Architect and advocate Pascale Sablan has long been dedicated to elevating her fellow diverse peers. Now, she is out to make history: building a database of their global contributions to the built environment.
... [+]MASS Design Group, it will open in 2023.Photo: MASS Design GroupWith this, Sablan has become a steward of information previously unrecorded. While some might consider the valuable resource to the design community to be a good enough start, she has bigger plans to activate the data. “I now have a network of global women and diverse designers that can help me identify areas of advocacy needed,” she explains. When 500 architectural designers submit their profiles, she plans to organize a live global chat where she will ask questions about issues in the workplace, in school, at internships, etc. that will give her raw statistics to argue for change where needed.
Of all the registered architects in the Unites States, only 2% are Black and 9% are non-Black people of color. Visibility is just one aspect of the solution to a far too-white architecture profession. The Library and global advocacy chat are two of the three points in Sablan’s
action planreleased on June 19. The third addresses coverage in architectural media, calling on publications to pledge to assess their current coverage of diverse designers and increase it by 5% each year until they reach 15%. It’s not enough to write a few top ten lists during Black and Women’s History months, she says. “I want the same kind of urgency and responsibility to elevate women and diverse people during February and March to be a strategic goal for a publication as a whole.”
The Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn by Everardo Jefferson of New York-based Caples Jefferson... [+]Architects, whose profile is featured in the Great Designers Library.Photo: Albert VecerkaAs for her own impact on the built environment, Sablan practices what she preaches, taking on projects that are designed with input from the communities that will use them. While in school at Pratt Institute, she interned at New York-based Aarris Architects, a small firm that allowed her hands-on experience in nearly every aspect of an architectural practice. What most impacted her was working on the African Burial Grounds National Monument in downtown Manhattan, a memorial to the 20,000 slaves that were buried under the city buildings (part of the project was to reinter the remains in a mound-like landscape). For ten years after graduation she was an architect as FXCollaborative where she was a member of the international studio, learning about how culture can be reflected in architecture. Fast-forward to now and at S9 Architecture she is on “projects that reflect those cultures into the built environment where I’m getting to engage the community, asking them what they need and having the design formulate that,” she says referring to the Bronx Point affordable housing project, a handsome tower that includes 542 units, a plaza, community resources and will be home to the first brick-and-mortar Universal Hip Hop Museum, designed by architect Michael Ford.
A south view of the Bronx Point project in The Bronx, New York from the Major Deegan Expressway by... [+]S9 Architecture. Pascale Sablan is working on the project.Copyright: L+M & Type AReteaching a system that has been built to exclude will take time. But leaders like Sablan who recognize their ability to advocate are pushing for that change now. The global protests this summer after George Floyd’s death were “a nod to the fact that this is not just a United States issue. Having black skin is an issue wherever you are in the world so fully understanding globally what that means is really critical,” she says of her want to engage an international group. “Hopefully we can start hearing those voices because we do impact the world; architecture is not a U.S.-focused profession.”
The tragedy immediately compelled her to act. It’s just her personality, she says, noting that as one of ten siblings she has always been one to prop up her peers and family members, highlighting their successes when they did not do it themselves. “I think that the idea that speaking about something you’ve done is cliche or boastful or negative is terrible. If you don’t celebrate you, who’s going to do it?” she asks rhetorically. “Teaching women not to be aggressive or outspoken is all part of the system of making sure we stay marginalized. We’re challenging it.”Read more: ForbesWomen »
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