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'We Can Do Both'
Architect Magazine
Washington, DC, USA
Media, Architecture, Interior Design
Audrey Taylor Ward
Date Published: 
Architecture, Activism, Women, Leadership, Diversity, Opinion, Essay, Pascale Sabla
Tapestry Statistics:
2021-03-07 14:20:56
2021-03-07 14:28:57
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Eva Woolridge
Architect-activists shouldn't have to choose between the two.

Architect-activist Pascale Sablan, FAIA, was recently awarded the 2021 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, distinguishing her as an architect that embodies social responsibility. Sablan is the youngest African American to become a Fellow, an honor that accompanies winning the award. Her dedication to creating equitable spaces for all is well known. As founder and executive director of Beyond the Built Environment, an organization that seeks to engage diverse communities through architecture, Sablan champions people of color—especially women—through her design work. She recently accepted a position as both an architect and advocate at Adjaye Associates.

I founded Beyond the Built Environment to represent marginalized people both within the profession and in communities most underserved by the profession. We aim to involve everyone, from preschoolers to practitioners and pundits, as critical stakeholders and advocates for just, diverse environments. Beyond the Built Environment provides a holistic platform aimed to support numerous stages of the architecture pipeline. We do this through our approach, which utilizes a method I termed “the triple E, C.”

It’s a strategy to Engage, Elevate, Educate, and Collaborate. We engage diverse audiences through programming, promoting intellectual discourse and exchange. We elevate the identities and contributions of women and diverse designers through exhibitions, curated lectures, and documentaries that testify to the provided value of their built work and its spatial impact. We educate through formal and informal learning opportunities that introduce architecture as a bridge to fill the gaps of inequity. We collaborate with community stakeholders and organizations.

In underserved communities, poorly appointed architecture perpetuates inequity. These inequities, more often than not, adversely affect communities of color. I believe representation is essential to achieving diversity. When I was studying architecture, one of my professors stated I was incapable of becoming an architect because of my gender and race. I resent those words for serving as my call to action, and for being such a prominent part of my purpose.

With my advocacy work, I aspire to inspire marginalized groups to understand the important role they can have in deciding and designing their surroundings.

In my work with NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects) and in my new role at Adjaye Associates, I’m both an architect and an advocate. As an associate in Adjaye Associates’ New York office, I will be running projects, as well as working on project management and business development and supporting diversity and advocacy work.

To have the ability to hold both parts of my identity while working on world-impacting projects that push for design justice is a dream come true. For those like me who were told we had to choose, we can do both.

Organizations Mentioned: (3)
Adjaye Associates
London, United Kingdom
Beyond the Built Environment
New York, New York, USA
Non-profit, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion