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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession loosing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

2016 EQxD Hackathon Jurors: Working with the “A” Team

An Interview by Lilian Asperin Clyman with Anthony Gold and Frances Choun

It always takes me a while to get over the post conference hangover. I attribute this to the introvert in me, the massive input of information jammed in my head, and the desire to sift through it all to find those few transformational insights that will shape how I think, what I understand and what I look forward to in the future – the “So What?”.

“I've probably attended close to 100 conferences over my career - in pretty much every role: attendee, demonstrator, panelist, organizer, sponsor, and keynote speaker - across several industries including tech, financial services, and healthcare. Rarely have I felt the combination of energy, passion, creativity, and optimism that I felt at the EQxD Hackathon event (workshop and award presentation - aka "happy hour"). Not only did the event bring together a diverse group of people with a common mission to positively impact the future of architectural practices, but it created instant bonds that I suspect will have far greater (and lasting) impact than imagined. It was an honor for me to present to this group, but an even greater joy to interact with so many wonderful people.”

-Anthony Gold, 2016 Equity by Design Hackathon Juror

On a recent afternoon, I gathered with my EQxD jury cohorts Anthony Gold (ROAR for GOOD) and Frances Choun (McCarthy Building Companies) to reflect on the 2016 Hackathon experience. I was listening closely for insights from two leaders who represent that ever so helpful, candid, relevant, and third party point of view.


  • What surprised you most about the Hackathon?
  • What did you find most memorable about the winning scheme?
  • When you wore the hat as juror, what were you aiming to sharpen the focus on?
  • What advice do you have for the participants post Hackathon?
  • Which aspect of the experience will you cherish the most?
  • Conversely, which is the area of greatest improvement we can consider for the future?


The 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey revealed that a majority of respondents define satisfaction in the workplace as: engaging in projects of significance, working with a positive, talented, collaborative group (the “A” team), and having work/life flexibility. What’s interesting is that, Anthony and Frances also agree that the “A” team is the X factor. Let’s unpack this.


“A” Teams elevate themselves.

The Hackathon teams bonded very quickly around great ideas, demonstrated exceptional ability to read one another but also drew out the best from each other, and maintained buzz by being focused and engaged in the present.


 “A” Teams work towards a there-there.

The Hackathon teams drilled down into what is “sticky” and therefore relevant. They “took on” topics that span industries and generations. It takes courage to not only name the knots that need to be untied, but to seek to capture a viable idea that can be deployed to create impact.


 “A” Teams know how and when to pivot.

The Hackathon teams got it. It’s a journey that requires you to think on your feet, draw on your passion, and be authentic, all while navigating a minefield. In other words, an A team with a B idea trumps an A idea with a B team, simply for the fact that execution matters far more than the idea. Yes, the idea needs to be good enough to address a market meet/opportunity, but only “A” teams have the insight, passion, and willingness to adjust course and continually drive toward a successful outcome.


“A” Teams prioritize.

The Hackathon teams embraced the pace. This meant that they needed to figure out how to track action towards progress: by effectively editing along the way, communicating internally, knowing when to ask for clarifications (or help!), and acknowledging that there is a benefit from healthy hierarchy.


So what?

Cheers to the infectious nature of hackathons. Hooray for those who are the early adopters. Woo Hoo to trusting your intuition and sometimes just showing up to see where it takes you (and who you may meet along the way). And, Amen to being inspired and inspiring.  

“Process innovation is much needed in our profession to address the fundamental structural challenges of resources and equity. The Hackathon was the right medicine to for these ills, mixing a healthy combination of business strategy, new ideas and equitable participation of everyone in the practice of architecture. In both tone and result it was the sort of project we really need and should continue in the future.”

- Phil Bernstein, FAIA, Autodesk

This blog post concludes our 2016 Equity by Design Hackathon Blog Series.  See you next year!

Special Thanks to our EQxD Hackathon 2016 Sponsors!

How can Architects demystify the built environment?

2016 EQxD Hackathon Reflections from Jason Campbell, Associate AIA, Shawna Hammon, AIA and Karen Bala, AIA (with Jan Harmon and Lisa Bates).

It’s safe to say, AIA conventions are highly stimulating, nearing on overwhelming. There’s an existing urban fabric, in which 25,000 architects and designers are immersed for a three day period. Goals include learning and gathering as much information and resources as possible regarding your professional practice interests. Perhaps you like to keep your plan tailored, selecting a few key moments of educational opportunity. However, you still need to navigate a city’s wealth of activity.

Fortunately, those involved in the Equity by Design 2016 Hackathon, left this session with a refreshing and enriching experience; one which created the right frame of reference for the days to come. And most importantly, a license to take on the pertinent issues we face in our field and everyday life. Arriving at this point was extremely fun, yet really difficult.

Imagine standing around a white board with presumably nice and respectful individuals. You know very little about them beyond a general understanding of your divergent backgrounds. In a very short amount of time, you will be asked to identify, personal and professional commonalities, a common problem of interest in the field, and of course, a compelling and innovative process and solution to the problem.


Here lies one of the fundamental principles of equitable and diverse thought, the more backgrounds and experiences you bring to the table, the more fruitful your results will be.

“It all began with the egg exercise where we discovered our similarities and our uniqueness.  Our group enjoys reading and drinking wine – often at the same time.  We are all leaders in our communities with a consciousness for time (we all had watches on).  Perhaps most surprising was all the overlapping places we have travelled – New York City, Paris, London, Zurich, Munich and Rome – that is one well-travelled group!  But our uniqueness as individuals equally created a richness within our group.  Jan worked on a chicken ranch, Karen has taught English in Tokyo, Lisa recently lived in Shanghai, Jason enjoys not owning a car and biking to work, and I was a finalist in a global skyscraper competition.

– Shawna Hammon


Prior to the intensive group session, we tuned in for a panel discussion. Innovators and entrepreneurs took the stage and gave us a glimpse into their creative path and past experiences. They also happened to be our judges for our tailored pitch later in the afternoon.



Our Problem

How can we, as architects, demystify the built environment?

“Designers need to position themselves in their communities to help mediate, educate, and listen to the concerns of those around them. We need to demonstrate that design is valuable and accessible, and that our field is not exclusive; it simply takes the right lens to translate, comprehend, and respond to current events.

– F. Jason Campbell

Our Solution

We pitched an app which, when coupled with a phone’s camera will create a reference tool for designers and DIY practitioners to learn more about the spaces we all inhabit. This will be an accessible means to create awareness and, in turn, make us more conscious of the actions that facilitate our existence.

This app would allow anyone to take a picture of a building or a detail, and with that single image and keywords or hashtags, one could learn more about the design team involved on the project, historical precedent or reference, similar products, similar materials, or even molecular composition.  We all have different areas of interest, and if we can identify the common thread between these areas, we can create an outlet to learn about something new.

