#FutureArchitectFriday: Kim Johnson

Hi readers! It’s #FutureArchitectFriday. A day to celebrate those pushing themselves to becoming licensed architects.


Kim Johnson



South side of Chicago, Illinois


Educational Status:

Bachelor of Science in Interior Architecture with Psychology minor; Master of Architecture and Master of Science in Civil + Environmental Engineering


How would you describe your experience as a Black Architecture student?

I attended a PWI for both undergraduate and graduate school. I was the only black women in both of my Masters Program. Being a black architectural student was certainly a unique experience. While I learned so much in the new environment and being surrounded by an entirely different culture than what I had previously experienced, I experienced quiet a few racists situation that I had difficulty calling out due to the privilege my professors and peers were naturally born into. It was very isolating at times as some projects were hard to connect to due to the project scope’s biased towards a white perspective and I struggled initially to connect to the work I was doing and the impact I wanted to make with my work. It took me jumping out of my comfort zone to seek out opportunities to interface with other black people, learn more about areas that interested me, and obtain mentors from a pool outside of my immediate environment. I had to be aggressive in getting the education and knowledge I was looking for, very intentional in the projects I sought to work on, and disciplined as I managed to organize and eventual combined my cultural experiences with my educational experiences. It was not until I was in graduate school and learned of the organization NOMA (the National Organization of Minority Architects), that I felt a bit more ease in this process. Through NOMA, I was able to get the cultural support in my architecture experience. Through NOMA, I received the support and guidance and our student chapter pushed the university to do better at providing more minority perspectives within studio projects, speakers, and elective courses.

Why do you want to get your license?

When I first went to school for Interior Design, I learned that regardless of the certifications and licensing received as an Interior Designer, there would be a ceiling to the amount of influence and change I could make without the stamp of an Architect. I do not like the idea of a ceiling, so the best way I see to remove those limitations is by obtaining the highest level of licensure that will allow me to continue the change necessary locally, nationally, and globally. As a young Designer, I do not quite know what my impact will be, but I want to prepare myself with all the tools I believe are necessary to change the way we experience the built environment and serve the under-served.


Biggest inspiration/influence?

I first have to say that I have found inspiration through all the people in my ‘inner circle’. The people I surround myself with offer such unique points of views and advice. The biggest and first influences in my life have certainly been my mom and dad. My mom is really a genius in her own right. She was trained as an engineer and found her way into education, now teaching teachers. She was the first person to take the way I think about things and shape it in such a way that has made learning and understanding others such an eye opening experience. Her teachings have allowed me to see mistakes some would call failures, as learning opportunities. The way she thinks and processes information is so inspiring and has always forced me to analyze and question everything. My dad is one of the most dedicated and hard working men I have seen. I have seen him as an artist, a designer, a technician, and every job he has ever had, he give his all into understanding and perfecting. Seeing him in this light has allowed me to find the silver lining in every job I have had, and finding a way to use that experience as a life long benefit. I have always seen him as a ‘get it done’ type of person, not requiring praise or glorification to get things done, an admirable quality. There is definitely a time and place to demand credit where credit is do. But there are also times where credit shouldn’t be needed because the work should speak for itself, we tend to get caught up with not being recognized for the stuff we have done. The both of them have really just taught me to be a change maker, one that has the wisdom to know when it is time to fight, when it is time to negotiate, and when it is time to be silent.


How important is representation?

Representation is important, but I believe we have to go beyond that. During a day and age where we as are being degraded, belittled, and second guessed by our peers, the media, and at times, ourselves, it is extremely important to be encouraged and supported in whatever endeavors we take on. It is certainly encouraging to see black man and women in architecture doing amazing things, it helps to feel like we are not alone in our vision, there are others who also are on the same path, and it is encouraging to know you are not alone. I do believe that support and mentoring is even more important. When I first became interested in the built environment as a high school student, I was not exposed to any black women within the profession. I saw and knew some black male architects, but no black women. While this was something I noticed, it was not something that deterred me from professions within the built environment. The reason I was able to think about going into Interior Design, and later into architecture, was because of my support system and the encouragement they gave me that sparked the fire that has kept me on this path for as long as I have been. We can not simply aim to become representation for younger people to look up to, we need to be supporters, motivators, mentors. Representation IS important, but supporters are much more important to me. I think we have to actively make an effort to be our sisters and brothers keeper so that collectively we rise up and achieve great feats. When we think about the importance of representation, it is because through those great people, a path is paved for other people to follow, analyze, and improve upon. That is only possible when the path is revealed to those following. I think about the people I have been blessed to be mentored by, they all have allowed to to learn more about their story, things they did to get where they are, and mistakes they made. The guidance from them is what makes their representation worth while.


Favorite quote/poem/song/etc.?

My favorite quote is Marianne Williamson ‘Deepest Fear’
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, As children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.

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