#MentorMonday: Michael Allen

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: Michael Oneal Allen

Hometown: Conway, South Carolina

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

I grew up and artist and loved drawing. I wanted to have a career that I could draw as a job. The decision to choose a college to play division 1 football, sparked my interest even more because it helped me to eliminate the schools that did not have architecture degrees and it made my decision a tad bit easier.

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

To be a black architect is empowering! I do feel like I have a big responsibility. Because there are so few of us, it makes the responsibility to do great work even more important. In SC there is an even fewer number of architects and to help the pipeline of future architects, my responsibility is to be great at the profession.

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

Like many professions, I’m guessing, earning respect from employees and clients are the biggest obstacles. Being able to be the Project Architect on the best projects that come in, work with the big clients, and the Project Designer on the coolest designs, all have to be the greatest obstacles I have encountered.
Should we ignore race in this profession?

You cannot ignore race in Architecture. It is impossible. Therefore, embracing race in Architecture is valuable to the future of the profession. The field of architecture needs diversity in design. Just as it is when you travel the world and see many unique designs, that too can be for America. Let homeland cultures design be free to control the expressive designs in our work, will allow for a better collective design portfolio of work in America.

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

My strongest advice to black architecture students is, expect it to be hard work in the profession, so put in the hard work now! Be the top student in your class! Your abilities will start you on an undeniable path. There still will be hard work to do, but we have to be great at the profession, not just good.

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

One of the lowest moments in my pursuit of becoming a licensed architect, was when I passed all the “graphic” sections and then the exam changed. Once it changed those exams did not count anymore, so I had to retake them all. I was looking to give up. The path to licensure is already hard, and this was a setback that made me feel exhausted and frustrated.

How important is representation?

Representation is highly important for one reason young aspiring architects. Growing up I never knew an Architect. I never thought of becoming an architect. There was never an architect at career day that I can remember. Then add to all that none were Black. So to represent a career and do it well, helps to provide a dream for a young elementary school student to become a future designer! And not just your typical coals of Fireman, Professional Athlete, Lawyer, or doctor.

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