Perspectives October 28, 2021

An Inescapable Truth

By Mijail Gutierrez, Principal and Design Director in the London studio

As architects and designers, we build a backdrop for stories. When making design decisions we are shaping an experience for someone, somewhere. In the UK, 93 properties under the care of The National Trust have links with slavery and colonialism, according to a report by the trust released in 2020. The elegant architecture, proportions, and grandeur of the quintessential British Stately homes came at a cost for many. There is blood behind the beauty.

We must not be complicit in either exploitation or the exclusion of people in our work. And we must be inclusive at all levels. There is an alarming lack of diversity in the design and architectural profession in the UK, with Black architects in the minority. The 2020 AJ’s report on race and diversity in the profession described architecture as “structurally racist.” And, 43% of black respondents to the study said racism was widely prevalent, an increase from 30% on the previous year.

Many respondents of the survey struggled to name a leading Black architect also, a worrying sign in multicultural Britain. Act we must, by giving young students from Black and underrepresented backgrounds access to education. Celebrating Black role models, showcasing people of colour in architectural renders and photography, and listening to their unique perspective, will make us a truly forward-thinking profession.

And there is more. Racism runs rife in corporate culture also, not just in this country. A survey by the Future Forum, a research consortium created by Slack Technologies in the US, reported that a large proportion of We are responsible for designing safe, inclusive environments, including workplaces, and enhancing everyday experiences through design.

It is time for a radical change of direction. Our work impacts the world beyond materials and place, we are part of a tight web combining social, economic, and historical factors. Therefore, we need to be agents for change, we must design with empathy, and stop the discrimination of people of colour at all levels.

We create environments for individuals to live dignified, fulfilled, and healthy lives. Building a world that is fit for purpose, socially responsible and joyful is our duty to humanity. Ignoring that duty is no longer a choice.

"Building a world that is fit for purpose, socially responsible and joyful is our duty to humanity"