Demystifying Architecture Pitch - Jason Campbell, Lisa Bate, Jan Harmon, Shawna Hammon, AIA and Karen Bala, AIA

Demystifying Architecture Pitch - Jason Campbell, Lisa Bate, Jan Harmon, Shawna Hammon, AIA and Karen Bala, AIA


We’ve distilled a few major points from the kick off panel discussion, and the intensive design session:

  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • Passion will drive you.
  • Finance - bootstrap and start small.
  • You can’t control everything – resilience.
  • At times, you will need to create your own equity.

“People from different parts of the globe came together with so many shared professional experiences. We can tackle difficult issues prevalent in our profession, and move the needle by simply (although the experience feels hard), gathering with a group of simultaneously like-minded and diverse individuals.”

– Karen Bala, AIA


AGORA APP: A Modern Day Forum for Architectural Practice

EQxD Hackathon 2016 Team 3 - A Shared Experience by Julia Mandell,AIA, Hilary Barlow,AIA, Amy Kalar,AIA, and Obi Okolo.

Teams listen to Anthony Gold for tips on delivering the Pitch.

Teams listen to Anthony Gold for tips on delivering the Pitch.

Accidental chance and random table selection brought the Agora team together at the Equity by Design Hackathon event at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention 2016 in Philadelphia.  Comprised of three architects and one serial entrepreneur, creativity was bound to emerge from table four.  Julia Mandell, Hilary Barlow, Obi Okolo, and Amy Kalar quickly progressed from a group of multidisciplinary strangers from across the country to team AGORA when asked to hack a challenge and propose a solution.

Choosing a problem in architecture practice to focus on and ‘hack’ was overwhelming at first. There seemed to be an endless amount of options and approaches we could have taken.

As we brainstormed, no idea was off limits or incorrect.  In fact, the more open we were, the more we were able to feed off each other and generate provocative ideas.  We quickly learned not to be afraid to ask why or think outside of the box.  After exploring many different ideas in rapid succession, we realized an underlying theme to our thoughts: EGO.  

In all the ideas our different knowledge bases generated, we all agreed on one thing: there is a lack of accountability for architects within our profession today— Architects are only accountable to themselves.  There is a sense within the profession that architects know best, that we are the only ones who have access to elite knowledge about design. This contributes to a disconnect between architects (who are typically thought of as the “Old White Guys”) who currently dominate the profession and a more diverse public. There is also a disconnect within the profession, between that same demographic  and the younger, more diverse generation that is the future of the profession.

Many post-it notes later, we found our solution: AGORA—the New Building Information Modeling.  Essentially a mash-up of yelp, geolocation, and cloud-based building information modeling, AGORA is a feedback software application that would link public comments on buildings to spatial tags within existing buildings. Tags would also provide information on the people and processes that had produced the building. And advanced design could also include a virtual reality component - you could read the comments and the process information in the building by scanning the tags with virtual reality goggles.

By creating public engagement through feedback and social building, AGORA would hold architects accountable by the public. This would create an accessible feedback system for users that would contribute to the development of future buildings and increase public engagement.  Simultaneously, AGORA would gather user feedback for professional use in the design of similar programs/sites/materialities and engage the public in the design process.

Letting go of specifics and practicalities during the Hackathon allowed us to think unconventionally and hone in on a missing element within the profession. The fast-pace structure forced us to confidently choose something and run with it.  As Julia stated, “the hackathon was a great reminder of the power of moving fast to get ideas out.  The tight structure pushed us to move through the process.”  One of the greatest challenges was distilling our idea into a cohesive and convincing argument within three minutes.  We needed to condense all of our talking, brainstorming, and hacking into a clear and concise pitch that would win over the judges. Amy’s personal story on mother’s rooms and the need for public feedback on buildings helped us to connect with the audience and judges on a personal level.

AGORA Team Pitch: Amy Kalar, AIA, Julia Mandell, AIA, Hilary Barlow,AIA and Obi Okolo

AGORA Team Pitch: Amy Kalar, AIA, Julia Mandell, AIA, Hilary Barlow,AIA and Obi Okolo

At the start we had no idea what our end result would be and it was fascinating to see how far and quickly we were able to develop our broad idea of ‘EGO’ into AGORA.  We started as four strangers but left the Hackathon as team AGORA, a team passionate about agency and engagement.

And after the Hackathon, Agora Team member, Amy Kalar, AIA and blogger of Archimom.Com shared some great news as an outcome for Agora App!

"Well, it turns out someone from SXSW Eco heard the pitch for our idea and asked us to submit our idea for their Place by Design Competition. Really the Hackathon could be an entire post by itself (and if we are a finalist for SXSW Eco, it certainly will be!)"                

- Amy Kalar, AIA via 


2016 EQxD Hackathon Recap Team 1: SWIPE RIGHT! with

A Brief by Daniel Teed, with reflections from Kelly Duignan, Carlos Velazquez, Tara Imani, AIA and Raya Ani, AIA

The Equity by Design 2016 Hackathon was one of the most empowering and perspective-expanding experiences of my architectural life. The lofty goals of the 4 hour session slowly emerged as the afternoon progressed. Beginning with presentations by design-oriented innovators, I, along with the other 24 session attendees, learned from the experts about ways to recognize problems and find solutions. We were challenged to “confront the status quo,” “Know the rules so we can break them.,” and were told, “Don’t think about your limitations – think about the possibilities.” Inspirational one-liners poured out of the presenters as they described their journeys. We also heard from Anthony Gold on how to perfect a presentation. This first hour of the workshop effectively riled us up for what was ahead.

Team 1 in Ideation -  Carlos Velazquez, Kelly Duignan, Raya Ani, Daniel Teed and Tara Imani, AIA

Team 1 in Ideation -  Carlos Velazquez, Kelly Duignan, Raya Ani, Daniel Teed and Tara Imani, AIA

Then, dispersed into groups, we were challenged to identify a problem, create a solution, and present to a jury. The next 2 hours were a whirlwind of brainstorming, collaboration, and building off of the experiences and skills of our groupmates. Charged with identifying a large-scale problem related to architecture, our group of designers, architects, and innovators struggled to land on one topic. We debated the problems facing students as they exited universities and entered the workforce. We discussed the limitations in software that created large learning curves for new employees and for seasoned architects alike. Finally, after touching on several different topics, we focused on the immense barriers to re-entry that most women face when attempting to re-enter the architectural profession after taking time off to start a family.


Brainstorming with strangers was never so exciting. For me, the EQxD Hackathon was a really important exercise in learning when to stop, evaluate your work, make a decision and move on.  We talked a lot about bridging the gap between architectural education and the profession.  We listed ways to connect people and opportunities, and explored if there were ways of measuring particular skills and strengths.  Our solution was ‘’ - a website for people in the world of architecture to connect, collaborate and strengthen each other.”            

