "Are you lost? The art building is that way" stare. The only way we can address the issues of race and architecture is talk about them and make them known.

I hope you enjoy this blog and sorry for the seriousness of this first post, I can assure you there is some hilarity that ensues! Not every post will be about racial issues but some will just be a day in the life of a grad student. Also if you would like to share a post feel free to contact me! I'm all for guest posts!

-Ms. MArch

BTW, one of my favorite videos on this subject...

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