#MentorMonday: Ibrahim the Architect

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: My name is Ibrahim.  I don’t use my last name as I plan to be like, Drake, Madonna, Prince or Beyonce.
Hometown: Brooklyn!! (in my best Biggie voice). 
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

My discovery of architecture began as lifelong exploration of space as a child after witnessing the Crown Heights Riots, a few blocks from my elementary school.  I understood that having space was valuable and people were willing to die over it.

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

We are the 1%, and the only way I see it increasing is if every black architect offers employment or mentorship to any young aspiring architect. The reciprocity is a must.

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

How many architects do you know? How many Black architects do you know? The fact that we are so underrepresented in the profession means that when people meet me they have a hard time believing that I am going to do a great job. I’m young. I’m Black. I wear Jordans at the office and bring my daughters in on school breaks. There aren’t enough of us and that ultimately impacts my bottom line. 

Should we ignore race in this profession?

YES.  My way of fighting this is to refer to other non black architects as a white architect.  Since we are a color-based society, I’m paying it forward. 

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

Be steadfast.

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

The toughest was working at a firm where my role on a new school was as the Project Architect.  The project was subsequently cancelled and my role was shifted to work on prison facilities.  I wasn’t feeling the move as I was aware of the disproportionate number of blacks incarcerated.  I took it on just to see what it was like, and I witnessed the creation of spaces that defied the morals and ethics of the profession. On a visit, I saw too many faces that looked like my own.  I had to make a decision: collect a check or really design and create purposeful/impactful projects.  I started taking my exams and decided that I wanted to start my own practice.  That was 6 years ago.

How important is representation?

I mentor young men and women interested in the field, and I believe it is my life’s purpose to dismantle the white supremacist structure that dominates and plagues the built environment. I feel that it is my duty to expose youth to the wonders of the profession. Examples and exposure will shift the numbers.

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