Kelly Duignan


“It seems (useful to have) a Survival Guide or Mapbook of sorts to help navigate architecture careers - a crash course to help us re-tool and equip (including such curricula as REVIT, Sketchup, office culture/trends, email management, portfolio creation, and how to maintain a cutting edge portfolio).”

Tara Imani, AIA



With ever-evolving software, a need to stay relevant, and a pressure for all employees to be “billable,” it is currently very difficult for people who have taken a leave of absence from the field of architecture to find a firm willing to help them transition back into the profession. Our team proposed developing an online “matchmaker” that would pair employers with potential employees. Employers who were looking for part time or short-term work could create a profile and list what they were looking for and what they were willing to pay. Potential employees who desired to ease back into the profession would also create a profile listing their skills, availability, needs, and desired compensation. Employers and potential employees who had matching profiles would then be connected with each other for the potential of an interview.


"I believe this type of collaboration is our future. This event was definitely a highlight of the conference. I appreciated the speakers cutting to the point and sharing the invaluable knowledge they have garnered. The team format challenged us to step outside our comfort zones and be part of a team that has no past or future, only the present.  It somehow forces our egos to take a back seat to the creative process. Seamless interaction between all disciplines required to accomplish a single goal would be a masterpiece."

Carlos G. Velazquez


"After listening to panelists and fueled with inspiration from their powerful stories, we were off to hack.  I kept in mind the following things: trust your intuition, failures do not equal failures - failures are opportunities, speak up.  Our task was simple!  We were challenged to identify a problem in architecture and propose a solution."

Kelly Duignan


We presented our problem and solution to the jury in the form of a skit at the end of the 2 hour brainstorming session. Four other groups presented after us, tackling issues such as public architectural education, architecture detail libraries, user experiences of buildings, and intra-office employee management. Overall, the topics were unrestricted and broad. The solutions were innovative and future-focused. The energy of the afternoon was unparalleled. It opened my eyes, helping me envision a future unhindered by current problems in our profession, and helped me look past limitations to the possibilities.


“It was awesome to see what other groups came up with.  At the happy hour that followed, everyone agreed that we could have kept going.  Imagine the possibilities if we had even more time to disrupt and hack.  I left the session feeling truly energized and excited by all the others that were at the session, and looking forward to carrying a hacker’s mindset with me everywhere I go.            

Kelly Duignan


“What all 5 teams accomplished in 4 hours was inspiring to say the least. Taking different people in every aspect of life and to see the creativity that was generated gives hope. Hope that despite all the challenges we face in this life we can always come together and solve problems that at first appear larger than life. Looking forward to my next Hackathon :). “

Carlos G. Velazquez


"It is quite exciting when you see different ideas coming together into one idea. It emerges out of the space we create as a group that organically starts to shape and take form. It is all about that power of creation and being connected to others. We collectively and collaboratively found a solution within a process that supported the success of all team members. It's like a match made in heaven - to carry the spirit of a hacker is a value that I will take with me whether in my role as a founder and design Director of RAW-NYC Architects or as my role as the future President of American Institute of Architects- Middle East Chapter."

Raya Ani, AIA






2016 EQxD Hackathon Recap: Team 2 Hack "Where in the World...?"

Team 2 Reflections by A.L. Hu, Braham Berg, & Brie Smith

Conceptual Sketch for "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Building?"

Conceptual Sketch for "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Building?"

The 2016 AIA National Convention promised an exciting program of events (featuring keynotes lectures by Neri Oxman and Rem Koolhaas; and access to intriguing Philadelphia venues); yet, the hands-on nature of the engaging Equity by Design Hackathon was the session that resonated with me most from the Convention experience.

The Convention promised a progressive agenda – geared towards “restructuring” the field and organization towards the future; yet, the Hackathon, in its second year, arguably better addresses this restructuring in practice, and can be wider utilized within the architectural profession in spearheading innovative ideas and change.
— Braham Berg

Entering the AIA Convention, the Hackathon was shrouded in mystery and we all went into the session not knowing how things would turnout, but hoping for the best. At its core, the Hackathon is a condensed iteration of the entire design-architectural process. Except, whereas designers have weeks, months, even years to develop their ideas, Hackathon participants have only a few hours. It culminates in a short pitch. Any storytelling tool is fair game.

Rem Koolhaas mentioned in his keynote that architecture moves too slowly to be able to adapt to rapidly changing day-to-day of our World. As a timely and relevant alternative, the Hackathon integrates design and entrepreneurship savvy. In this framework, we, as designers, were encouraged to challenge ourselves in expediting a “design” process we’ve become accustomed to extending (ex. late nights and working on weekends). Through this experience, in the short interval we had to ideate and develop our concept, each group proposed feasible, innovative, alternative solutions, ranging from a work place management – social network (FIM), to an interactive public engagement metric gauge (AGORA), to an educational virtual platform exposing children to the architectural practice, process, and monuments (WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SANDIEGO BUILDING?)



I appreciated and enjoyed the ‘ice breaker’ exercise — a sheet with one drawn circle. Inside we were tasked to find at least three similarities we had in common, and outside the circle, identify three characteristics and experiences which were unique to each of us. It was a thankful evolution from answering a checklist of labels. With our first attempt at finding a shared experience, we learned that assumptions weren’t absolute, and challenged ourselves to dig deeper. Did we have similar educations? Or education levels? Did we play musical instruments? Have siblings? Have children? What do we like about architecture? How do we feel about Drumph? We identified a dozen unexpected commonalities before we moved onto our uniqueness. By that point, each unique quality was celebrated and shared with stories and explanations. When given the option to move around the room and join a new team, none of us did. Somehow fifteen minutes of populating our circle built enough of a bond we were excited to continue the conversation. For me, equality in design means moving beyond those preconceived notions and working together to celebrate the unexpected and collaborate on a shared goal.
— Brie Smith, AIA


Our general task was to design an open-ended product that addressed a defined problem, expressed in a statement, “within the architecture field, related to the architecture field, and outside of the architecture field.”

Team 2: (clockwise) Brie Smith, AIA, A.L. Hu, Braham Berg, Sylvia Kwan, FAIA, and Despina Stratigakos

Team 2: (clockwise) Brie Smith, AIA, A.L. Hu, Braham Berg, Sylvia Kwan, FAIA, and Despina Stratigakos

We had a diverse team spanning nationwide, consisting of AL Hu, a graduate student at Columbia University GSAPP (New York, NY); Brie Smith, a professor at Arizona State University and practitioner with a focus on participatory design (Phoenix, AZ); Sylvia Kwan, Principal of Henmi Kwan and former “Survivor” TV show contestant (San Francisco, CA); and Despina Stratigakos, an architectural historian and professor at SUNY Buffalo (Buffalo, NY). I’m a student at the Tulane University School of Architecture (New Orleans, LA) interested in the intersection of architecture, real estate development, and social entrepreneurship.



