The following article is a guest blog post from our dear friend Adam Denais, who is an active contributor to the NEXT Architects Facebook Group. He originally wrote this post for the group, which he let me publish as a guest article. Feel free to send this blog post to your friends and coworkers.
Kris, please share your story with us. What made you choose to be an aspiring architect & designer?
To be honest, I first wanted to become an architect because I loved drawing. As I grew into my teenage years, I realized that I liked solving problems. I was encouraged to get involved with A.C.E (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Mentoring program in H.S and It opened my eyes even further.
The program solidified what I had already known as a child. When I got to college, I realized that I was facing an enormous task. Up until this moment in my life, I couldn’t name any African American architects. I would argue that most people outside of our profession can’t either to this day. I didn’t have any examples, not one. I felt discouraged because of it.
I was intimidated at first by both the workload of studio and the lack of students that resembled me in the program. Often, I was afraid to ask for help.
As time progressed, I decided that I would use my differences to help me stand out. I know now that my purpose is to become the example that I felt I never had.
Being highly active in NOMA and The Hip Hop Architecture Camp, you are a big advocate for volunteering and giving back. What motivates you to be so active?
According to 2015 data from the AIA, only 2% of licensed architects in the United States identify as African American, and 3% as Latino.
The problem, from my perspective, starts in schools, not having any level of exposure or interaction with the profession. Not having any contact with architects or designers, like most people out of our profession, it may not even seem feasible that a career in architecture is even possible.
Moving forward, I think we have to focus on the youth. Especially kids interested in architecture. Imagine never seeing an architect that resembled you and think, “Can I be that?”.
In this profession, I find myself constantly looking to be inspired, and that’s the reason I’m striving to give back.
Mental health isn’t talked about enough. What are you doing to build a career and life that is healthy for you?
Mental health isn’t talked about enough in this country.
It’s frowned down upon for many African Americans to speak up about issues and various emotions that we may be facing. Not enough people seek therapy to get help with their issues.
I think it’s important to stay active and eat healthy. Being mindful that everyone’s journey isn’t the same, not comparing yourself to others.
In architecture school, our professors taught us that we have to think about EVERYTHING in its entirety as a designer. That you must envision and understand the building before it’s built. However, in life, sometimes you have to take one day at a time.
What tips or motivation do you have for African American architecture students and aspiring architects who are powering through school right now?
Never give up.
I felt defeated in my program very early on, but I didn’t let that stop me.
It’s actually good to be a little afraid because it means your being challenged. Don’t be afriad to ask for help, the majority of the professors in my program were always willing to help.
Try to remind yourself why you wanted to study architecture and use that as your fuel.
What is NEXT for you? Lay it out right here and let us know your big dream.
I’m currently working towards becoming a licensed architect, I’m still very young in my career.
I’m not in a rush like I’m sure some people are.
Every architect wants to travel and see the world, so I still have some destinations to visit. I have yet to attend an AIA or NOMA conference, I feel like I need to network more.
Ultimately, I want to become an educator like my grandfather Wyatt Wells and teach architecture in college.
Where can people connect with you further?