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Newsletter | May/Jun 2013

Volume 41:3
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In this issue:
OWA is on Facebook - Eliza Hart, ed.

A Resolution to Modify OWA Name to OWDP

by Suzan Swabacker    |    Share #897

Several nights ago I spoke with an OWA member. One of our newest, best and brightest to be exact. Her phone call reminded me that a few things about the OWA need to be re-evaluated after 40 years. For example: younger members think the OWA logo is outdated. The logo is part of the bigger issues we need to be talking about however: namely, discrimination within our design profession.

I am strongly advocating for a name change to OWA. Currently the official name for the OWA is OWA+DP: The Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals. I believe the distinction between the design professions has so blurred over the recent years that it is far more fitting and proper to call ourselves ODP, Organization of Design Professionals. We would welcome all new members without putting them into a hierarchy with Architects on top, followed by other design types. It is myopic for a professional organization dedicated to supporting its members to differentiate between landscape architects, interior designers, planners, signage creators, spec writers and architects unless one is hiring or applying for a job and then specific tasks become important to the person hiring you.

What do DESIGNERS do? According to Wikipedia:
“The designer's work is a creative process performed almost always in conjunction with other specialists. The success of this process depends fully on the combination of the analytical powers, systematic specialist skills and aesthetic awareness of the designer and his/her sense of style and holistic approach. The goal of such work is to fulfill the needs and wishes of both the end-user and the immediate customer as regards function, content and appearance. The designer's efforts to create added value for the end-user also boost the immediate customer's profitability and growth. “ (

Currently several OWA members have expressed views that they prefer young architects join. The “welcome wagon” is not being rolled out for other design professions. However, I proffer that architects are a dying breed. To be even more blunt, for those architects who weren’t getting laid off in 2009, they were watching their fellow designers close up shop or get bought out “by the big boys.” Well, all except the interior designers. To quote a principal from HDR in Boston in 2009: “The future looks bleak for architects. However, interior design cannot be done by firms overseas. By its very nature interior design is homegrown. U.S. owners cannot use overseas firms. The interior design profession will keep growing whereas architects could be an endangered species.” This comment resulted from an informational interview that I require from students taking my college classes. Needless to say I found the comments provocative and thought-provoking.

In case you haven’t paid attention, it appears that virtually all CD work is being done outside the U.S. for firms with > 30 people. Here are 2 specific stories:

Story 1: a relative works for a 250+ general construction company that performs commercial construction. Both he and I have worked independently on hotels over our career. We know hospitality well. For his latest project in Southern California, a new 118-room hotel, the architects turned over drawings to the general contractor that were so poorly completed it was causing major cost increases and time delays to the hotel construction. The Owner was not happy. The solution? The General Contractor offered to have the CDs re-done overseas. Six weeks, 60 sheets later, the drawings were completed and sent from India. The cost? $11,000. For 60 sheets of architectural drawings and details! The result? The G/C now offers “free” CD documents to potential clients.
Now days Owners only have to pay the architects thru DD. The Owner gets a real deal for the completion of permit drawings. Design firms cannot exist, much less grow, on DD alone. Oh yes, and the G/C’s younger staff can assist with BIM as well. No architects need apply.

Story 2: We have just completed the interiors for a large fitness center run by the U.S. Navy. First, all designers should know that government work has been “D-B” (Design-Build) for nearly 20 years. This means it is “one-stop-shop”, supposedly lower risk for the government. Who runs the show? The general contractor. This practice has resulted in the general contractor hiring the designers for thousands of projects. Not only is the G/C focused on the bottom line, the reality is that he can build whatever the heck he wants to build. Fewer architects are being hired with the D-B process. The designers the G/C can’t ignore, though, are the interior designers.

Let’s go back to the resolution. Besides showing specific job skills on resumes for different specialties, why would we want to promote architects at the expense of other designers? I love being a part of the OWA. The camaraderie over the years has sustained me through good times and bad, as the saying goes. I have lifelong best friends. I have long wanted more successful members to donate more and leave a legacy to the OWA similar to an “endowed chair” at a university . Given the current temperament, however, the snobbery that is often displayed by we architects to other non-architects, I suspect that the OWA will die out with the baby-boomers unless we make a fundamental change to our membership. A change, such as modifying the name to be more inclusive, not less.