Our team’s general consensus was to address an issue outside of the profession. Our central themes we hoped to address centered on 1.) perception and 2.) education. In our discussion, we agreed that the public lacks a clear understanding of the architectural profession. The few media portrayals, such as Howard Rourke, do not accurately portray the tasks and responsibilities architects have. On the flip side, some professionals and students channel their inner Rourke-complexities, which does little to de-mystify our profession to the public.

We believe that introducing architecture earlier on in pre-educational, primary and secondary school curriculum was vastly important, and thus could result in a greater awareness and authenticity of architectural practice to a larger populace, particularly targeting young girls.

The Hackathon had a challenging timeline for deliverable tasks. Our group struggled with creating a definitive problem statement because we set out trying to solve two large issues. We worked backwards – sharing extended personal stories to the issues we deemed important to address.

In typical architecture school fashion, our product, vision, and pitch came together in the end. We delivered a coherent pitch, based on personal experience and stories we shared throughout the process. We paired our pitch with a series of quick graphics illustrating the platform adaptation.


We pitched a game called “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Building?”, a dynamic and fun way to foster appreciation and awareness for the history and process of architecture in children and teenagers. Through role playing, solving puzzles, and taking on construction projects, game players develop their knowledge of the valuable role architects play in constructing the built environment, especially in the context of climate change. “Where in the World” seeks to change the next generation’s perception of architects and to empower children to pursue architecture as a career.  




During our pitch, we stressed the importance of expanding the scope and reach of architectural education to include non-architects. After all, everyone is a student of architecture and space in one way or another as all we navigate in three dimensions and seek shelter in buildings.

TEAM 2 PITCH - A.L. Hu, Sylvia Kwan, Brie Smith, Despina Stratigakos, & Braham Berg

TEAM 2 PITCH - A.L. Hu, Sylvia Kwan, Brie Smith, Despina Stratigakos, & Braham Berg

And perhaps the education of architects needs to be broadened as well. As a current student who is deeply entrenched in academia and a young practitioner who is keenly aware of many of the profession’s shortcomings, I believe “hacking” and pitching are important skills that expand the scope and reach of architects. Connecting with others on a personal level through storytelling boosts our designs and ideas from mere aesthetics and logistics to a compelling idea that’s part of a larger narrative. The way that we frame our ideas is as important as the idea itself, and that framework is something that should be part of the design process. As architects, we are constantly pitching ourselves and our work for interpretation and valuation by clients and society at large. To change the way we are perceived, we need to think outside of the box and re-design the narrative of our profession--the change begins with us.  



I arrived in Philadelphia for the AIA Convention not knowing what to expect. The AIA Convention is at once similar to and the polar opposite of graduate school: keynotes, panels, workshops, and networking happy hours centered around architecture are educational and inspiring, but they’re rooted in the practicalities of practice rather than concept and theory. I am grateful that Equity by Design Hackathon was my first experience at the convention because I was reminded that an architectural education is more than just endless production and sleepless nights. Architects need skills beyond drawing and construction knowledge to make connections, make change, and solve problems in the built environment and beyond.

Because of our diverse backgrounds, my teammates and I had radically different ideas as we brainstormed for a problem to solve. While Silvia and Brie brought significant amounts of experience in practice and teaching to the table, Despina offered a depth of historical context and Braham shared his experiences as a student in New Orleans. I lamented the low pay offered to interns and the lack of transparency in regards to salary, experiences that I had chalked up to an unfortunate industry standard that frequently appears in other design professions.

My teammates and I quickly realized that the larger issue at hand is that the way architects are perceived and portrayed in society needs to change
— A.L. Hu

Special Thanks to our EQxD Hackathon 2016 Sponsors!

Meet the 2016 Equity by Design Hackathon Winners - "F.I.M."

Meet the 2016 Equity by Design Hackathon Winners!

A collaboration by Jayshree Shah, Jonathan Meadows, Rachel Williams and Ryan Orr

TEAM 4 - "F.I.M." Ryan Orr, Rachel Williams, Jayshree Shah and Jonathan Meadows

TEAM 4 - "F.I.M." Ryan Orr, Rachel Williams, Jayshree Shah and Jonathan Meadows

On May 18, 2016, four enthusiasts found themselves together at the Equity by Design Hackathon, an AIA Philadelphia pre-Convention workshop. All were strangers to each other, one was a returning hacker, and the other three were embracing the spirit of adventure. Fast forward to Happy Hour, and this team is being cheered by the crowds as the Winner of the Hackathon. Learn more about their experience, in their own words!



We had an interesting ice-breaker that indirectly informed some of our brainstorming. The "inside the egg or outside the egg" icebreaker made us think of things we had in common (i.e. skillsets) vs. what we did not (i.e. things that set us apart).

The afternoon kicked off with an icebreaker session in order to get to know the individuals sitting our table and start the dialog between us. An egg shape was drawn on a white board, and we wrote our commonalities inside the circle, and our individualities outside of it. We found it to be difficult, because we are all more alike than we originally thought. It was a great exercise to get us all talking and comfortable with each other.


The icebreaker completed, a group of panelists  Phil Bernstein, FAIA; Yasmine Mustafa; Robert Yuen; and Rosa Sheng, AIA;  moderated by Lilian Asperin Clyman , AIA -  presented ways in which they identified problems within their field and their strategies to solve them. We were then launched with the same task: in just a few hours, our team was to define a problem, craft a solution, a pitch it to a group of “venture capitalists” - our team of jurors (Franches Choun from McCarthy Building Company, Anthony Gold from ROAR for Good and Lilian Asperin Clyman from WRNS Studio).

Coming from different backgrounds, our team began by outlining challenges we have experienced within the architectural profession. We made a long list: Virtual reality; desire but inability to share skills/gain new skills; lack of forum for providing or receiving input across all projects; advancing our professional careers; and the all too common challenge that many of us are working on project roles that are uninteresting to us or not within our expertise. It was interesting how we all quickly gravitated toward similar topics.



It seemed we only held onto the directions lightly. When directed to decide what category our problem and solution would be in (architecture/architecture+tech/outside architecture), our consensus was that problems in one area are often solved by solutions in another.

The team felt that the ability to share skills (especially if you are new to a firm), provide feedback (at any level within the profession) and develop a method to assign project roles, would be essential to any architectural firm.

Once we began to refine our problem statement, we had a visceral reaction to it as a real problem within the industry. We translated these into questions to help us sync up and clarify the issues we were enthusiastic to hack together.



  • How often are firms able to leverage the right skill sets for a certain project?
  • How can you best share your passions (resume) and contribute your skills?
  • Have you ever felt you were not compatible with a particular role or project at work?



We had all experienced a similar disappointment.  

