As we honor the significance of Black History, we are faced with the reality that even in 2020, People of Color are still widely underrepresented in architecture. As industry leaders, we must ask ourselves whether our profession is continually making strides to be as diverse as the many people we impact through the built environment each day.
As a firm, we have a critical responsibility to flip this script on its head by amplifying the Black voices of tvsdesign and celebrating the countless contributions and ideas they bring. We sat down with Ashia Chappelle, associate of tvsdesign’s Convention and Cultural Arts Studios for a Q+A on what we have to gain as an industry when inclusion is at the forefront of the conversation:
Why architecture/what led you to this career path?
As a kid, I was always into some form of art. I loved taking art classes and sketching in my notebook. As I became a little older, I found myself more interested in buildings, specifically high rise buildings. I remember riding through the city of Atlanta admiring all of the tall buildings and their design. But when I started to look into the Architecture profession, I realized there wasn’t a lot of people like me in this industry—meaning being a woman and black. I think that was my determining factor in picking this career path. I wanted to step outside the box and take the path that many like me, didn’t take. I was up for the challenge!
What inspires you?
Being a trailblazer in this industry inspires me. There are not a lot of African Americans in this industry, let alone women. I remember at my first place of employment right after graduating from Tuskegee University that my PM at the time came to my desk and placed this issue of Architectural Record on my desk and looked at me and said “ You’re a pioneer in the making.” On the cover of the issue it stated that black women represent only .2% of licensed architects. That spoke volumes and stuck with me all of this time. That in itself inspired me into wanting to go further in this industry and mentor young students and demonstrate to them that it’s okay to get into this field. Don’t be intimidated, instead be a trailblazer for others to get behind.
Why does diversity matter for the architecture industry?
Diversity definitely matters for the Architecture industry for many reasons. There is a huge lack of diversity altogether in this industry as whole. Considering that this is an industry of design that connects with the community, there should be more of an example represented within the industry and the communities we try to design. For example, a lot of construction is happening in minority communities and there should be more diversity in architecture to better understand and connect with these communities they’re designing for.
What does an inclusive workplace look like for you?
An inclusive workplace for me would be a balance of diversity throughout a firm. Not necessarily just being a part of a firm, but seeing more diversity in leadership roles/positions, which is lacking in the majority of firms. There is not a great representation of minority leadership in this profession and I would love to see a change in that.
Stay tuned for more from this series as we bring together more voices from different corners of tvsdesign! Learn more about Ashia here.