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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?

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!



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.

EQxD Hackathon 2016 Jurors: Our “Venture Capitalists”

By Lilian Asperin Clyman

The situation is: we love our profession but it stands the risk of losing talent, compromises our ability to integrate work with passion and family, and at times feels like a throwback in time. The solution: we are re-designing our design profession. This year at the AIA National Convention, AIA San Francisco’s Equity by Design Committee will be hacking for good. We are gathering as a group to work with the mindset of entrepreneurs; to encourage one another to explore wild and exaggerated ideas, to ask better questions, iterate, self edit, and move quickly. This is all so we can have a spark of curiosity towards what our lives as architects could look like as soon as the first Monday after the Convention. To explore the viability, relevance, and emotional resonance of each idea pitched by teams participating in the Hackathon, our team of jurors will be adopting the mindset of venture capitalists.  Which is the idea we think we can get fully behind because we are convinced it’s a game changer?

How do we disrupt? Where do we focus attention to identify a universal knot to untangle in our industry? What are the lessons we can gain from others outside Architecture or those who are collaborators? Are we able to propose a whole new business case?

Each one of my fellow Jurors lives by the mantras of “Why Not?”, “Because” and “Together”. Ours are the stories of following intuition first and then pausing to augment that gut feeling with data and discourse, which when sparked by curiosity, lead us to delight.  We love to play along the edges of things. We share a passion for working on “firsts” and not being afraid to find the path (or the connections and support network) to move from idea to realization.  Our team of Jurors is diverse by design - representing three realms: a practicing Architect, a leader in our allied field of Construction, and an entrepreneur working in a field unrelated to Architecture. Together, we  represent a collective and multivalent triad informed by gender, cultural background, and the points of view that emerge from the environments we work in and  the work we each do.

Lilian Asperin-Clyman, AIA,LEED AP BD+C

Lilian is an Associate and Project Director at WRNS Studio and Co-Chair of Equity by Design. She is a licensed Architect interested in being part of a multidisciplinary design environment that embodies a culture of collaboration, is connected to the community, takes risks and fosters talent. On March 2013, Lilian attended her first Hackathon. A year later, she organized a Hackathon for MOOCs as part of the SCUP Pacific Regional Conference and the third for last year’s AIA Convention in Atlanta. As Co-Chair of Equity by Design, she is tinkering yet again, this time helping to design the experience for the upcoming 4th Symposium on October 29, 2016.


Anthony Gold

Anthony Gold is a serial entrepreneur, investor, author, advisor, and board member for several companies in the Philadelphia region - both for-profit and non-profit. He began his career designing supercomputers for Unisys, then created an open-source software and services startup that was recognized by the industry as the “largest open source systems integrator in the world.” Anthony was honored to be named one of the Top Leaders in Open Source Business by LinuxWorld magazine. As the co-founder, COO and CTO of ROAR for Good, Anthony is recombining skill with passion in service of social good through the design of ATHENA, a discrete accessory envisioned to protect women from threats to their safety.


Frances Choun

Frances is an established and trusted leader as Vice- President of McCarthy’s Northern Pacific Division. Her visionary leadership has propelled the company forward as one of the largest commercial contracting firms in California. Frances launched her career in Architecture, where she developed an interest in the construction side of the business. As an industry expert, Frances is regularly called upon by local, trade and national media to address new and projected trends, and is considered a pioneer in advancing women in the construction field. Last year, Frances was in the pioneering class of the Equity by Design Hackathon at the AIA Convention in Atlanta. This year, her fervor for hacking continues and she will help us select a winner.

Staying true to the Hackathon format, there will be a winner! To evaluate each team and their proposition of what the Architecture Firm of the future looks like, jurors will be looking through the lenses of: User Experience (human-centered insight), Impact (innovation and relevance), Metrics (plan for action, deployment and evaluation), and Pitch (quality and uniqueness of message). Much like venture capitalists, we will be looking for teams who arrive at new modalities, create emotional resonance, and have a plan that garners our vote.

