Opinion

The good news on diversity

Architecture’s issues with gender equality and diversity are under the spotlight like never before


Today’s society is more diverse than it’s ever been. So why isn’t this being reflected within the profession? Why are women so badly represented, particularly at senior levels?

A recent survey by Dezeen found that of the top 100 architecture firms worldwide, just three were led by women. A 2015 study by the American Institute of Architects entitled Diversity in the Profession of Architecture found that a high percentage of women and people of colour working in the profession felt that they were less likely to receive equal pay and be promoted to more senior positions than men and white architects.

It’s not all bad news though. Things are beginning to change. There’s a growing recognition that the profession must reflect the communities it is designing for, and an increasing number of architectural practices and the bodies that represent them are tackling the issue head on.

Honest conversations
For this issue, I interviewed Gabrielle Bullock, head of diversity at Perkins+Will. As one of 0.2 per cent of female, black licensed architects in the US, Bullock was determined to use her senior position to improve diversity within the firm, and to raise awareness of the issue in the profession more widely.

When Perkins+Will’s Global Diversity Initiative launched, the first thing Bullock did was visit every one of the firm’s US offces, having “sometimes uncomfortable” conversations about diversity. This is where Bullock advised other firms to start. “This is scaleable,” she said. “Any size fi rm can do it.”

The findings from these conversations helped shape Perkins+Will’s initiative, with a range of measures put in place to help boost diversity which Bullock says are having a quantifiable effect.

Architecture has historically been a white, male profession, and for many students of colour, it was never considered as a viable career choice. Bullock said: “I didn’t see any black architects [growing up].”

Her advice to other practices is to: “Go into those schools. Send people who look like the students you’re trying to reach.”

In the US, designer Mike Ford – the self styled ‘hip hop architect’ – runs a series of free travelling architecture camps using hip hop culture as a catalyst to introduce underrepresented young people to architecture. Ford teamed up with Autodesk and the Urban Arts Collective to create these camps, which will be travelling to 17 US cities, as well as to Kenya and Toronto, this summer.

Taking the initiative “These camps are important, because it’s a new approach to diversifying the profession which is culturally relevant to the audience we’re trying to reach,” Ford told CLAD.

Jeanne Gang, founder of Chicago-based Studio Gang, recently told me that the firm voluntarily closed its pay gap this year.

“Our workforce is roughly 50 per cent men and 50 per cent women,” said Gang. “There was still a small imbalance in pay between our male and female employees, so we looked at that and managed to close the gap this year.” This is something she hopes more firms will take it upon themselves to do voluntarily, she added.

The business case
The bodies that represent designers and architects are making this issue a priority, with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) among those seeking creative ways of supporting and encouraging a more diverse workforce.

It’s not just about doing the right thing. Bullock pointed out that there’s a strong business case for a more diverse workplace, and explained that Perkins+Will have won new projects as a result of having a diverse team bidding (see p56 for more details).

Bringing about change doesn’t have to be complicated. Her advice? “Look at everything you do through the lens of diversity and commit to diversity as a core value.”

Change is happening. Be a part of it.

company profile
Company profile: Curry Spa Consulting
Curry Spa Consulting has been providing clients in the high-end and luxury hospitality sector with spa design, programming, guidance and oversight since 2011.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
Scott and Tracy Lee met while working on Calistoga Ranch, US
Scott Lee became president of SB Architects in 2000. Tracy Lee founded TLee Spas in 2015
"We design to connect the guest to the place, positioning people at the centre of the design"

Architect Scott Lee and spa consultant Tracey Lee on marrying the worlds of design and wellness in a series of interesting projects

SimpsonHaugh 
worked with acoustician 
Larry Kirkegaard
"It’s a privilege to have completed a scheme of such importance to the cultural identity of Antwerp - Stuart Mills"

SimsponHaugh’s latest project

The museum will appear to rise from the ground, with the green roof acting as an extension to the park
"You can see the torch displayed in the window, like a beautiful piece of jewellery"

The architects behind the new Statue of Liberty Museum

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Deep eaves and intricate balustrades give the Ritz Carlton Kyoto a Japanese look
"The difference between a hotel and a ryokan is that a hotel is more public and a ryokan is less intense and more intimate"

Across Japan, architects are giving traditional ryokans a modern makeover with surprising results. We take a look

Alison Brooks
Alison Brooks
"The profession is changing"

We need to help the public understand that architects are on their side, argues The Smile designer

BIG’s design for Google’s Charleston East Campus aims to foster a sense of community
Daniel Sundlin
"What defines BIG’s style of visual communication is that our diagrams clearly capture the essence of our projects, meaning that it’s very easy for people who don’t know our projects well to understand them."

The vision for Google's UK and US HQs

features
"Infrastructure is the manifestation of our collective investment in the functioning of our urban places"

FromLA'sRiver Projectto thetransformationof NewYork’s Erie CanalBuro Happold'sAliceShay explores some of the world's mostinnovativeadaptivereuseprojects

The Al Hajar Mountains in northern Oman, home to the Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel
Fabio Scacciavillani is chief economist for the Oman Investment Fund. He started his career working for the International Monetary Fund
"The region has a microclimate thanks to the monsoon, so the summer is cool and rainy"

The Oman Investment Fund’s chief economist talks us through plans to redefine Oman as a high end leisure and tourism destination

The Busan Opera House in South Korea features an angled roof that curves down to meet the ground, allowing visitors to climb up to a public space on the rooftop
"We invite people from a range of backgrounds, then when you start doing the creative work you leave your profession behind. It’s like a kind of role play"

The founding partner of Snøhetta talks about the expansion of SFMOMA, the September 11 Memorial Pavilion and blurring professional boundaries

cladkit product news
Eden project uses drones to spell out climate change warning
Magali Robathan
Almost 300 drones were used to signal an environmental message above the Eden Project’s biomes, during the UN Climate Change ...
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
cladkit product news
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
cladkit product news
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
CSI Design Expo Americas 2024 announces new Attractions & Entertainment Technology Zone
The event will allow buyers and suppliers to meet
Magali Robathan
Cruise Ship Interiors (CSI) invites cruise lines, shipyards, design studios, outfitters, and suppliers to take part in CSI Design Expo ...
Eco Resort Network conference to convene in Mauritius this May
The event will be hosted in the Mauritius in 2024
Megan Whitby
Hospitality industry event Eco Resort Network is set to take place at the Ravenala Attitude Hotel, Turtle Bay, Mauritius, from ...
x
Email this to a friend or colleague
I am happy for Leisure Media to contact me occasionally by email and understand that I can opt out at any time.
Opinion: The good news on diversity
We celebrate the people working to create a more diverse architectural profession