Perspectives 02.01.2022

Why We Remember: Honoring Black History Month 2022

Black History Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the Black community—a community that is dynamic and diverse in myriad ways.

However, remembering and paying tribute to these legacies isn’t just limited to the month of February. Rather, it’s a continual and enduring remembrance that must happen year round.

Here, we share a few stories from the past year that championed justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, while recognizing that there’s still more work to be done in our industry.

Honoring Humanity Through Design
Celebrating NMAAHC’s Five-Year Anniversary

2021 was the five-year anniversary of the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

As part of the Smithsonian located in Washington, D.C.’s National Mall, this nearly 400,000-square-foot institution honors African American history and culture in a country that has historically overlooked its significant contributions.

To commemorate the museum’s success, we compiled a photo essay of the project’s timeline, highlighting the cultural significance of NMAAHC.

Principal Zena Howard and designer Chelsea Davis talk about their observations on how NMAAHC impacted conversations and perceptions around African American history as well as their lived experiences.
The Memorial to the Enslaved People of George Mason

Progress is being made on the Memorial to the Enslaved People of George Mason at George Mason University.

The memorial provides a more complete account of the complicated legacy of George Mason IV, a founding father who championed individual freedom but also owned enslaved people.

Our team was on site to view the progress of the water feature that represents the concept of wake in its various meanings (“wake” as mourning, wake behind slave transport ships, and the idea of being alert to injustices in society) and provides a moment of reflection for visitors.

Container/Contained: Phil Freelon Design Strategies for Telling African American Stories

The Harvey B. Gantt Center showcased the work of Phil Freelon—our late colleague and friend—in an exhibition titled Container/Contained. 

The exhibition critically examines Freelon’s work, including museums, libraries, cultural centers, and public parks, with a focus on projects that foreground African American communities and identities.

Freelon often noted that architecture should be more than a container, that it should help tell the story of and be integral to the content of these public institutions.

The moving exhibition will be on display at the North Carolina Museum of Art later this month. 

Container/Contained: Phil Freelon exhibition developed by UNC X Gantt Center
Building on a Legacy

For more than 85 years, people have always been at the heart of everything we do. We’re continuing to build upon that legacy with two recently elevated leaders—Mide O. Akinsade, Design Director of our Houston studio, and Bryan Schabel, Design Director of our Chicago studio. Mide and Bryan recently met with Ralph Johnson, our Global Design Director and a mentor to the next generation of designers.

Here’s what their new roles mean for them, our clients, and the future of the industry.

‘We’re the vanguard of humanity’: Mide Akinsade on Architecture’s Imperative, and His Own Professional Journey

We spoke to award-winning architect Mide Akinsade as he was beginning his new role as design director for our Houston studio. We delved into topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to research.

Taking Action Toward J.E.D.I.
Creating a Culture of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for Your Architectural Practice

We authored a white paper that provides U.S. architecture firms clear guidance on establishing just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive work cultures.

Read the white paper here.

Learning from a Painful Past: How to Design for Racial and Social Equity

We shared four key takeaways on how designers and the design profession at large can work to bring justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion into the very architectural institutions that have been complicit in perpetuating systemic racism.  

Read the article here.

Community residents interact directly with the plans, photographs and maps outlining the new community proposal
We hosted a forum in August 2020 on race and equity
From top left: Cheryl Durst, CEO, IIDA; Maurice Cox, Commissioner, Chicago DPD; Kofi Boone, ASLA, NC State University; Kenneth Luker, Design Principal, Perkins&Will
The forum included insight from Cheryl Durst, Maurice Cox, Kofi Boone, and Kenneth Luker, and moderated by Dahmahlee Lawrence, an architect in our New York studio.
Celebrating Differences
Designers around our firm who shared their stories in our Conversations with Colleagues series
Conversations with Colleagues

Celebrating Black History Month also means recognizing the full breadth of cultural and ethnic backgrounds and experiences of all Black people.

In our Conversations with Colleagues series, we highlight the individual stories of Black designers around our firm. Here are a few of their stories:

Chelsea Davis, Durham

Rania Karamallah, Boston

Kathryn Lawrence, Toronto

Tyrone Marshall, Atlanta

Josh Robinson, New York

Michelle Rothman, Boston

DeVaun Salters, San Francisco

Jovial Sanon, Boston

John Stinson, Atlanta

Darine Yusuf, San Francisco