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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing 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?

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.

And Justice for All - TEDxPhiladelphia 2015 Highlights

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.

The youtube video is now live! You can view the TEDxPhiladelphia talk here as well as the rest of the other speakers.