#MentorMonday: Bobby Boone
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.
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?
Monthly (maybe more often than that), my family went to home depot where my imagination easily wandered into things possible with the various tools and materials at hand. I actually grew a pattern of picking up a new book of floor plans upon entrance each time. This served as an introduction to the field, yet I didn’t know an architect until I started my undergrad application journey. I sought architecture as a major due to the ability to mix my analytical and creative minds into a career, really hoping to solve for housing issues faced growing up. I quickly realized upon entering that, I wasn’t quite in the right field and my professor redirected my curriculum to support my true interest in urban planning. However, my career transitioned into focusing on retail land use, designing and strategizing for development in all community typologies.
What does it mean to be a black architect/ urban designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?
I identify as a real estate strategist because physical design is only a component of the change I seek for black communities. For me, being black in the built environment comes with the weight of ensuring decisions made do not adversely impact the communities I cherish. This is especially difficult for understanding real estate finance and designing and strategizing for underserved communities. Being black in the conversation with community stakeholders contributes some trust, but I often still fight to gain more through hard truths – truths of why some communities receive investment, retailers, etc. and others do not. This is an additional responsibility for me because Black people have been left out of the conversation and uneducated on real estate for so long. Being able to chat about shared experiences, makes it worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing!
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ urban designer?
Over time, in many meetings and project teams, I was often the youngest and the only person of color, and the obstacles I often experience relate to prejudice of both race and age. I often deal with the prejudices by first ignoring imposter syndrome utilizing affirmation statements, recognizing why I am there. It also provides the opportunity to dispel prejudices by saying really insightful things, asking the right questions, and ultimately delivering a stellar product.
Should we ignore race in this profession?
Race should never be ignored in this profession or in America, a country built upon structural racism. However, shared race equates to share histories, experiences, and cultures, in many instances. Instead of shunning race in the profession, it should be celebrated. Diversity, the things that make us different, is what creates beauty in the world. If we start to pull a black curtain over one aspect of our identity, then much more is hidden from the world. I challenge the profession to find a way to incorporate that perspective.
If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture /Urban Planning school right now, what would it be?
The best advice I have for a student is to not let the industry define your career. It is important to gain the experience needed to pursue your dreams, but the real estate industry, in general, is ripe for disruption. Figure out what your passions are and craft a job right for you. For example, I love eating out, exploring new places, and solving hard problems, and therefore, decided that retail real estate consulting was best. When you find the right job type, hire the right first boss; it’s funny to think you’re doing the hiring in that process, but they will ensure your edification and exponential growth in knowledge. Also, seek schools of thought outside of your passions to glean analogous inspiration, meaning how can you use thermodynamics to understand how people move through place or music theory to design iterations of entry points into a building.
Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, my AICP journey was fairly simple and easy. Find a good study buddy/accountability partner to help you keep on track.
How important is representation?
Doctors, lawyers, and businessmen, prescribed careers for many black kids, do not represent the gamut of opportunities available. However, growing up in Atlanta where there was representation across most industries by Black professionals, I knew I could chase my dreams. This was furthered by my family’s diverse careers, ranging from costume designers and pastors and salesmen and medical professionals. They intentionally sought to provide guidance with limited restrictions. Luckily, they did promote the value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which contributed to my decision to attend Florida A&M University. Now that’s a place where representation is abundant! The confidence gained from the many before I have dealt with much worst and accomplished much more is unlike anything else I’ve witnessed and contributed a large part of my success to the institution.