SAY IT LOUD: The Distinguished Minority Designers of NOMA

Pascale Sablan

At time of writing, there are approximately 2,224 licensed African American architects in the United States—roughly 2 percent of the total population of licensed architects in the US. This is staggering in today’s world, where diversity is supposedly more than a buzzword. Studies show that including people of different backgrounds and races benefits everyone—something that is certainly true for architecture. Exposure to a diverse pool of contributors can enrich the field and generate more unique and innovative ideas. Over the past three years, curator Pascale Sablan has established an initiative that shines a spotlight on the impact of architects and allied professionals of color in the architecture and design community as well as the greater community at large. These individuals blazed a trail that is rarely acknowledged. In 2015, the New York chapter of National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), New York Coalition of Black Architects (NYCOBA), created a Membership Highlight initiative to acknowledge the work and accomplishments of these talented individuals on a monthly basis. The highlighted members range from sole practitioners to commissioners of city agencies to AIA fellows. This ongoing initiative has become a full exhibit that has been displayed at New York’s Center for Architecture, the United Nations Visitor Centre, and at S9 Architecture during the 2018 AIA National Convention.

The SAY IT LOUD exhibition elevates the work of minority architects, engineers, and designers of color in a culture that often omits them and their contributions to the built environment. The exhibition features projects by twenty-one designers and includes quotes and video interviews on their experiences. The concept of this exhibit, according to Sablan, is “To see our faces, hear our voices, feel our impact within the colorful tapestry of our heritage.” This initiative has become an international movement, with local SAY IT LOUD exhibits slated for numerous states, conferences, and United Nations Information Centers worldwide.

Pascale Sablan, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP, is a Senior Associate at S9 ARCHITECTURE, the 2017–18 historian for the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), and the NOMA Northeast Now What!? Exhibition Planning Grant 18 Regional Vice President for 2018–19. Pascale is past president of the New York Chapter of NOMA, serves the AIA National Planning Committee for the 2018 Design Justice Summit, and is a member of the AIA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Pascale was selected as a 2018 AIA Young Architects Award Recipient and was featured in the CTBUH Research Paper: “Ratios - Voices of Women in the Tall Building World.” She was recently named Building Design + Construction 40 Under 40 and was featured on the cover of the September issue of their magazine. She has lectured at universities and colleges all over the US. In 2017 she curated the Say It Loud: Distinguished Black Designers of NYCOBA | NOMA exhibition at the Center for Architecture in New York City. She is the 315th African American female architect in the United States to attain her architectural license. As of 2017, there are only 400 women who hold this distinction.