#MentorMonday: Talisha L. Sainvil, RA • AIA • NOMA • NCARB • LEED

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: Talisha L. Sainvil

Hometown: BROOKLYN! I don’t think you need the state because there is just one Brooklyn (even though there are others cities in the USA with the name)

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

I initially wanted to be an Interior Designer but my Father told me that I couldn’t make money doing that (boy was he wrong). He told me that I should study Engineering – which is in the top 3 of Immigrants (I’m a first generation American born – my parents are from Port-au-Prince, Haiti) . In doing some research, I found Architecture and thought it was a great compromise between Interior Design and Engineering.

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

I think that being a one of less than 500 living licensed female black architects is an amazing responsibility and achievement. I do feel like I am in a position where I have to make my predecessors proud as well as make sure that new paths can be forged by those who come after me. If I can open a door, a window or even just leave a key for the 600th licensed black female Architect, then I do think that I have made the most of my being an Architect. I feel like it is an honor to be part of such a distinguished group and therefore part my duty to ensure that I continue to build the platform where future Women of color can stand.


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

While I try not to let negative or unfavorable experiences get to me, they do seep in. I think the biggest obstacle is that people tend to disqualify me without ever knowing what I have to offer. It can be disheartening and discouraging to walk through the door on a job site and feel like people are wondering if you have mistakenly come to the wrong place. The important thing is not to let those types of experiences penetrate more than skin deep.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

No! I feel like Ignoring race opens the profession up to people not addressing issues and valuing different perspectives. There are race/cultural differences amongst all of us and I feel that embracing and experiencing what different people have to offer is the better way to bring people together.

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

If you have a passion for this – Stick with it! The world needs what you have to offer and those who have come before you are waiting for you to supersede us!

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

Yes! I’m sure there are many people who can relate to failing exams. I failed plenty of exams and at some point felt like I would never pass one of them. There were many times when I thought that becoming licensed would never happen for me but then I thought about all the other actual tough times that I have been through and I kept my thoughts on the vision I had to become a licensed Architect – fulfilling the dream. I believe that if you have it in your heart to become licensed that you should follow your heart.

How important is representation?

Representation is so important because there are so many ways that we as people discount ourselves and what we can do. Not all of us has the will to follow our dreams or to be able to even dream a dream if we think it’s not for people like us. When you see someone else doing the thing that you would like to do it gives you confidence and allows you to have someone who you can model yourself after.

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