“When seeking a new position within a firm, an aspiring employee will create a resume to document their skills, experiences, expertise, and interests. A lot of time on the part of the individual is spent to create this resume, and by the hiring staff to select the right applicant for the position. However, after the hire has been made, the resume is discarded and that information is often not disseminated, meaning that project managers, other principals, and the rest of the staff knows nothing about the new employee, and it is often intimidating to speak out for your own skills and interests in the new environment. This creates a profound disconnect between the hiring process and the integration of the employee into the workplace. “

-Jonathan Meadows

As our group began to list multiple issues regarding architecture, we looked to see if any of these issues could be combined and tackled by the same solution. So we outlined how we could get our arms around our “hack”.



Just as architects are really good at developing a BIM model and using analysis tools to study a project and find the best problem-solving solutions, we need to look within our own firms / practices to manage our talent better and more efficiently. Another way of looking at it is digitally modeling a firm environment (people, resources, etc) and using the data in a smart way to serve the firm's needs. i.e. FIM: Firm Information Management.


First an evaluation and method of implementation within different firms would be necessary to properly develop to tool for each organizations use.  The tool, from an employee perspective, focuses on self-development and enrichment, while the employer driven design evolves into a management system.


The ultimate solution, F.I.M. (Firm Information Management), would create an individual profile for each employee to put forth those skills that make us unique to the places we work, but all towards the common goal of putting forth our best efforts in the office as a whole.



The management system provides an outlook of the firm - similar to architectural BIM models. The system is modular and allows for flexibility in its operation. An employee has an avenue through to provide a contribution, even when not assigned to a specific project, which can help in both exercising existing skills and also in developing or broadcasting an interest in new skills.



Each employee within the firm creates a user profile to record their unique skills, project experience, and interests through keywords. This user profile can also harvest data from project work and ratings on comments to keep skills and experience up to date.

Each project manager creates a project profile to record their projects’ unique problems or skills required. Open questions can also be highlighted to seek input from the entire firm.



The algorithm can then provide project managers with team members who are a good fit for their project, with a high percentage of skills matching. The algorithm can also notify employees when there are projects seeking their skills, or open questions that may interest them.


Better design * Happier clients * Happier employees * Equitable voices for all within the company * Professional development * Team optimization * Skill-sharing * Confidence builder * Molding your role * Crowdsource wisdom - efficient knowledge transfer * etc.


We can measure reductions in the under-utilization of staff and allow for management to take advantage of developing or placing the right skillsets on certain tasks or projects. We will find effective ways to match people with projects in the office through a platform internal to a company. And, we will leverage knowledge and experience by sharing information and solutions in a transparent method.



We considered the stated evaluation criteria: relevance to Equity by Design, User Experience, Impact, and Pitch.

F.I.M Team Pitch to Jurors

F.I.M Team Pitch to Jurors

The first teams to present set the bar for quality of the pitch and inspired us to aim high. All of the teams had great ideas and were tough competition. As the fourth of five teams, we got up to present. Jayshree did a magnificent job of setting the tone for the presentation and providing an energy and enthusiasm that we were all able to feed off and carry through the proposal. The story of our solution went well. We survived! Actually, we did better than survive. It came out great! Much better than we had ever planned.



We want to speak about equity gained for all individuals within a firm, whether new to the firm or a partner. These are just a few of the outcomes that would bring joy to our day-to-day experience: Experiencing an collaborative culture * Sharing skillsets without fear of being overshadowed * Voicing your knowledge and experience across all projects within a firm * Providing input even on a small scale for potentially large impact * Requesting to learn a skill * Requesting to work on certain project/project type because it is meaningful * Enhancing your career path * Contributing to the on-boarding or re-integration process * etc.


Envisioning F.I.M. further - it will go beyond architecture.


We were surprised to win, to say the least. (Ha absolutely!) And once we sat back down, we all had a look of astonishment that it went as well as it did.

What did we learn from this?

Risk - Looking for those low risk situations and just going for it. Seeing what change can become of it.

Pitch - Learning to use the story and structure to connect with an audience, even introverts can learn to pitch.

Prototype - The value of trying something as a tool to communicate the intent as well as to work out bugs.

Teamwork - Using complementary skills to develop better solutions than any of us alone could make.

Special Thanks to our EQxD Hackathon 2016 Sponsors!




Dear Udo, You were the original Hacker.

(Reflections on Studio and the 2016 Equity by Design Hackathon at AIA Convention)

by Lilian Asperin Clyman

Back then, we used to call it ED 11B. It was commonly referred to as one of the two foundational classes of Cal’s Environmental Design curriculum.  Looking back, ED 11A taught us how to draw and ED 11B required us to learn how to communicate an authentic point of view.  My professor was Udo Greinacher, and his class had three projects: the Garden, the Personal Space, and the Earthquake Fence.  But it was what Udo shared that created in our studio the space to think, to be ourselves, to think fast and to trust in our intuition.  Our studio was an environment for us to experiment – we were the hackers and our studio was the original Hackathon.

The projects got progressively reliant on our own ideas - shaped by that influential force he made sure we paid attention to.  For the Garden project, it was the symbiotic nature between the natural and built.  He had us go out, document, reflect and express meaning through drawing. For the Personal Space project, it was understanding intimacy. Each of us interviewed a subject and designed a space for them. I always had a little bit of a hard time understanding Udo’s German accent. So when I asked him what he was passionate about, I could have sworn I heard him say “his mistress”. But in my mind, that did not stand out too much as he was also the same person who during crits would encourage us “to know the rules so that you can break them”. I proceeded to do an entire project about sensuality, light,  shadow, allure, and passion only to realize later that what he had said was that he loved “mysteries”.

Perhaps it was the third project when I felt the most vulnerable - leaning on self-reliance the most.  For the Earthquake Fence project, Udo wanted us to focus on the ultimate influential force, the present. We had all just survived the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989. There was no precedent we could “google” and learn about. You had to dig in, gain understanding, build your confidence and get going – all on your own. There still is no such thing as an Earthquake Fence, but all of us designed one.  We had no stated deliverables, other than to describing our process for arriving at the solution. Mine was a cardboard model with sawdust from the model shop floor, a triangular structure of welded brass tubes, and a slice of crimped aluminum metal used to “mark” the fault when dormant, and react to it dynamically when active.  The fence was one way and then completely different when affected by the force of nature – experienced in many scales, from what you can touch to what you can see from the sky. In some ways, it was a three dimensional seismograph. By far, this is my favorite project of all time.

But it was his insistence on three things that made him the original hacker: relying on your intuition, having relentless commitment, and being relevant and responsive to the world we live in. He didn’t care what we designed as long as it was evident that those three hallmarks were guiding us. For two decades after studio, I had been somewhat astounded about the infrequency of this spirit in our profession, and the compromising outcomes that result when we all stop hacking and just follow.  So during the recent AIA Convention in Philadelphia, the Equity by Design Hackathon became another modern environment for experimentation - this time exploring innovation in a team setting and focusing on how to create better experiences in our beloved profession of Architecture.

