#MentorMonday: Andre Johnson, II

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: Andre Johnson, Jr.

Hometown: Columbia, SC

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

No one has sparked my interest in the field of design or architecture. I am an artist. Since I can remember from a young age I was in love with the idea of creating something then watching it come to life. From my mind to paper then realistically. Since the age of 5 I voiced I will design homes and buildings…I never strayed from my vision.

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

As a Black designer in this field I do have a responsibility to open the doors for the next generation because our struggles are real. Especially in the south. A Black upcoming designer, architect or engineer will have to work 3 times as hard…3 times as long…and be knowledgeable of their field 3 times as much to be considered equal. They will experience the underestimating of their own skills at every aspect and corner of the industry. Even from our own people. As a designer our clientele are accustomed and trained to question everything about our skill set and just be ok with our counterparts knowledge and skill sets. Basically becoming a “Yes Man so to speak”.

 

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

I spoke on this in the above question but there are many factors that comes with breaking into a so called “ caucasian” field especially as a small business owner. The black professional will deal with the struggles of gaining business and networking which will make things more difficult to create a financial stability to grow more so in this industry than other industries where Black entrepreneurs will flourish.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

This is a loaded question…Hmmmm…I would like to say yes…but I also this will light that fire underneath those who really wants this. Making the professional stronger and better. It’s like sharpening a knife using a stone or a fighter fighting a larger competitor. You will learn to beat the competition and grow.

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

The only advice I think will help the most is there will be struggle. There will be down times and a feeling of overwhelming failure, but not from you lack of knowledge and know how. This will be because you are breaking into something that was meant to keep you out. Meaning you are succeeding, growing and breaking down boundaries where many before you have failed. So my advice is keep pushing. Keep moving forward. If this is your passion and it is your dream…IT IS WORTH FIGHTNG FOR.

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

At my lowest point I was ready to shut the doors to my company AAJ Design and Associates-Holding, LLC. Being concerned that my work was not up to par. That maybe I was not as knowledgeable as I thought I was. Months and years went by as I watched me lose one design bid after another. I did everything I could think of to gain business within my budget of working a 9-5 and creating the firm on the weekends. My turning point was when I watched a job my company had bid on and lost to my competitor in which I use to design for knowing my costs were lower. At this point I knew it had nothing to do with my knowledge but my color. So I decided not to let my color shut me down! When my color is my strength!

How important is representation?

Representation as far as marketing is a need…but what is more important is the representation of your work as in completed work “built work”. This type of representation speaks far more than any marketing tool for us because then your work is undeniable!

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