Architecture is a collaborative practice. Even as a solo practitioner, we must work with others – the owner, user, builder and trades – to successfully realize a project.
As young people train to be the architects of tomorrow, I believe it’s important for those of us already in the trenches to share our experiences as a collaborative form of mentorship. If we can “show and tell” a bit about our challenges, choices, wins and failures, we create a valuable opportunity for students to imagine their own futures.
In September, I was honored to have been asked to deliver the keynote address for the 2015 Annual Symposium at my alma mater, the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The event was hosted by the National Organization of Minority Architects- Student Chapter (NOMAS) who selected the theme “Breaking the Glass Ceiling.”
I chose to focus on on what is often our greatest challenge, self-perception. Using experiences drawn from my own career, I discussed with the students the need to be aware of and actively navigate the obstacles we sometimes place in our own paths. Perception is powerful, whether it be self-doubt, fear that keeps us bound in our comfort zone or our perceived lack of opportunity, and my effort was to plant some thoughtful seeds with these students by showing them how my own perceptions of various situations I faced in my career could be the most limiting.
While these students study design theory and application, I was grateful to have an opportunity to share some real stories that, I hope, help to connect them to the true practice of architecture. I’m pleased to say that the Q&A session was lively and the next generation seems very promising!