What are the parallels between Udo’s studio and the Equity by Design Hackathon experience? Here are a handful, which I hope we all pledge to adopt as habits in our everyday work:

  • Change makers are magnets.
  • Find each other. Many folks just “showed up” not knowing too much about what to expect but trusting they were at the right place to make something good.
  • Engage with your authentic self.  
  • In a setting with limited time, we don’t have time to work out of our natural strengths.  You are a better contributor when you come from the depths of your heart and mind. And we can all edit more effectively than we trust ourselves to.
  • Ask better questions.
  • Truly understand the “why”?And make it a habit to also ask “why not?”, “what if?”, and “who with?”. The more diverse your team is, the better.
  • Practice inclusivity.
  • Ironically, many teams are assembled based on availability and experience. Welcome others and when you do, give everyone the same amount of airtime.
  • Just laugh.

We are certainly still buzzing from the second Equity by Design Hackathon at the AIA Convention in Philadelphia. In the coming days, we will share with you the reflections, proposals and take-aways from all the teams. Each embraced their vulnerability and let their point of view guide them as they collaborated on envisioning more authentic, day to day experiences as Architects and new ways to shape the future of the profession.  Enjoy!

Thanks to our EQxD Hackathon Sponsors!



Call for Thought Leaders #EQxDM3 Symposium 10/29

Thought Leader (noun) - one whose views on a subject are taken to be influential and impactful.


AIASF Equity by Design Committee invites you to contribute as a Thought Leader for the 2016 Symposium EQUITY BY DESIGN: METRICS, MEANING AND MATRICES on Saturday, October 29, 2016 from 9am - 4:30pm at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Photo by Daniel Wang

Photo by Daniel Wang

Starting Monday, June 6th we will be seeking Thought Leaders to participate in the Symposium sessions which range from panel discussions of key findings from the Equity in Architecture survey to interactive break-out sessions geared toward action-oriented outcomes. We are looking for dynamic, collaborative, articulate thinkers with a unique perspective on the spectrum of topics involved with achieving equitable practice. Once selected, we will collaborate with thought leaders on developing topic sessions that are highly engaging in discussion and inspiring in actionable outcomes.  


Why Equity in Architecture Matters

Equity is the ethos of our work. It is the ability to recognize difference and provide fair and just access to opportunities. Equity also speaks to a collective ownership, vested interest and knowledge of our worth. Equitable practice promotes the recruitment and retention of the most diverse talent while building stronger, successful, sustainable practices. The equitable representation of professionals allows us to better represent the people we are meant to serve. Equity is for everyone - architects, design collaborators, clients, and our communities.



This year’s Symposium theme, EQUITY BY DESIGN: METRICS, MEANING AND MATRICES builds upon the last five years of advocacy and sets an exciting path  for the next chapter of our journey towards equity in architecture.

We must leverage metrics to make any substantial progress towards changing the ratios in our profession. We seek meaning at many levels: in the discovery of significance in one’s career, in the personal connections we make with others, and in our own reflection upon research findings that can positively transform workplace culture. We create matrices to inspire a new mindset for advocacy and action. These generative networks of connections enable us to become originators of new approaches and constructs.

At the Symposium we will present the early findings of the 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey through a series of panel discussions. Interspersed among these sessions, we have designed a series of diverse and interactive break-out workshops that encourage participants to engage in meaningful dialogue about their career experiences. Most importantly, we will experience the power and impact of action by learning and applying matrices as individuals, firms and in our professional networks.



Our research has shown that, regardless of age or level of experience, both men’s and women’s perspectives on their careers are shaped by ways in which individuals and firms, address several key issues, or career dynamics. Each of these career dynamics has the potential to cause unwelcome professional and personal tension. On the other hand, awareness and discussion of each of these career dynamics can begin to meet individual needs and build diverse firms where talented individuals love to work.

Metrics:  Career Dynamics

In the Metrics Presentation, the EQxD survey team will reveal and discuss our research on the following Career Dynamic

FINDING THE RIGHT FIT - What is “job-person fit,” or a successful match between an individual and a firm, and how do we recognize it when we see it? What strategies can individuals employ to assess personal priorities, and identify working environments where they will thrive?  How can firms and individuals work together to create equitable studio culture? 

BURNOUT/ENGAGEMENT -. What are burnout and engagement, and how are they related? Why is promoting engagement important to a firm’s bottom line? Who is particularly vulnerable to burnout, and what are the warning signs? What are firms doing successfully to foster engagement and avoid burnout?

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT - What are the most effective ways that firms are preparing employees for career success? What role do mentorship and sponsorship play in promoting equity in the workplace? How do individuals assess their strengths  and set goals for their futures, and are there gendered differences in self-assessment?

WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION - Why are many professionals more likely to let their personal health and relationships suffer while also suppressing their other professional passions? What can firms and individuals do differently to encourage a thriving integration among professional practice, wellness and meaningful work?

BEYOND ARCHITECTURE - How common is it to take an extended leave, sabbatical, or extended time away from a job in architecture? Why do people leave architecture, and what do they go on to do after leaving the field? What measures can firms take to smooth transitions back into architectural practice for those who would like to re-enter the field?

Metrics: Panel Discussion

Following the Career Dynamics Metrics Presentation, we are seeking panelists to discuss the  findings by addressing themes from the presentation. For this panel, we seek Thought Leaders with general knowledge of Career Dynamics topic areas mentioned above, as well as unique perspectives on one, or several of the Career Dynamics.

Metrics & Meaning: Break-Out Sessions

Following the morning Metrics sessions, conference attendees will select one of four Break-Out Sessions. Each of these sessions focus on a topic related to the Career Dynamics. Potential formats for these sessions are described below. Each session will be developed and led by two Thought Leaders with the assistance of a facilitator from Equity by Design.


Photo by Daniel Wang

Photo by Daniel Wang

In addition to broad career dynamics, there are a number of professional and personal milestones that can act as career pinch points. These milestones have the tendency to become roadblocks that hold have disproportionately negative impacts on women’s and minorities’ careers. In this section, we will explore key career pinch points, as well as strategies for fostering equity by increasing both men and women’s success in negotiating them.

Metrics: Career Pinch Points

In the afternoon Metrics Presentation, the EQxD survey team will reveal and discuss our research on the following Career Pinch Points:

STUDIO/ACADEMIA - Is architectural education adequately preparing aspiring architects for their careers? What knowledge areas and skill sets aren’t being sufficiently addressed in school? How can schools set precedents for equitable studio culture?

PAYING DUES - Why are aspiring architects more likely to leave the field within their first few years of experience than at any other time in their careers? What can firms and individuals do to increase engagement and long-term commitment to the profession amongst young designers?

LICENSURE - What is the value of licensure? Why are men more likely than women to pursue an architectural license? What can firms do to encourage employees to become licensed?

