#MentorMonday: Jonathan Clark

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: Jonathan Clark 

Hometown: Huntsville, Alabama

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

I grow up extremely poor with 3 other brother siblings. At one point we all had to sleep in the same bed together because our mother could not afford a home with the proper amount of space for each of us to have our own room. I watched her struggle to keep us feed, clothed, and housed while only making around $25,000 a year working as a bank teller. I vowed to build her a house that she deserved when I grew older.

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

I think becoming a black architect is one of the most exciting things. Less than 2% of all licensed architects are black. Being a black professional of any sort is a great accomplish in itself; however, becoming a black architect seems to have a sense of more value because of the scarcity of black professionals in this arena. I am extremely grateful, as architects are well respected pillars of society. With that being said, I think that I have a two-fold responsibility: to protect the health and welfare of all and to represent black culture in my profession.

 

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

Because there are not many black architects, I usually do not come in to contact with other black architects while conducting my business. I have gotten extremely use to this, so much so, that it does not even bother me anymore. Because of this, one obstacle that I face is getting others of a different cultural background to initial accept the skills and ideas that I have to bring to the table. Because others do not regularly come in contact with a black architect, they are not sure how to interact with me and I end up having to prove my expertise in order to solidify my position and technical capabilities.

 

Should we ignore race in this profession?

I think we should not ignore race, but more so embrace it. What we have to understand is that architecture is actually about people and not buildings. I know it doesn’t make sense at first. However, the root of architecture deals with understanding how our built environment effects people. Culture is a huge part of people and what makes them who they are. Architecture is just an extension of a society’s culture and environment.

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

Know that you are making history and developing greatness within yourself. You shall be amongst an elite group of society if you stay discipline and don’t give up. Understand why you are going through this process and have a purpose. I thought that through architecture that I could reach a lot of people and improve their environment which would in turn improve their quality of life.

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

I remember being in my Masters program. It seemed like the professors did not think I deserved to be there. I always felt off balanced. I wanted to give up several times. The way I only came it was by constantly reminding myself why I needed to do this. I recently started my own firm and needed to complete this process in order to obtain my license. I had to remind myself that this was bigger than me and that others were depending on me to make it through this. I talked to my love ones all the time and expressed my frustrations. They always seemed to give me encouragement. Lastly, I keep telling myself that it would be over one day soon and I would be on the other side. I could not give up at that point, because if I did, I would give up in life every time something was extremely difficult and stressful. That process became a life lesson for me.

How important is representation?

Representation is very important. People need to feel acknowledged and respected. Also people must have the opportunity to express themselves and their culture and counted as an important part of society.

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