Architecture Race Academe: MIT Conference

This conference-workshop will touch on a range of significant issues about race, ethnicity, blackness and professionalism, but with architectural academe as its central focus. The conference does not aim for a comprehensive overview on the subject, but rather hopes to ask how we can bring the issue more into the mainstream of architectural discussions. Understanding why and how the black architect is seen, especially through their educational and professional journey, from all vantages - student, client, designer, and critic - will allow us to appreciate what we have taken for granted and nurture what is unique. It will also allow us to discuss how to be more proactive in the face of this problem. The conference brings together a group of noted educators and practitioners as catalyst for the discussion, and is organized around the topics of "work," "education," and "profession."

March 16, 2007 5:30p–7:00p



Roberta Washington, FAIA

(l–r): Roberta Washington, Carlton Brown, and J. Max Bond

Washington is owner of the 10-person New York firm Roberta Washington Architects PC, which opened in 1983. It is the largest continuously operated female-owned, African-American architecture firm in the country. Washington is used to "firsts." She is the first American to work for the postindependence government of Mozambique, for example. And she and/or her firm have worked on countless major projects - from the Jazz and Negro Baseball Hall of Fame in Kansas City to renovating 50 abandoned townhouses and apartment buildings in Harlem to designing a new eight-story, 128-unit condo unit in Central Harlem to a new subway station in Brooklyn. Many of the firm's earliest projects were conceived for populations with special needs, including housing for adults with AIDS and a project to help unite former female prison inmates with their children.

Washington, who earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from Howard University and a master's in the same subject (with emphasis on hospital and health-facility design) from Columbia University, tries to live by the words of Calvin Coolidge: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."