The success of the United States is a testament to the greatness of its people from all ethnicities and cultures. It is unimaginable to consider American literature, art, music, dance, theatre, poetry, acting, athletics, academia, etc., without the genius, talent, and creativity of all Americans. It is indisputable that diverse ideas, thoughts, and actions help to push the boundaries of creativity and help smash imaginary ceilings. People like Thomas Jennings, Mark Dean, Alexander Miles, and George Washington Carver (just to name a few) are critical to the greatness of American innovation. Would we be able to recognize the greatness of the American music industry without acknowledging contributions from people like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Prince, Beyonce, et al? It is because of these facts that we are convinced architecture as we know it is possibly missing out on even greater heights due to the lack of inclusion.
Though over 13% of Americans identify as Black, less than 2% of registered architects identify as Black. A recent survey conducted by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)documents approximately 115,000 registered architects in the United States. The Directory of African-American Architects lists 2,650 architects that identify as black. It also lists only 456 (0.4%) as black women. One reason for these anemic statistics is the lack of awareness about the architectural profession in Black communities. Indeed, many Black students have reported they know little or nothing about the architecture profession until it is too late to choose it as a career path. The Black Architects in the Making (BAM) program was established to enhance students’ awareness about architecture and help encourage young Black students to consider architecture as a career.
To help address this “unawareness” issue, a group of motivated Black architects from MCHarry Associates, through the Miami Center for Architecture and Design (MCAD) developed a community outreach called Black Architects in the Making (BAM). BAM mission is simple: we mobilize architects passionate about their craft to communities where predominantly black families live, learn, and play to engage students in a creative and inspirational way. Our interactions enhance their awareness of architecture and open a window to possibilities where one may not have existed. We share our journeys to becoming architects with the students using inspiring stories and creative workshops that not only educate but encourages students to consider architecture as a career. We target 8-15 year-olds but we’ve found that students of all ages request to participate in our workshops and we turn away no-one.
It is important to note that while BAM primary focus is to reach African-American students, it is an equal opportunity program and as such all students regardless of race and ethnicity are welcome to participate. Some of our students are Hispanics and White and we think the collaborative interaction of our students is better as a result.
BAM workshops are strategically held at Central and South Florida venues where students are already gathered in existing educational programs. These organizations welcome BAM to their existing programs and consider BAM workshops an extension to their career exploration curriculum. The workshops vary in format and content but the aim is always the same – to enhance students’ knowledge of architecture and encourage the consideration of architecture as a career. BAM takes into consideration the venue and the micro-culture of the organization and tailors each workshop based on the students’ requirements – as advised by the organizers. Some workshops are inspirational visual presentations about hope. Some are true stories about succeeding despite the odds. Some are presentations that educate students about the realities of the African-American struggle – the odds of success and the sweet rewards of consistent, hard work. Some workshops are more hands-on and practical where students create a project using their creative minds and hands so that there’s a physical manifestation of the lesson at the end of the period. Some are about sketching objects indoor and outdoor. Sometimes we visit a safe construction site to give students the experience of seeing a project being constructed. Others are computer-based using a free and simple but powerful architectural modeling software called SketchUP. SketchUp is easy to use and can be used for not just architecture but other school projects as well.
BAM is Expanding
The program started in 2016 and to-date BAM workshops have reached over 500 students in the South Florida area. BAM started with interactive presentations that introduced students to architecture in a creative and fun way, then we realized the need to conduct sessions that delved deeper into workshops teaching interested students how to sketch, build physical models, explore interior design, and use computer-aided modeling. The program grew further to offer mentorship to students who show definite interest to pursue architecture as a career and now almost as a natural progression we offer financial assistance in the form of scholarships to qualified BAM participants who have committed to tertiary architecture education.
At this time we have several mentees at different levels of their education journey, attending middle, high school, and college. MCHarry Associates has employed one of the first intakes of BAM Mentees as a graduate architect from FAMU School of architecture. He will continue his pursuit for a Master of Architecture degree next year Summer. Our future growth projection is for BAM to become a conduit for placement of Black graduate architects in participating firms as well as guide students to Architect Registration Exam (ARE) preparation programs.
Another of our goals is to plant BAM programs in the State of Florida and then through the United States. Our first plant is already established and highly successful – BAM Orlando led by Malcolm Jones and a team of motivated leaders in Orlando. We are currently in conversations about planting BAM Jax with leaders in Jacksonville, Florida.
BAM volunteers are like farmers, investing in the process of planting and growing. We are deliberate about increasing Black participation in the profession. With other organizations such as the NOMA Pipeline Project and Hip-Hop Architecture we intend to double the number of Black architects in the United States within the next 10 years. We are confident more Black architects in the profession will have a significant positive impact on built-environment decisions in black communities. This is good for our people, good for our communities, and indeed good for our nation.
Interested in getting involved in BAM? Please click here or scan the QR code below to let us know!
For more information about BAM please click any of the following links or watch the videos below:
Craig Aquart, AIA, CSI
Founder and Chair, Black Architects in the Making (BAM)
Vice-Chair, Architects in the Making (AIM)
Vice President, AIA Miami Chapter
Naomi Harrison, Assoc. AIA,
Vice-Chair, Black Architects in the Making (BAM)
Director, AIA Miami Chapter
For more information about BAM
Sponsorship or Donations