11 Initiatives Supporting Black Voices in Architecture

Architects play a huge role in designing the buildings that shape our environment. But just 2 percent of U.S. architects identify as Black or African American—a statistic that’s startlingly short of the approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population who identify the same. And although diversity in architecture has been slowly improving over the past decade, NCARB has primarily seen growth in the Asian and Latino populations, with the representation of Black and African American professionals remaining largely the same.

This is why it’s critical that individuals, firms, and organizations—including NCARB—work together to encourage more Black students to pursue a career in architecture, remove impediments to practice, and support Black voices within the profession. Here are some ways to get involved, starting with two initiatives NCARB is involved in!

Get on Board
Our new Get on Board campaign is aimed at making sure the individuals who serve on licensing boards—and, as a result, NCARB’s Board of Directors—are as diverse as the communities they serve. With the help of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), we’re working to help spread awareness about open volunteer positions on state boards and recommend diverse, qualified professionals to serve on those boards.

How you can get involved: Check our list of open board positions and share them with your architecture community! If you have questions, you can contact your local board or reach out to us at council-relations@ncarb.org.

Baseline on Belonging
In 2020, NCARB and NOMA jointly conducted a survey to identify pinch points on the path to licensure that disproportionately impact people of color. Last week, we released the in-depth report on findings related to the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®), which highlights how minority professionals—especially those who are Black or African American—have more difficulty accessing the support necessary to complete the AXP. NCARB and NOMA will be conducting additional studies to dig into these findings and better understand how to address the source of the impediments.

How you can get involved: Having a broad range of input is essential to this project! Make sure your voice is heard by signing up to participate in our follow-up studies, and tell us what findings from the study resonate most with you and your experience.

400 Forward
Founded by NOMA Executive Director Tiffany Brown, 400 Forward provides young girls with a comprehensive introduction to architecture and supports African American women working to earn a license. The initiative’s goal is to seek out and support the next 400 Black female architects through exposure, mentorship, and financial assistance.

How you can get involved: Reach out to 400 Forward to see how you can help partner on a community engagement effort, or encourage your firm to donate.

ACE Mentor Program
While not aimed exclusively at minority professionals, the ACE Mentor Program has worked to improve diversity in architecture, construction, and engineering by informing and preparing high school students for careers in the design professions.

How you can get involved: Contact your local ACE affiliate to learn more about opportunities to serve as a mentor in your area. 

Architects Foundation Diversity Advancement Scholarship
The Architects Foundation’s Diversity Advancement Scholarship provides multi-year financial support to minority professionals earning an architecture degree.

How you can get involved: Find out if you are eligible to apply for the scholarship, or help spread the word!

Beyond the Built Environment
Beyond the Built Environment addresses disparities in the architecture profession by elevating the contributions of minority architects through learning opportunities, such as the SAY IT LOUD exhibition.

How you can get involved: Beyond the Built Environment is always looking for women and diverse professionals to submit their work—help spread the word

Black Architects in the Making
Run by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Miami, Black Architects in the Making (BAM) encourages architecture professionals to participate in outreach activities to predominately Black or African American neighborhoods. Through workshops and mentorships, BAM is working to enable students to create, engage, and consider a career in architecture.

How you can get involved: BAM is expanding beyond the South Florida area! Reach out to AIA Miami to learn how you can support BAM’s efforts.

BlackSpace
Based in New York City, BlackSpace is a collective of planners, architects, artists, and designers working together to manifest new Black spaces in the built environment and counteract urban planning efforts that harm Black communities.

How you can get involved: Reach out to BlackSpace to learn how you can get involved in their neighborhood strategy projects in New York City, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Oklahoma City.

Hip Hop Architecture Camp
Hip Hop Architecture Camp offers one-week intensive experiences for underrepresented kids, introducing them to architecture through the lens of hip hop. During the camp, students work with local architects and designers to explore how the built environment can shape their communities.

How you can get involved: Partner with Hip Hop Architecture Camp to host a camp in your area or learn how you can volunteer!

NOMA Foundation Fellowship
In partnership with the AIA’s Large Firm Roundtable, the NOMA Foundation Fellowship (NFF) seeks to increase the number of minority architects throughout the United States by offering up to 20 fellowship positions in 2021. The fellowship includes a stipend, a part-time internship (virtual or in-person), and an additional stipend if the fellow becomes licensed within five years of completing the fellowship.

How you can get involved: NOMA is currently accepting applications both for fellowship positions and for host firms. Apply now!

Project Pipeline
NOMA’s Project Pipeline encourages diversity in the profession by connecting 6th-12th grade students of color to the built environment through summer camps. Dates for summer 2021 camps have yet to be announced!

How you can get involved: Be on the lookout for more information about this summer’s upcoming camps.

Know any organizations or initiatives supporting Black and other minority voices in architecture? Help us out by leaving a comment below as we continue celebrating Black History Month.