#MentorMonday: Nadine Saint-Louis, RA
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.
Uniondale, New York
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?
My interest in Architecture was actually a passion I always had. I was always fascinated with the aspects of Architecture, however, I didn’t know the correct name for it, at the time. At the age of ten, I decided I was going to become a structural engineer; because, in my mind, engineers created buildings. I didn’t know what an Architect was back then.
When it was time for college, I applied to Polytechnic University and began my career as an engineer. It was not long after I began engineering that I realized it was not for me. There was one particular instance that made this realization very real. There was a class in which the task was to lay out a supermarket as efficiently as possible, however my only concern with the assignment was how to design he exterior façade of my supermarket. The professor kindly pulled me aside and said “I think you are in the wrong field”. He explained what Architecture was and at that moment everything just clicked. I later applied to New York Institute of Technology for a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree and never looked back.
I love shaping space, manipulating light and creating for people; I loved the aspects of Architecture before I knew what it was called.
What does it mean to be a black architect/ designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?
I think being an Architect is a powerful thing. You draw one day and it becomes reality in a few years. It becomes
tangible in the built environment. As an architect you create experiences with physical space. It is challenging, frustrating, and ultimately fulfilling. Becoming an Architect, who is black, gives me a sense of pride because I did what society doubted I could. I excelled, I achieved, and I did not give up. I proved society wrong and will continue to do so.
I do feel a sense of responsibility as a black female architect. I feel responsible for giving the next generation what I didn’t have. I want them to see black Architects, female and male, everywhere. I want them to be able to relate to someone that has traveled the path that they currently are on. I feel responsible for creating a solid foundation that the next generation can stand on to become even greater. I want them to be better than I could ever be.
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ designer?
I think one of the toughest obstacles I faced was not having someone I could relate to or look up to that represented me. I could count on one hand how many black architect students I went to school with and of that number maybe one or two of them, myself included, were women. That was tough and at times it felt like I was in it alone. Seeing someone you can relate to, in my opinion, helps tremendously. It is for that reason, I believe the presence of organizations such as National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) is imperative to the field of Architecture.
The obstacle we continue to face as black architects is obtaining proper representation so we can make the difference
that is needed.
Should we ignore race in this profession?
In my opinion, there is only one human race, however there are multitudes of cultures and ethnicities which should be
celebrated and treasured. Each culture and ethnicity should be valued, expressed and showcased for the beauty they provide. That is what we should focus on in this profession.
If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture school right now, what would it be?
My advice would be simple. Keep going! It is hard, but you are stronger. It is frustrating, but you can figure it out. It is
exhausting, but you will make it through. Keep Going!
Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?
My lowest moment was when I was taking the last part of my Architecture Registration Exams and failed it for the third time. I was so exhausted and emotionally drained. In addition to the stress of the exams, I had decided to go back to school for a master’s degree while maintaining a full-time work schedule. At the moment I opened my email and saw that I had failed again, I was devastated! I was ready to give up. I was sincerely over it. I allowed myself a 24 hour pity party and after that decided that I was too close to give up now. I passed the next time I took the exam but “that” particular failure was my lowest point. I will never forget what it felt like and that it took me 24 hours to decide not to give up. What allowed me to overcome my lowest point was my stubbornness. I don’t quit. Not to mention the sheer GRACE OF GOD! And I mean that whole heartedly.
How important is representation?
In my opinion, representation is paramount. I am a firm believer that if you can see it, you can be it. That cannot happen without representation. Who represents you; how they are portrayed; and how they conduct themselves makes up the foundation for the success of the future generations. Without the proper representation in various committees and organizations, our needs cannot be met and our voices cannot be heard. The goal for every minority architect is to have proper representation and to speak loudly and clearly. Let everyone know who you are, what you have achieved, and how you can help future generations achieve more.