#MentorMonday: Patrice Edwards

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.


Patrice Edwards


Surry, VA 

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

When I was younger, traveling with my family I was constantly curious about the creation of spaces we would visit. Asking questions such as “How did these walls get here? ” How did they put this sofa here?” “Who built this space?” I always loved to touch interior materials such as the coolness of ceramic tile, the warmth of hardwood, or the texture of fabrics. I realized I had a passion for design in my high school drafting class and it all started from there.
Fun fact: When I was 14, I wrote a paper on incorporating interior design classes in my
high school’s curriculum. At the same time, I wrote another design paper that started with
“Some people work well with numbers, however I have a good eye.”

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

To be a black designer means being flexible. It means leading with my own experiences
from growing up in small country town and learning to use my surroundings to create
spaces to learning all aspects of construction.
Sometimes I feel I do have a responsibility as a black designer to show that there are
different avenues we can take when we explore and let our paths expand. We have the
right to do that. We should give ourselves permission to get off the expected and flow
through our journey in any creative career. It doesn’t make us any less valuable. We are
enough. I love when we explore our creative genius!

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

 Some obstacles I have experienced is being the “only” it is so discouraging when you
don’t see yourself in a room. I really don’t see any inclusivity when it comes to
architecture/interior design aesthetics. Eurocentric design placed at the front as the
foundation it makes no room for other views in architecture/design. Currently my
obstacles have been learning how to clearly communicate and being vocal about my
professional goals in architecture/design.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

Unfortunately, we don’t have an option to ignore race because it is so embedded in the
structure of our society from the way our cities are planned, to the way our communities
grow and to the accessibility to food and healthy living.

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

First BREATHE and “Ask yourself who told you that?!” It has been so many times I have
created these negative thoughts in my head so I would go into this rabbit hole of being
discouraged especially when “you are the only”.
Second, find your people! I make it my intention to seek and follow other black creative
content especially architects and interior designers. I also follow other artists from mix
media, painting, fashion, and photography. They continue to inspire me and keep me
going because we are so innovative. One of my favorite affirmations is “I am surrounded
by people who pour into me”. Find people that pour into you and make real connections
with people who can do the same.
Lately, I have also been reading Afrofuturism themed books. I believe that black futures
matter. I’ve found myself focused on the past and I can get stuck in where we “should”
be. Envisioning black futures pays homage to our past experiences and I love to see it!

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

Lowest point in my career thus far happened when I was burnt out from applying for
several jobs and being rejected to attending these “networking events” and feeling out of
place and unable to connect. I was also taking on too much at a job that frankly did not see the value in design; it was more about the numbers. I was so attached to this idea of
what I thought my career/life in design would look like I no longer saw the value in myself.
I began having unsafe thoughts and severely depressed. I remember riding on the
highway between design consultations then Encourage Yourself by Donald Lawrence
started playing and I just pulled over and burst into tears. I overcame by signing up for
therapy about a week later to process what I was experiencing. I read this quote and I
wrote it over and over for a while – “The tools you created to survive won’t serve you
when it’s time to thrive.” I started to lead with that, re-learning and gaining new tools.

How important is representation?

Representation is important because again we are so damn creative. It is discouraging
and I used to second guess myself wondering if interior design was the right career path
for me. Every time I meet a black designer/architect I am gently reminded, I am on the
right path. I feel that those hints of doubt would have been less likely if I had seen more
designers/architects of color.

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