CAREGIVING - Are women and minorities more likely to suffer negative career impacts related to their caregiving responsibilities? What are firms doing successfully to support working caregivers?

GLASS CEILING - Why, when the talent pipeline is more diverse than ever before, do white men continue to hold the majority of firm, design, and thought leadership positions within the industry? Why is there still a gender pay gap within architecture, and what can we do to address it? What can individuals, firms, and institutions do to promote the advancement of the industry’s best talent?

Metrics: Panel Discussion

Following the Career Pinch Points Metrics Presentation, we are seeking panelists to discuss the  findings by addressing themes from the presentation. For this panel, we seek Thought Leaders with general knowledge of Career Pinch Points topic areas mentioned above, as well as unique perspectives on one, or several of the Career Pinch Points.


Metrics & Meaning: Break-Out Sessions

Following the afternoon metrics sessions, conference attendees will select one of four Break-Out Sessions. Each of these sessions focus on a topic related to a Career Pinch Point. Potential formats for these sessions are described below. Each session will be developed and led by two Thought Leaders with the assistance of a facilitator from Equity by Design.


All sessions will be developed collaboratively with other Thought Leaders, session facilitators, and Symposium organizers. Once you are selected as a Thought Leader you will be paired with a facilitator and other Thought Leaders to develop a session that fits within a particular topic category.

General sessions will have a panel discussion format. Break-out sessions will fit one of the following typologies:

THINK TANK - Focus on design-thinking exercises to develop creative solutions and new ideas to solve topic-specific problems. Very interactive***

STORYTELLING - Sharing stories and experiences on topic-related theme. Storytellers can be a mix of Thought Leaders and session participants. Moderately Interactive***

EQUITABLE PRACTICE IN ACTION - Presentation of case studies in practice, including lessons learned, followed by feedback discussion. Moderately Interactive***

SKILL-SHARE - Learning-focused skill-building clinic, potentially with a role-playing component. (Examples - Negotiation, Dealing w/ Bias or Interruptions, or other challenging  scenarios.)  Moderatelyl Interactive***

*** The interactivity of various session types can be adjusted depending on the other sessions offered. For example, if the Skill-Share is more active it can be paired with a more static Equitable Practice in Action session.


To be considered as an EQUITY BY DESIGN 2016 Thought Leader, you must submit your application to the AIASF by June 24, 2016

If accepted as a Thought Leader for EQUITY BY DESIGN 2016 you will agree to adhere to the following milestone deadlines for session development and attend at least 4 preparation meetings, preferably in person.


Call for Thought Leaders Deadline: June 24, 2016

Thought Leaders selected and notified: July 15, 2016

Break-out Session proposed topic options (3) due: August 15, 2016

Collaboration w/ Facilitator & Other Thought Leaders for brief descriptions of 3 potential session designs including subject focus and format.

Metrics Panel Discussions initial meetings: Early August

Final Break-Out Session Brief due: Aug 25, 2016

Brief session description for conference schedule.

Preparation Meeting/Call I: Early September

Content development (outline of each session) and practice, required for every session.

Technical/spatial/furniture/toolkit (markers, flip charts, voting dots, etc.) requirements.

 Preparation Meeting/Call II: Late September

Content development (outline and activities) and practice, required for every session.

Preparation Meeting/Call III: Early October

Content development (outline, time duration, leaders) and practice, required for every session






  1. Visit (this link is case sensitive) to access the presentation submission site.

  2. Create a new account with the user name and password of your choice.

  3. Click the CREATE NEW button at the bottom of the Form Thought Leader page to begin your submission.

  4. Identify a primary contact person and email address for your entry.

  5. Click NEXT or the SUBMISSION tab to move to the presentation segment of your submission. Complete all required fields and click SAVE.

  6. You are still able to review and edit submission at this time. Be sure to click the FINALIZE button when you are finished editing your presentation, or your session will not be reviewed. 

  7. You may click SAVE during any part of the submission process and return to your submission at a later time. You will need your user name and password from step 2 to return to your account and continue.

  8. Once you have submitted your application, no additional changes can be made, so please review all information carefully prior to submission. 



Is there compensation for Thought Leaders?

Selected Thought Leaders will be offered free conference registration for their participation. 

There will be no honorarium compensation or travel/hotel expenses reimbursed for Selected Thought Leaders.

What happens after Thought Leaders are selected? 

Once selected, Thought Leaders will be coordinated by a facilitator on finalizing session topic, format and content. Participation and preparation are important to the success and impact of the session. Please think carefully about your time and availability to contribute to this unique and rewarding experience.  



If you have any questions regarding the Symposium, please contact Julia Mandell, EQxD Symposium Chair, by calling + 1 281 687 2582 or by sending an email to  

If you have any questions regarding technical support for submitting your application for Thought Leaders, please contact

Courtesy of Tanmay Vora

Courtesy of Tanmay Vora

EQxD Recap #AIACon16 - "PhilAIAdelphia Architect Ninja Warriors"

by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

This year's AIA National Convention in Philadelphia was memorable in so many ways and inspired us to IMAGINE the future of Architecture with new energy, new ways of approaching challenges and taking action to improve our profession. Philadelphia holds a dear place in my heart; my first city after graduating from Architecture School, my first job, first apartment, and the place I developed my voice and professional identity.  And last year, I was fortunate to participate in TEDxPhiladelphia "And Justice for All" in 2015, where I shared my TEDx talk "Why Equity in Architecture Matters" to an audience of 1200 about the value of architecture in our daily lives. 

PhilAIAdelphia Ninja Warriors - "Architect Style"

Not sure if everyone had a full convention itinerary, but given the amount of choices provided for convention programs, tours, expo floor activities and related networking events, the whole week felt like the architect's version of American Ninja Warriors. While I was really excited that Philadelphia is such a walkable city with the Convention Center located in the heart of a thriving urban center, (which meant less time commute time between convention activities, hotel, tours and networking events) getting to the right place at the right time required both mental focus and physical stamina. In some cases there was added complexity of events overlapping or completely being double booked. In the course of week, I am sure that I (and many of you) clocked more than 10,000 steps. But even with the busy hectic pace (as in life), sometimes you have to remember to slow down, stop and take a look around. Some of the most memorable moments at convention occurred during those intentional pauses. 

Innovators, Disrupters & Risk Takers

Julia Louis Dreyfus, Neri Oxman and Rem Koolhaas resulted in a trifecta of Keynotes about Innovators, Disrupters, and Risk Takers.  While one could say that Julia Louis Dreyfus interview with Terry Gross had nothing to do with Architecture, there were compelling life lessons in her stories about career progression that struck a chord about having conviction to drive a meaningful career by taking risks and finding your own voice. Neri Oxman's talk on how "Biology Is Key To Unlocking The Future Of Design" was captivating. There was a lot of positive feedback from attendees that had mentioned their brains had been "stretched, twisted and stretched some more." And finally Rem Koolhaas' conversation with Mohsen Mostafavi on how "Architecture has a serious problem today in that people who are not alike don't communicate." Rem continued is role as provocateur in postulating that Architecture's greatest value in the future may not even be architecture given the rapid disruption of technology and advancements in fabrication and Silicon Valley's influence on business.

