#MentorMonday: Vaughn Horn AIA, LEED AP, NCARB
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: Vaughn Horn
Hometown: Carson, CA
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?
As a kid, probably as early as 3rd grade, my love for drawing turned into a love for designing stadiums based on Ticketmaster floor plans I saw in the phone book. I credit my parents for guiding that. They cultivated my talent.
What does it mean to be a black architect to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?
I see responsibility as an ethos, my moral compass. It is not being a consequence of me being black. I have met and worked for quite irresponsible black architects. Now, if we look at it from an obligation to the betterment of blacks then yes I am all in. It is why I taught at Tuskegee. It is why I set up a scholarship fund there. It is why I have nurtured and mentored black youths. It is why dissertation at Harvard GSD is about case studies on specific housing projects.
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black planner/designer?
Misguided organizations who think hiring a black person will bring diversity is the biggest challenge I face. Diversity of thought should be the goal, not color. Other than that, micro aggression—such as people assuming I had it easy, or that I am somehow lacking in skills—is par for the course.
If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture /Urban Planning school right now, what would it be?
Aspirants should immerse themselves in all sorts of creative expressions. Art, music, literature. Do competitions. Learn AR, Cinema 4D, and glass blowing, not just Revit. Pair up with people outside of architecture. I recommend any student to take business classes, a range of sociology courses, and learn about what community organizations do. Do the Rose Enterprise Fellowship. Apply for Entrepreneurship camps. Learn that the pulse of who architects design for is at the Grassroots level, from the very-poor to the affluent.
Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?
I hit a low when I had failed my fourth exam in a row. That was when the ARE changed from 3.1 to 4.0. I would sit in my car, pray, and stare into the distance wondering if I had the acumen. I shook off the self-pity, began writing my own flash cards, listened to recordings of my own voice reading practice exams, and it stuck. I passed all the exams, then passed the California Supplemental Exam in half the time allotted. All while dealing with the death of my father.
How important is representation?
Representation at the client level for blacks, for women, for our non-binary friends is far from where it should be. So much emphasis on under-representation without a plan to increase access is holding back progress in the architecture profession. This change will not come from the government. It’s time to rouse the rebellion. Given how pluralism is a cultural norm in America, it baffles me why the main key decision makers remain monotone, monochromatic. When there is increased representation in commercial real estate leadership, for example, substantive change will come. More should be written about Renee Glover, about Mel King. They broke significant representation barriers.