Black Architect Who Was Told She'd Never Make It In the Field, Encourages More African American Students to Pursue the Career
Arts and Culture

Black Architect Who Was Told She’d Never Make It In the Field, Encourages More African American Students to Pursue the Career

Instagram screenshot via @pascalesablan

This Black woman is an architect for one of the world’s most prestigious firms and wants to see more representation in the field.

After a professor proclaimed she would never become an architect because she was Black and a woman, Pascale Sablan, who is now a licensed associate principal at Adjaye Associates New York studio, is encouraging students to pursue the field by amplifying the work of architects who are women and people of color.

Reportedly, Sablan founded Beyond the Built Environment in 2017, a platform that hosts virtual and in-person panels and exhibits featuring the work of underrepresented architects.

The Great Diverse Designers Library also provides interested students with a database to conduct research and view the work and identities of diverse professionals.

During Sablan’s time as an architecture student at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture in New York City, the teenage freshman was one of the only two Black women in her class, and her passion for advocacy was stirred up after a white professor singled them out in front of their peers.

“These two will never become architects because they’re Black and because they’re women,” she recalled the professor saying after asking her and another Black woman student to stand in the classroom.

“I was surprised that a professor…would make such a strong proclamation,” Sablan said. “And I was also humbled by the fact that my peers were quiet and silent about it.”

The architect was licensed in January after 13 years of working and exams, leading to her promotion with Adjaye Associates, a firm credited for some of the world’s most extraordinary buildings, founded by lead architect Sir David Adjaye, behind works such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.


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“I represent my gender and my ethnicity, and therefore I have to show up and show out to the maximum degree. I can never let my performance be the reason why opportunities are reduced or eliminated for people like me, and instead must be the reason for their multiplication,” she said.

Despite adversity, Sablan obtained a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Pratt and a Master of Science in Architectural Design from Columbia University. She is the current president of the National Organization of Minority Architects and the youngest African American inductee of the AIA College of Fellows.

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