#MentorMonday: Clayton Henry

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: Clayton Henry
Hometown: Miramar, Florida
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

My interest in Architecture has a fairly simple origin story. I’ve always liked building things. I’ve always liked to take things apart, and to re-assemble them; tents, bikes, furniture.  When I showed an affinity for math in high school, my uncle suggested that I look into architecture, and I did.

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

I believe that one function of architecture is the engendering of a place with an identity, and the identity of a place reflects the pride, values, and in some ways the perceived potential of the people that live there. I have always been puzzled by the false correlation between “valuable places” and social standing.

I believe that with the right knowledge, any place can be well ordered and well designed.  The more black minds that we have in the design fields, the more autonomy we will gain in ordering our own environments, and in assigning value to those environments. Value that will then reflect upon us as a people.

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

As a black design professional, I often wrestle with a sense of isolation. In my professional career, I have only worked at one office in which I was not the only black designer, and even then, I was never teamed with other black professionals. When you are a singularity, you are often pre-judged, and sometimes pigeon-holed into niche roles on a team. However, with persistence and a positive attitude, there is always a way to gain the trust of your team.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

We absolutely shouldn’t ignore race in this profession. Architecture is a collaborative act, and everything that uniquely informs our perspective is an asset.

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

1. Be kind to everyone around you. Architecture is a small word.

2. Work hard and work smart. You are ultimately judged on what you produce.

3. Strive to respectfully hold your professors and TAs accountable. Opinions of projects are often subjective. GPAs are not. If you notice that  you received a lower mark than your peer on an assignment, find out why, and in detail. The syllabus is your best friend.

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

Still working toward licensure.

How important is representation?

Representation is of the utmost importance. As a freshman design student, I had an opportunity to attend the NOMA conference. Interacting with so many black design professionals was a continuing source of encouragement throughout my studies. All of my mentors are minority architects, and their advice has been invaluable every step of the way. I really want to make them proud.

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