Join us for the reveal of the EQxD Hackathon: Architecture and the Era of Connections Winner during Happy Hour at Smokin' Betty's (116 South 11th Street) near the Philadelphia Convention Center from 5:30-7:30pm.

Join us for the EQxD Hackathon - WE315 May 18, 1-5pm (Happy Hour Included) or come to EQxD Happy Hour Only - May 18, 5:30-7:30pm 

Join us for the EQxD Happy Hour Only - May 18, 5:30-7:30pm 



We greatly appreciate our EQxD Hackathon and Happy Hour sponsors for their generous support!

"Unpack it, Before you Hack it." WE315 EQxD Hackathon 5/18

By Rosa T. Sheng, AIA

In the 2 weeks prior to the EQxD Hackathon Workshop at AIA National Convention, we have compiled a flipped classroom reading list for attendees. Each panelist has provided a list of Hackathon resources to better prepare everyone for the intense 4 hour workshop journey. And even if you are not able to attend the Hackathon, (and why not????) you will be able to gain a lot of worthwhile and inspiring resources from the curated list below to apply to any hacking you do outside the workshop.

Our time together is brief. So let’s make the most of it. Typically hackathons last 2 -3 days. In our case, the program only lasts 4 hours. In order to help bridge the ramp up time, we recommend reading prior to the event, to get into the innovation mindset. We ask that you pick 3 resources to "unpack" prior to the big day.

Phillip Bernstein, FAIA - VP Strategic Industry Relations at Autodesk

Phillip G. Bernstein is a Vice President at Autodesk, a leading provider of digital design and engineering software, where he leads Strategic Industry Relations and is responsible for setting the company’s future vision and strategy for technology as well as cultivating and sustaining the firm's relationships with strategic industry leaders. An experienced architect, Phil teaches Professional Practice at the Yale School of Architecture. He is co-editor of Building (In) The Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture.

Phil's Resources


Robert Yuen, CEO & Co-Founder at Section Cut

Robert Yuen is the Co-founder and CEO of Section Cut. Trained as an architect, Robert’s design practice has developed over the past 6 years into a dual focus on Architectural services and recently in entrepreneurship. Robert is currently focused on Section Cut, a web-based platform committed to empowering designers and demystifying design culture to the public. Section Cut is a crowd-sourced, finely curated collection of design resources and beautifully designed objects with an educational agenda.

Robert Yuen


Yasmine Mustafa, CEO at Roar for Good

Yasmine Mustafa is passionate about leveraging technology for good. She’s the CEO and co-founder of ROAR for Good, a social impact company aimed at empowering women to live their lives boldly and without fearing using fashionable safety jewelry, mobile technology, and education. She’s the co-leader of Girl Develop It Philadelphia, an international organization aimed at lessening the gender gap in technology by providing low-cost web development classes for women.

Yasmine's Resources


Rosa Sheng, AIA LEED AP BD+C - Senior Associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Rosa is an architect and Senior Associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson with 20 years experience. Rosa has led a variety of award winning and acclaimed design projects. Rosa serves as an AIA San Francisco Board Treasurer, the Founding Chair for AIASF Equity by Design and creator of the Equity by Design Symposium 2014. Rosa has traveled nationally to present the findings of the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey; featured in the Wall Street Journal, Architect Magazine and a TEDxPhiladelphia talk.

Rosa's Resources


Join us for the EQxD Hackathon - WE315 May 18, 1-5pm (Happy Hour Included)


Join us for the EQxD Happy Hour Only - May 18, 5:30-7:30pm 



We greatly appreciate our EQxD Hackathon and Happy Hour sponsors for their generous support!

Meet the Hackers...

by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA LEED AP BD+C 

We are very excited to introduce our 10 EQxD Hackathon Scholarship Winners that will be joining as on Wednesday May 18th at AIA National Convention in Philadelphia.  We appreciate all of you that submitted applications for consideration, it was a really tough decision.



