BEING PRESENT | 466 And Counting

Being Present, 466 and counting…that’s the number of African American women licensed architects in the US. Startling numbers yes, but so much promise for the future. It emphasizes our focus for being present to the clients we serve, the places we volunteer, and the communities we purpose to design better.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in an exhibit at my alma mater the University of Illinois School of Architecture called “Revealing Presence”. The exhibit’s purpose was to recognize the presence of women since the beginning of the architecture school’s founding in 1875. Featured Alumni Carol Ross Barney, FAIA and Dina Griffin, FAIA shared stories about their paths, work, personal challenges and inspirations during this symposium and reunion weekend as the exhibit debuted. For me, it was an honor to be among one of the nation’s largest 2,400+ female graduates in the profession and beyond. “Revealing Presence” created space for a dialogue about women’s contribution to the profession. More importantly, it acknowledged presence that has been present now highlighted and visibly seen.

Numerically speaking, today there are approximately 115,000 licensed architects in the US with 25% of these professionals being women. There is much work to be done to improve access to and through the profession. For our part, Urban Design Perspectives is partnering with a local STEM charter school to introduce girls of color to the field of architecture. Through hands on activities, building tours, model building and sometimes model snacking, we have created a forum for sharing design ideas about their homes, neighborhoods and the world. It has been a joy to be present in these young girls’ lives. To observe them explore, create and think about design has enriched our practice in ways that we hadn’t anticipated, which continues to be a great gift.

And with the season for gift giving upon us, consider shopping small and local at businesses in the community today, “Small Business Saturday”. As a small business, Urban Design Perspectives is grateful for our clients who have supported us through our twenty years. Last month, we were part of the University of Minnesota Supplier Diversity Expo, which highlighted over 50 small, minority and women owned businesses and local agencies. The Office for Business Community and Economic Development, led by Executive Director, Sharon Banks, hosts the event and continues to be a strong advocate for these firms. These platforms for commerce support and empower small businesses that help to improve economic sustainability for underrepresented firms and the communities they serve. It is a vision that we can count on to continue to grow.

Pressing Toward Sustainability, Alicia Belton, UDP Principa