#MentorMonday: Santasha Hart, RA, LEED Green Associate

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: Santasha Hart

Hometown: Daytona Beach

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

My aunt. She suggested I look into a career in architecture my 10th grade year because she felt as though it aligned with many of my interests and hobbies. I played The Sims a lot between the 7th and 10th grade, but found more interest in the house building aspect than the actual game play. I often made things out of whatever I could find around the house that wouldn’t melt from being hot glued. Then lastly I really liked to draw at the time, mostly people and cartoons etc. but I guess between graphic design and architecture…architecture won out.

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

It means I get to take my unique experience as a black person in America and allow it to inform my design decisions in the way that the majority of architects can’t. There is a greater sense of responsibility by default of the number of black architects in the industry being so low. I’m not sure how fair that is—but it is, thus I embrace it.

 

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

Accessibility to knowledge…Much of my counterparts had architects as parents, uncles, or friends of the family that were in architecture. They didn’t have to find out what they didn’t know and figure out where to get the information from – they already had examples and people to show them the way. I think as I’ve gotten older and as my network has grown, I have filled in those gaps, but initially this was a big hurtle –just not knowing what you don’t know and not realizing until after the fact your peers know because they’ve had many people around them giving them access to the answers. This problem was solved by seeking mentorship consistently and being a person who everybody knows of and wants to help.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

I think in some respects yes, and in some respects no. You should ignore race in terms of your built in biases you have developed due to the world around you and what you have and haven’t been exposed to. But you should not ignore it in regards to allowing it to inform your decisions culturally and embrace the different aspects of design that you can only uncover by learning new things from people different than yourself.

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

Trust yourself, value your opinion, and embrace growth while simultaneously staying rooted in who you are.

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

When I was taking my very last architectural exam…it was rough lol. I had flown through the first 6 exams within about 8 months but for a few reasons the very last one I needed to pass to be done with it all was giving me a run for my money. I ended up having to take that singular exam 4 times before I passed it, and the very last time I took it (if I hadn’t passed) I would have had to transition to the new version of the test (4.0 was phasing out and they were introducing 5.0) and redo more than half of the ones I already passed! In hindsight this experience is laughable now, especially because I ended up getting my license only 2 years after graduating with my Masters Degree… but at the time it was AWFUL.

How important is representation?

Extremely important –  representation is almost synonymous with exposure. For many people, it’s hard to imagine what you can do or what you can be without having seen it. Representation in every field, industry, and media sector is an important part of taking that .3% of black female architects and expanding it greatly.

One comment

  • Robert L. Reed, RA, PMP

    Hello Santasha!

    My name is Robert Reed and I am also a licensed architect. You have a very insightful perspective about what it is like to be a female African American licensed architect. I have been in
    the field for many years and have only met (1)! I am impressed by this forum and think it would be fulfilling to share some of my experiences from over the years. I will definitely join.

    Keep fighting the good fight…

    Thanks,

    Robert Reed, RA, PMP
    ROA Design Group LLC
    LTCReed@icloud.com.

    Like

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