Shawna Hammon, AIA, LEED AP BD+C - @shawna_hammon

Shawna is a licensed architect in North Carolina at Perkins+Will.  She earned her Master of Architecture degree from North Carolina State University where she now teaches Digital Representation as an Adjunct Faculty member.  Shawna is actively involved in her local section of AIA, currently serving as the architect chair for the Young Architects Forum (YAF).  Shawna also continues to pursue her greatest architectural passion – tall wood buildings.  When she isn't participating in a competition or scouring the internet for the latest on tall wood innovation, Shawna races motorcycles, and spends time with her husband, Kevin and their cat, Moo.

Architecture and the Era of Connections means that technologically speaking, employers are more equipped than ever to promote flexible work environments - scattered teams can come together online to push a project forward and mothers can breast feed or pump while checking emails – just a few examples of how we can be more flexible as a result of technology. However, there are downsides – clients expect more from us but want to pay less, and many argue the craft is gone from our profession since anyone can utilize Sketch Up to design a house; do we even need architects anymore? How can we continue to demonstrate our value to society and keep our profession relevant?
— Shawna

Ricardo J. Maga-Rojas - @_MagaRojas1906

Ricardo de Jesús Maga Rojas (born 22 October 1989) is an Afro-Cuban aspiring architect. Born in Banes, Holguin, Cuba and raised in Miami, Florida. A recent alumnus of Tuskegee University's Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Sciences (TSACS) in 2013, Ricardo is currently a Master’s Candidate in Urban Planning at Texas A&M University where he serves as the AIAS Chapter President while working part-time as an Architectural Intern at Patterson Architects in Bryan, TX.

Architecture and the Era of Connections” means that an ever-changing profession in an ever-changing world seeks to promote diversity and justice in the architecture profession in order to effectuate change and form connections with our global brethren.
— Ricardo

Kelly Duignan -  ‏@kelduignan  

Kelly Duignan grew up in Lancaster, PA and moved to Philadelphia in 2008 to attend Drexel University, an accredited part-time evening program from which she graduated in 2013 with her Bachelor of Architecture degree.  After some time at the Delaware Valley Green Building Council as a Marketing Associate and Graphic Designer, she is currently an Architectural Intern at Olaya Studio in West Philadelphia.  Kelly is also a volunteer with the Community Design Collaborative, and was recently awarded ‘Rookie of the Year’ by the nonprofit for her volunteer efforts within the organization.

Architecture and the Era of Connections means visibility, creative collaboration, shared interests, stories with impact, uplifting others, innovative ideas, change and positivity.
— Kelly

Braham J. B. Berg -  @BBB3rg

Braham Berg is an M.Arch and MSRED Candidate at Tulane University, the Tulane AIAS Chapter AIA Liaison on the AIA NOLA Executive Board, the National Charette Lead on the AIAS National Freedom by Design Advisory Group, and Creative Lead for Telephone NOLA [], a New Orleans-based interdisciplinary arts exchange. Braham is engaged at bridging the connection between academia, practice, and community at local, regional, and national levels, from mentoring students through NOMA Louisiana’s Project Pipeline program, facilitating charettes at 2016 AIAS Midwest Quad (Detroit) and AIAS Forum (San Francisco), and serving as the Volunteer Coordinator at 2015 NOMA National “Rise” (New Orleans).

Architecture and the Era of Connections means 1.) showing how architecture is inherent in the daily lives of everyone on this planet no matter gender, race, place, ideology, or background; 2.) Architecture spanning beyond the traditional realms of forms into all interdisciplinary realms (arts+sciences+business+law) where design and architecture can impact and address social issues as a problem; 3.) using/ adapting technology (wisely!!) as a way that enhances everyone’s experience of space or place (online or physical); 4.) inspiring others—of all a GWS and from all around the world— of the potential that they too can create their visions and improve the existing.
— Braham

Ryan Orr – @ROrrArch

Ryan Orr is an architectural designer at KCBA architects and currently pursues his architectural license as an emerging professional. After graduating from The Pennsylvania State University with a B.Arch in 2013, Ryan now utilizes his design talents and technology interests to create a vision for 21st century schools and learning spaces. As a member of the PEA – Philadelphia Emerging Architects, he fosters relationships between professionals, students, and future members of the Architecture profession through mentorship programs, technology trainings, ARE study groups and high school career exploration activities.

