#FutureArchitectFriday: Imani Dixon
Hi readers! It’s #FutureArchitectFriday. A day to celebrate those pushing themselves to becoming licensed architects.
I graduated with my Master of Architecture in 2017 from University of Cincinnati. I received my Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 2014 from Bowling Green State University.
How would you describe your experience as a Black Architecture student?
My experience as not only a black architecture student, but also as a woman, and the experience of this intersection, was challenging. Because there weren’t many other black architecture students in my classes, my peers didn’t share the same experiences that I did. I think more attention needs to be paid to the psychological effect of Eurocentricism in architecture education and more broadly, American education in general, for students of color. That, on top of the struggles with being a woman and trying to make sure my voice was heard was a difficult balance. I felt like I was constantly struggling to find my identity in the architecture education that I was receiving. It was easy to feel alone at times. I think what really changed was when I studied abroad in Haiti to redesign a primary school that was destroyed in the earthquake. I knew that I would want to be able to do work like that one day and just being there and getting acquainted with the culture and Haitian people made me feel so proud; it’s as if that’s what I had been looking for within the profession up until that point. Consequently, in grad school I began to take interest in more sociological- and politically-themed courses, like Architecture + Humanitarian Design, Architecture + Politics, Gender & Space, just to name a few. Having the ability to talk through these topics from my own perspective and read and react to this information was what would actually keep me going throughout my academic career.
Why do you want to get your license?
Licensure to me gives one a level of independence, whether working for yourself or for a company. The title “Architect” comes with an expectation of expertise in your field and this is what I want; no more explaining what “Architectural Designer” means and why I cannot call myself an Architect yet. The architecture industry is also in need of more black women who are licensed; the percentage of licensed black women architects is .03% of total architects in the country (a statistic many of us are familiar with). Right now there are just around 450 licensed black women architects so we need more! Also on a less serious note, my family and friends who don’t know about the process call me an architect anyway; I might as well seal the deal!
Honestly, my biggest influence comes from peers and/or friends I know or work with in the same industry. There’s a really healthy balance of learning from and teaching them what I know so that we can grow together. They typically motivate me more than anyone else because I can truly experience in real time what it’s like to see a person become successful and really build their own brand as a professional. Another inspiration is the youth that I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring through ACE Mentorship Program and Project Pipeline Design Build, an initiative of the Illinois Chapter of NOMA. They have really given me reassurance that although I’m at the beginning of my career I’ve done a lot of work to get to where I am and deserve to be here! They’re so passionate and have so much energy for their future success and it’s contagious. Of course, my parents need to be mentioned– there are qualities I get from both of them that aid me greatly in what I do now, like my mother’s patience and emotional intelligence, and my father’s creativity and passion.
How important is representation?
I cannot stress enough how important representation is! Representation has been a recurring theme for me personally throughout my career. I’m from a small town in Ohio and my desire for representation is what has actually led me to doing internships in larger cities searching for a place where I feel black people, black women and other minorities are well represented in this industry. Being in close proximity to others like myself who have more experience and have been through all of this makes me feel empowered. Not to mention having peers with similar experience that can relate to your every day struggles and mobility towards success is also a major benefit.
“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” – Toni Morrison