#MentorMonday: Melissa R Daniel
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. The opinions and views expressed do not reflect those of America’s Hidden Gem(TM). They are exclusively opinions of those by whom they’re shared.
Melissa R Daniel
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?
I grew up in DC public housing. Even though I had a loving and supportive family, the built environment was full of anxiety and fear. It wasn’t until I was in the Mayor Marion Barry’s Summer Youth Program that I was exposed to architecture. At the conclusion of the program, I believed that architecture could solve the public housing environment.
What does it mean to be a black architect/ urban designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?
Being black in the architecture profession is hot right now. We are being loud and proud; teaching everyone how true equity and inclusion works. It’s a task that we did not ask for and it’s a job that we do to ensure future architects/designers would not have to go through this.
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ urban designer?
I don’t know if it is because I’m black or because I’m a woman, but being taken seriously as a leader /manger has been the biggest obstacle professionally.
Should we ignore race in this profession?
Absolutely not! Culture is the essence of architectural identity. It is a reflection of heritage, similar to the pigment of our skin and curl patterns on our hair. Race is the recognition of ones place in the built environment and architecture occupies that space.
If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture /Urban Planning school right now, what would it be?
Question everything. You paid ALOT of money to go to school. Not having the tools to succeed is as much as their problem as it is yours. Make the institution work for you.
Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?
To be honest, it’s a constant roller coaster. I would wake up in the morning and be at a low because I’m not licensed. There was no external force that brought me to that point, its just the reality. I’ve been doing research on the public housing I grew up and searching for the reason why I got into architecture in the first place. I believe that it’s the WHY that I need to find. Studying for the architecture registration exam is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve find myself stopping midway in this marathon because the WHY isn’t motivating me anymore. And since I’m being honest, I don’t know how to overcome this. All I can do is just be real with myself in this journey.
How important is representation?
Extremely important. Seeing ourselves in the profession encourages succession.