Architecture finds itself at a crossroads – dis-similar to the master builder of old; an architect connects across multiple platforms, places, and people in order to achieve architecture. From clients, consultants, and craftspeople to stakeholders, investors, and developers, an architect guides the process utilizing techniques and tools that may be improved by these connections. The ability to manage, develop, and maintain control of all the moving parts strains the real goal of architecture, and the capacity to design across disciplines, borders, and other barriers. The 21st century resources available to an architect, including technology and business strategies, are essential to the future of architecture.
— Ryan

Obiekwe “Obi” Okolo - @ObiMatteo

The unique experience of living in Lagos, Nigeria during childhood shaped Obi’s perspective and passion for doing good for the world. To gain greater understanding about design, he studied at the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA), where he received a degree in Interior Architecture.  Concurrent with his studies, Obi immersed himself within the community of fellow students and served as Chapter President of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) for two concurrent years.  It was during that time that his began working on aid-based design – a way to blend humanitarian efforts and entrepreneurship. In 2015, Obi served as AIAS National Vice President.

Among other things living in an era of connections makes it nearly impossible for me, in my mind, to justify the many reasons you often hear for why architects/designers/the profession is the way that it is. In an age where an average patient can, at least, broadly understand an impending operation or crippling diagnoses through innovations in technology and story-telling, there is no reason we should still be asking the question “Why doesn’t the public understand what we do?” ...Simply put, it’s because we don’t really want them to yet.
— Obi


Daniel Teed

Dan grew up in a small town on the Iowan banks of the Mississippi and his initial interest in architecture came from his love of the honest expression of steel, wood, and stone found in the bridges spanning the Mighty Mississippi. He graduated from the University of Utah with a master's degree in architecture in 2014 and has since practiced in Salt Lake City. He is passionate about architecture for under price ledges populations and has designed and implemented work on the Navajo Nation, in the rural desert towns of Utah, and in Salt Lake City.

From smart homes to social media, “ease of connectivity” is the movement that defines our modern era. The way we interact with architecture, the environments in which we live, work, and play, is naturally changing in response to this concept of instant connectivity. In 2016 we are poised on the edge of an architectural revolution that will propel our concept of connections forward and forever change the course of our profession!
— Daniel

A. L. Hu - @a_l_hu  

A.L. Hu is a genderqueer first generation person of color who is currently a Master of Architecture student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP). Their research, writing, and design work is at the intersection of gender, race, community, and architecture. A.L. is a GSAPP Program Council member; co-founder of GSAPP Students of Color Association; founding member of Queer Students of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; co-organizer of ArchiteXX at GSAPP; and a GSAPP student representative on Columbia University’s Race, Ethnicity, and Inclusion Task Force. A.L. uses the gender-neutral pronouns they, them and theirs.

Architecture and the Era of Connections means that the profession must respond to the digital age in which we live — nowadays, we are always “on” through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. It is now easier than ever to connect and reach a broader, diverse, global audience, not to mention research deeper and find information faster. But this new era of connections does not come without consequences to fields like Architecture, which has its roots in more “traditional” communication methods. We must ask, how does Architecture remain connected through this new mode of communication, and what changes need to happen to foster this connection?
— A.L.

Hilary Barlow, AIA, LEED AP BD+C - @YDC_Payette

Hilary Barlow is an Architect at Payette, current co-chair of the firm’s Young Designers Core and a member of the AIA Center for Civic Leadership Committee.  Hilary is interested in engaging young leaders and creating new opportunities to supplement emerging professionals’ learning.  She led the firm’s award-winning submission for the IDP Outstanding Firm of the Year Award and has initiated new platforms to foster mentorship at Payette.  Hilary joined Payette after completing her B.Arch at Syracuse University in 2013, and has been highly involved with collaborative design assist at Payette.  

