#MentorMonday: Mark Gardner, 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: Mark Gardner

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY (Originally from Williamsburg, VA)

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

Growing up, I was interested in buildings, spaces and how things were made. My counselors always pushed me towards engineering , but I was more interested in making art. I decided I was going to study Architecture in college  because I thought I wouldn’t have to give up any of my interests- Structures, Art, Forensic Material Engineering and History.

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

Some days I am just an Architect trying to grow and learn how to be a better designer… Others days, I am a Black Man, dealing with issues of identity in America and sometimes I am a Black Architect, because I meet a black kid who has never seen a Black Architect. That is the reminder that we have more responsibility to be visible to the next generation, so they know that we are out here. That is one of the reasons why I teach.

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

We all have obstacles we face, but what has been an important reminder for me is how to find the resilience and will to face the obstacles. That has been the most important lesson for me as a Black Architect- To continue forward, learn from failures, be better tomorrow. I have been fortunate to be in situations where I have the opportunity to prove my talents and have found the confidence to trust in my talents. That confidence is built upon the support and respect of the architects who trained me. If I can’t find a way, then I will make a way.

“I always say, be so good they can’t ignore you…be undeniable.” –Steve Martin

Should we ignore race in this profession?

No more than  the question – “Should we ignore race in our society?” We can work against the bias and inequalities, but first, we must acknowledge their existence. We can all be agents of change. The disparities and bias that exist in our society demand it.

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

Find a mentor. If you do not have one, find one now.  You need support. We all need support and encouragement. Students need an advocate, a guidepost, an advisor, a shoulder to cry on and someone to talk to, who has been where you are now. You will be surprised how many people really want to help you on this journey.

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

I think my experience was the same as many young architects, trying to find the time and balance between work life and my personal life to study for the exams. I took a long time between exams and at some point, I came to the realization, that passing the exam was important. It was going to be the fulfillment of a lot of years of hard work. It was the gift that I owed myself.

How important is representation?

Representation is vital.  The architecture profession does not represent the cross section of this country, much like congress. If we want to see diversity, than we must make our voices heard. We must do the hard work required for inclusion. Inclusion is the process and Diversity is the outcome.

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