Each year high schools around the country have career fairs to help students determine what they will study in college. One of the potential career paths available to minority students is architecture and architecture related fields (such as Landscape Architecture, Architectural Preservation, and Architectural History). However, minority representation in architecture continues to lag behind other fields. This is partly due to a lack of awareness at the point of entry into higher education, and partly due to attrition from the field after minority students complete their degrees.
When I was in high school I did not know any mentors or family members who were in architecture. Plenty of Doctors, Lawyers, and Engineers, but no Architects. However, I did take a drafting class in high school, which led to constructing lots of scale models of home designs we were tasked to complete during school. I also loved drawing and painting, but didn’t think I could support myself as a fine artist. In the end I decided to combine my interests in art and drafting (i.e. Architecture = Art + Business) that led me to consider architecture as a professional career. (My path to architectural history is another story, but I will tell it in a separate blog entry.)
Fortunately there are resources for today’s high school students who, like me, may not know anyone who is a professional architect. June Grant of blink!Lab has begun to compile an online database of minority architects that can be found here. It operates as a virtual career day for high school students considering future careers. It also relies on the help of existing professionals to spread the word about this resource to others. So, if you are registered architect or recent graduate you can add your name to the list. You can also post a link to this site on your facebook page or blog to get the word out. The website is set up to add stories of your path to the profession and even a link to a personal website.
Such efforts have a history that dates back to at least the early ’90s. For example, there is another website dedicated to compiling a list of African-American Architects and allied professionals. It is an electronic version of a paper survey conducted by Bradford C. Grant and Dennis Alan Mann in 1995 (and followed up in 1999). Fortunately, there is still someone managing the website, so you can add your name here as well.
I am also aware of a Directory of African American Architects completed by Jack Travis of New York City (Princeton Architectural Press, 1992) and a Biographical Dictionary of historical architects by Dreck Spurlock Wilson (Routledge, 2004). If you are aware of any other resources please list them in the comments section of this page. I am sure that current high school students (and even some college students) might find them of use.
Bradford C. Grant and Dennis Alan Mann, Directory of African American Architects (Center for the Study of Practice, 1996)
Jack Travis, African American Architects (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 1992)
Dreck Spurlock Wilson, African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945 (Routledge, 2004)