Not only does Today’s technology keeps us connected and plugged in constantly, but it has the potential to disrupt the paradigm of Architecture. BIM, scripting and parametric design are just a few of the ways industry trends are reshaping and redefining the Architecture, Engineering and Construction professions. In the Era of Connections, Architecture has the potential to be at the forefront of change—from how buildings are conceptualized, designed, coordinated and built.
— Hilary

Jonathan Meadows, RA @jonathanbmeadow

Jonathan Meadows.jpg

Jonathan Meadows graduated from Auburn University in 2010 with a B. Arch degree, became LEED accredited in 2013, and received his architectural license in August 2015. In addition to being a project architect at Williams Blackstock Architects, he is the Director of Emerging Professionals for AIA Birmingham. He has been very active in his community: he's a consistent volunteer for ACE Mentorship, co-chaired a lecture series designed to bring together the EP groups of contractors, engineers, and architects, has been a guest juror for the Auburn University Urban Studio, and organized and led a historic architectural walking tour of downtown Birmingham.

I believe that more than at any other time, Architecture is a field of teamwork and collaboration. As our buildings become more complex, the need for specialization increases, and the architect’s role becomes one of coordination rather than as a master-builder. I see technology as a facilitator of this process from conception, to design, to construction, and the architect as a well-rounded generalist and team leader.
— Jonathan


And don't forget to join us for EQxD Happy Hour at Smokin' Betty's after the Hack!


Special Thanks goes to our EQxD Hackathon Scholarship Sponsors including Autodesk, McCarthy Building Companies, WRNS Studio, HOK and HGA.

Promotion and Advancement: How to champion the Pull.

by Mike Davis, FAIA

Japanese gardeners use a small hand saw called a nokogiri. Cool thing about this tool? Instead of pushing on the blade, it cuts when you pull it.

Thanks to the Missing 32% Project: 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey findings, we know that very few women become principals or owners in US architectural firms. With this deficit front-of-mind, putting pressure on all architects to recognize and act on gender inequity is right. Creating pathways to leadership for women in architecture is critical. But that pressure – the equity push – may not in itself solve the problem in time to keep more women from giving up on the profession.

To make change happen urgently, we also need a complementary force. Call it … the pull.  

Defining the challenges with promotion and advancement in Architecture. 

Defining the challenges with promotion and advancement in Architecture. 

When your breakout topic for the Equity by Design “Hackathon” at the 2015 AIA National Convention is “Promotion and Advancement”, it becomes a question of how. How do we create the pull for promotion and advancement? What would convince the people – mostly men – running US architecture firms that having more women in senior leadership positions is vitally important?

We can make the business case for equity. 1) Studies prove the correlation between inclusivity on a corporate board and organizational profitability. 2) We have market research showing how much global spending is now being controlled by women. 3) And how about that Harvard Business Review report that says teams with more women on them are just smarter? We can argue the intrinsic value of diversity. We can opine that social intelligence – the sine qua non of 21st century enterprise – is stronger in women. Plenty of compelling evidence.

But in order for gender equity to happen any time soon, the men in charge of our firms need to change their behavior. Men-in-charge are the leverage point in the system as it currently exists. So to “hack” the system, men must be made part of the solution.

Speaking as a male Principal in an architectural firm, I’ve been in the conference room when candidates for promotion and advancement are being considered. Qualifications, talent, dedication, leadership, professionalism? Sure. All those factors are considered. But the thing that ultimately makes a bunch of architects decide to promote someone else to Principal? Trust.

Trust ultimately creates the pull for promotion. Not rational argument, not compelling evidence, not market studies. It’s not an intellectual decision. It’s an emotional one.

We know that there are men out there who want to see women succeed in architecture. And we know trust is contagious. So the Equity by Design Promotion and Advancement “hack” is: the formation of strategic intra-firm partnerships.

A strategic partnership would begin like this: Women, find advocates among your firm’s current Principals or senior leadership. Asking someone for advice is powerfully motivating. Engage them in candid conversation about mutual goal-setting, professional objectives, career paths. Be sure you frame your aspirations in terms of how the firm can also benefit. This is the basis for interpersonal trust in a corporate setting.

And if you can’t find those advocates at your current firm, get your resume in circulation.