Innovating Architecture starts with the Perfect Pitch

In line with the keynote speakers' spirit of innovation, disruption and risk taking, EQxD hosted the 2nd Hackathon pre-convention workshop following its debut last year in Atlanta. Channeling the spirit and tech mindset of "hacking" from Silicon Valley WE315 EQxDHackathon - Architecture And the Era of Connections asked the participants to leverage design thinking skills to define a challenge in architecture practice and propose a solution. In the next 2 weeks, we will be featuring our post-hack blog series with contributions from our panelists, our jurors and each of teams "elevator pitch" of their business plans. You can get a sense of the event from the "Storify" recap so you can view the top tweets from the event. Wanda Lau of ARCHITECT Magazine also provides a great summary of the event. Notably, we had TEDxPhiladelphia Alumni and Tech Entrepreneurs lead an invigorating panel discussion on the the experience of taking risks in forging new paths. 

Equitable Practice Seminars - Curated Collection

Based on a discussion at AIA Women's Leadership Summit in Seattle regarding the general lack of AIA Convention seminars on equitable practice and low representation women and people of color on panels, we had encouraged groups around the nation to submit seminars for consideration. Out of 11 proposals, 7 were selected and many of them had high attendee counts between 100 to 200. 

  • EQxD Hackathon : Architecture And...The Era of Connections
  • EQxD What's Flex Got to Do with Success
  • EQxD Negotiation is your Power Tool
  • Establishing the Business Case for Women in architecture
  • Moving the Needle: Achieving Equity starts with Architecture Schools
  • Attract, Engage, Retain, Promote: Recommendations for Equitable Practices in Architecture
  • Future Firm Culture: Defining a Path to Success

Equity Jeopardy: Learn the Lexicon

The AIA National Diversity and Inclusion Council launched a new initiative to spread awareness about equitable practice issues in architecture with a game that plays similar to Jeopardy, the TV trivia game show. The game is meant to be a fun way to start the conversation about equity, diversity, inclusion in the workplace while also giving colleagues an opportunity to understand that the words we use may have different meanings to others depending on their background. The game was introduced at the Town Hall convention booth with visitors of all walks interested in getting a copy to share. The council will further develop the game based on feedback and provide a distributable version in the near future.

Learning from Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown -AIA 2016 Gold Medal Recipients

And finally, we were witnesses to the most auspicious occasion of the convention - the celebration of dynamic duo Robert & Denise for their lifetime contributions to the Institute, Architecture and Urban Planning. They were also the first pair to receive recognition of the true collaborative spirit of the profession; which has been long perceived and awarded as an individual's lone achievement of creative expression and execution in the built environment. Personally, I can't help but think of Denise as the embodiment of Melinda Mae from the Shel Silverstein poem who ate her whale! Well there is certainly more than enough whale to go around, so let's all commit to grabbing our forks and getting others to come to the table so it doesn't take another 89 years to attain our goals.

Save the Date 10/29 - Equity by Design: Metrics, Meaning & Matrices

Architecture has a serious problem today in that people who are not alike don’t communicate. I’m actually more interested in communicating with people I disagree with than people I agree with. To have a certain virtuosity of interpretation of every phenomenon is crucial. We’re working in a world where so many different cultures are operating at the same time each with their own value system. If you want to be relevant, you need to be open to an enormous multiplicity of values, interpretations, and readings. The old-fashioned Western ‘this is’ ‘that is’ is no longer tenable. We need to be intellectual and rigorous, but at the same time relativist.
— Rem Koolhaas
Photos from Equity by Design Symposium 2014 at SF Art Institute

Photos from Equity by Design Symposium 2014 at SF Art Institute

Please save the date for the 4th Symposium of AIA SF "Equity by Design: Metrics, Meaning & Matrices" on October 29, 2016 at the San Francisco Art Institute. The conversation that began in 2011 of the “missing 32%” in regards to the lack of women leaders in architecture has become an international movement with much broader depth and farther reach. Equity by Design is dedicated to achieving equitable practice in architecture in order to retain talent, advance the profession, and engage the public in understanding architecture’s true value proposition in creating accessible and just communities. 

This year’s symposium theme: "Metrics, Meaning & Matrices" builds upon the last five years of advocacy and sets an exciting path for our next chapter.

Equity - Just and fair inclusion. An equitable society is one in which all can participate and prosper. The goals of equity must be to create conditions that allow all to reach their full potential. In short, equity creates a path from hope to change.

Why Equity in Architecture Matters.

Equity is the ethos of our work. It is the ability to recognize difference and provide fair and just access to opportunities. Equity also speaks to a collective ownership, vested interest and knowledge of our worth. Equitable practice promotes the recruitment and retention of the most diverse talent while building stronger, successful, sustainable practices. The equitable representation of professionals allows us to better represent the people we are meant to serve. Equity is for everyone - architects, design collaborators, clients, and our communities.

We must leverage metrics to make any substantial progress towards changing the ratios within our profession. We are committed to conduct research and compare data occurring at regular intervals to track progress and maintain accountability over time. In order to move the needle, we must create benchmarks for comparison and make time to review, discuss, and adjust our course of action based on the findings.  

We seek meaning at many levels in the discovery of significance in one’s career, in the personal connections we make with others, in our own reflection upon research findings that can positively transform the workplace culture. Having meaningful work plays a significant role in improving professional satisfaction, increasing talent retention, and raising awareness of architecture’s true value within our global society.

We can adopt matrices to inspire a new mindset for advocacy and action. By nature, we are makers, observers of patterns, problem solvers, creators of connections, and synthesizers of dissimilar elements. Matrices enable us to become originators of new approaches and constructs. We can create more equitable environments within architectural practice and the places we design.

At the symposium this fall, we will present the early findings of the Equity in Architecture Survey 2016 with a series of panel discussions throughout the day. Interspersed with these sessions we have designed a series of diverse and interactive break-out workshops that encourage participants to engage in a dialogue of what is meaningful in their career experiences. And most importantly, we will experience the power and impact of action by learning and applying matrices as individuals, firms and in our professional networks.

Call for Symposium Thought Leaders - 

We seek Thought Leaders on equitable practice to participate in the Symposium sessions which range from panel discussions of key findings from the Equity in Architecture survey to interactive break-out sessions geared toward action-oriented outcomes. We are looking for dynamic, collaborative, articulate thinkers with a unique perspective on the spectrum of topics involved with achieving equitable practice. We will begin accepting submissions starting May 31, 2016. Please look for the next blog post which will provide the link to the Thought Leader application.