#MentorMonday: Stephen Wilder, RA

Welcome to #MentorMonday! Mondays are dedicated to celebrating Black LICENSED Architects, Designers, and individuals in the profession of Architecture!

The questions asked to these individuals are to allow us into their lives and to be used as an inspiration. I hope you all enjoy this series.

Name: Stephen Michael Wilder
Hometown: Harlem, New York
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

My interest in Architecture has been continuously sparked since middle school. The profession is so dynamic, you never fully get it. The first instance was understanding that I had a personality and skill set that aligned with those of architects. I felt I was a leader and an idealist. I was good at math, drawing and daydreaming. Throughout high school, I strengthened those skills, but that was about it. College was when the wake-up call happened. NO ONE told me this is what architecture entailed! Neither the good nor the bad. I embraced it though. The challenge sparked my interest more. This trend would continue as an employee, graduate student and now a business owner. As I remain a student of architecture and design, the more I learn, the more my interest grows.

What does it mean to be a black architect to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?

Every role has its own set of responsibilities. There are roles for architects and there are roles for people of color.

The good thing about architecture is that every architect can decide on the type of impact they want to have on the world. There are architects we will never hear of that are successful at what they do, but choose to do it quietly. There are black men and women in general that are highly successful in their professions and no one will know. Part of me relates to these people. The other part of me knows that our race needs the most help. We have an identity crisis. We need the most motivation, opportunities, and inspiration to unlock our genius of sense of pride. So, its not more responsibility, it’s simply the role I have to play. I have a responsibility to remind everyone that looks like me that there is another way to positively impact this world. I have a responsibility to remind people that don’t look like me that I am here, that we are brilliant, creative, and determined. We are here, and we are about to make noise.

What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/designer?

I know what I set out to do is not easy, so I don’t believe in obstacles. Everything is part of the process. I’m not quitting so my progress cant be hindered. This is a long game and everything comes in time.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

Black architects should never be ignored. In fact, we should be embraced and propped up. Especially when it comes to our own communities.

If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture school right now, what would it be?

Two things:

1. Its bigger than you.

2. We need more black architecture firms. Small or large. Take plenty of business courses, one semester of professional practice will not get it done.

Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?

When the version of the exam I was taking changed and I lost 6 of 7 passed exams. I started working for a development firm and realized I was an architect and I needed to get my shit together.

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