Team members including Jessie Turnbull, Mike Davis, Meg Brown and Frances Choun pitch The Pull for Promotion and Advancement. 

Team members including Jessie Turnbull, Mike Davis, Meg Brown and Frances Choun pitch The Pull for Promotion and Advancement. 

The next step: understanding that a firm’s corporate values and behaviors derive from the values and behaviors exhibited by its Principals, the advocating Principals need to demonstrate their trust in the candidates to the rest of the firm. This could take the form of delegating authority for certain corporate activities or functions and then visibly supporting the candidates’ decisions.

In systems-thinking terms, the advocating Principals would be creating a reinforcing feedback loop. As more firm leaders witnessed this support, more would be inclined to extend their trust as well. The pull would be present. Promotion and advancement would follow.

Rather than relying on the interpersonal ju-jitsu of office politics, something more like mentoring is what creates lasting and mutually-beneficial trust. Eventually, this kind of exchange would also create a support network and a culture of open dialogue about professional development in the organization. And then, not only would gender equity and ownership transition be served, but a firm’s capacity to respond and adapt to unforeseen future challenges would also be strengthened.   

Japanese gardeners use a small hand saw called a nokogiri. Cool thing about this tool? Instead of pushing on the blade, it cuts when you pull it.

Japanese gardeners use a small hand saw called a nokogiri. Cool thing about this tool? Instead of pushing on the blade, it cuts when you pull it.

Strategic partnerships can build trust. And trust can create the pull for promotion and advancement. Like the nokogiri, pull works. 






Team Members:

  • Mike Davis, FAIA Bermeyer
  • Frances Choun, VP of McCarthy Building Companies
  • Meg Brown Principal, Perkins + Will
  • Jessie Turnbull, RA Associate, Robert AM Stern
  • Randy Seitz, Principal, AIA Blue Ridge Architects

What's next for EQxD?

Join us in San Francisco at AIASF on June 11th for our next EQxD "U" Workshop "What's Flex got to do with Success?" (Win Win Strategies for Work/Life Flexibility) Meet the panelists, and participate in small group break-outs to "hack" what works for flexibility in the modern workplace. This event is relevant to all AEC professionals! 6pm-8:30pm. 






What the Hack? - EQxD Hackathon and Happy Hour Recap

by Rosa Sheng

One of the most talked about events at the AIA convention in Atlanta was WE310 Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! Hackathon on Wednesday May 13, 2015. The final number of attendees (happened to be 32) varied in age, level of experience and multicultural mix; it was unplanned, but ultimately a model of the diverse and inclusive practice of the future.

Thank you to ARCHITECT Magazine @architectmag for the amazing coverage of the Equity by Design along the way, including the 2014 Survey Final Report and video coverage of the AIA EQxD Hackathon. Special thanks goes to our generous Equity by Design /AIA Convention Hackathon sponsors: Autodesk, McCarthy Building Companies and WRNS Studios for providing this opportunity for the future leaders of our profession. 

For the next 2 weeks, we will be sharing insights and results from the six Hackathon teams (including the winners @BLDYOURTRIBE), the scholarship winners and the jurors Obiekwe Okolo, Melinda Rosenberg and Curtis Rodgers. 

EQxD Hackathon Video by ARCHITECT Magazine

Equity by Design Hackathon at AIA Atlanta Convention May 13, 2015



We also captured live tweets from the Hackathon and Happy Hour hoping that it will provide you with a great overview of the day's energy. See if you can spot some familiar faces! At the Happy Hour, we had 70 attendees including our EQxD Hackathon speakers and participants, local volunteer Anne-Michael Sustman, members of AIA YAF, Architalks Blogerati, former AIA National President Katherine Schwensen, FAIA, AIA San Francisco Board Members, a few AIA National Candidates Steve Fiskum, FAIA, Jenn Workman and Haley Gipe, all our friends of Equity by Design from all over the US, as well as new architecture student friends from Georgia Tech .  We would also like to thank our Happy Hour venue hosts at Studio No. 7, Shannon and Earl for their beautiful artist's studio that provided the perfect setting for our event. If you are in Atlanta, please continue to support this local business.