by Rosa Sheng, AIA
The theme of TEDxPhiladelphia 2015 was centered around the final four words from The Pledge of Allegiance: “And Justice For All”. The full day program of 4 sessions explored the presence of universal concepts in our communities including access, fairness, opportunity and democracy; and purposefully acknowledged lessons learned and questions raised in their absence.
Out of 400 applicants, I was privileged to be among the 14 speakers on Thursday, June 11, 2015 at Temple Performing Arts Center. We came from diverse professions and backgrounds; entrepreneurs, business leaders, a child advocate, a professional protestor, a scientist, an artist, an educator, a lawyer, a police commissioner, a journalist, a Pastor, and an Architect. From the beginning to the end, the TEDxPhiladelphia organizers were nothing short of amazing supporters and professionals; most of whom have volunteered their time and effort to make this event the great success that it was. Special thanks goes to Emaleigh Doley, Michelle Freeman, and Marcia McInnes for asking me to be part of this provocative and engaging event.
The following is an excerpt of what I intended to say, that didn't fully get into the final talk. I had worked on this "speech" for the last several months and planned to memorize the talk in its entirety and deliver it with great finesse and polish (Just like those TED videos I keep watching). Well, during the dress rehearsal, to my chagrin, I realized that I had written more than I could adequately deliver in the 18 minute time slot allocated for each of the TEDx speakers. So rather than panic about getting everything "perfect", I gave myself liberty to speak from the heart. If I forgot some of the key words or thoughts I wanted to convey, I reassured myself that I could always share them here. I believe that made all the difference in my ability to calm my nerves before I stepped out to speak to the audience of 1100.
So, Why should you care about Equity in Architecture? and Why does Architecture matter in the first place?
Equity is not just an issue in Architecture. And it’s not just about getting equal representation in gender or racial diversity. Equity is about asking WHO can bring new ideas to solving difficult challenges? And WHO adds a different yet compelling viewpoint to the conversation. It's about noticing WHO’s missing at the table? And asking those people to join in.
Social Equity builds Economic Equity. At the core: It’s about valuing the spectrum of humanity and building greater empathy. And influence is the social capital of meaningful connections that becomes the basis for stronger teams, higher satisfaction, and talent retention;
Equity is about conscious inclusion; recognizing and giving people fair access to opportunities and resources they need, so that we can ALL achieve the American dream; Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
And Architecture is not just for Architects. And It’s not just for the 2% of the population who currently hires them. Architecture is for everyone. According to the EPA, We spend nearly 90% of our time INSIDE of buildings and the impact of the built environment has a lasting effect on how we work, how we learn, our health, safety and welfare. There tends to be a focus on Architecture with a capital “A” where most of the recognition goes toward iconic buildings (important places where important things happen). But functional everyday “architecture”, for PEOPLE is where the true value of design lies. Our homes, offices, schools, libraries, civic centers, shops and restaurants, are such an integral part of our lives. How can we all engage in a collective conversation of what is missing and what is needed to make our communities better?
"In order for Equity to become a reality, we need to go beyond just thinking differently. We can make a bigger difference by what we DO. Stay hungry for change, go grab your fork and join us at the table."
There are so many things that I learned from my fellow speakers including their passion, resolve, creativity and generosity to pay it forward. I will be sharing more in the coming months as there is too much to process and it wouldn't do justice to summarize their talks in one post. I have included the gallery of photos as well as the Livestream raw video capture so that you can get a sense of the day. (They will be creating final versions for official TEDx viewing in the coming months.)
There is also a great opportunity for collaboration between architects and the greater Philadelphia community as we prepare for the AIA National Convention 2016. So I encourage you to get involved and engaged to learn more about our next host city.