Members, can we not promote an organization for those who do not have an architecture degree? We are all trying to make a living doing something we love which relates to building buildings. Architects are an endangered species. Building permits allow engineers and architects to sign drawings. This is our lone protection. We need to morph into a newer/broader design group. A good start would be to modify our name to ODP, Organization of Design Professionals. This could be accomplished in October at the annual business meeting.

I look forward to an open dialogue over the next few months.

Kickoff to the Mentoring Program June 11

by Eliza Hart, ed.    |    Share #873

The Steering Committee invites you to participate in our June meeting to kick off the 2013-2104 Mentoring Program!

Time: Tues June 11th, 2013 starting at 6:00PM
Location: Tandus Flooring Showroom (San Francisco)
750 Battery Street, Suite 150, San Francisco, CA 94111
(Parking is available in the building at $2.50 per 20 minutes. Street parking is also available.)

We will be launching the Mentoring Program at this Kick-off Event. You will be able to meet with mentors and mentees and select whom you would like to be paired with for the year. Refreshments are included, and we will start the night with our keynote speaker: Antonya Williams, LEED AP BD+C, Assistant Project Manager from McCarthy Construction.

Members, Please RSVP here by Friday, June 6th so that we can reserve you a spot in the program and match you with the best fit. Note that participants who do not attend the kick-off event can participate, but may not get their first choice. Also review the Mentor Mentee Guidelines prior to attending the meeting.

Please note: There will be a $10 fee for members to attend this event and a $20 fee for non-members. If non-members join OWA then the event fee will be waived.

Read more about the program here.

Announcing the OWA Annual Retreat

by Janet Crane    |    Share #875

The OWA maze created in 2003

We are pleased to invite you to this year's memorable OWA 40th anniversary retreat at Westerbeke Ranch which will take place on September 20 - 22.  Details of the retreat with a sign up form are attached.  
"40 + 10 Celebrating Ourselves & Our Work" is this year's theme:  sharing the experiences that have brought us together over the past 40 years,  and looking forward to the next decade.   

For the art project, Andrea Lucas and OWA member Linda Corbett, landscape architects, are designing a garden installation  that will be created by our group as a gift to Westerbeke and to OWA, in the spirit of the labyrinth of our 30th anniversary.    On Saturday night, we will celebrate with live music and dancing with the versatile Syliva Herold Ensemble.   On Saturday, a relaxing yoga session as been arranged and on Sunday, a belly dancing session will conclude the program.  We very much hope you will join us for a stimulating and relaxing weekend! 

Please call or e-mail Janet Crane to make a reservation and then send in the form on the attached invitation to Heather Sprague.

Please note that this year we have an early bird rate for those who sign up before June 30th.    OWA offers scholarships for students and those without employment.

more information and registration form is here

OWA Sponsors AIA's Missing 32% Series

by Eliza Hart, ed.    |    Share #876

If there is still time to sign up, please come to the AIA San Francisco's program "The Missing 32%" Its a continuation of the dialog that began last fall and has new speakers and a new format. It will be this Saturday June 8, from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM at the CCA Timken Hall Auditorium.

OWA chooses carefully what to sponsor and this is a successful event with a lot of publicity. We hope it will help build awareness about the issues we care about.

Here is the link on the AIA SF Website

OWA is on Facebook

by Eliza Hart, ed.    |    Share #874

Please note OWA has a Facebook page. Take some time to look at it and please "Like" us!
You can see the page here.

NOMA Celebrates its 40th year too

by Wendy Bertrand    |    Share #865

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) celebrated 40 years in 2012, headquartered in Washington DC, they published an online 40th year celebration of their founding with a beautiful magazine full of award winning projects and articles from past and present leaders. One highlight was the announcement of the 2013 president, Kathy Denise Dixon, the third woman to lead the national organization, and she proudly shouts out to women to participate.

The magazine mentions the San Francisco Chapter (SFNOMA) celebration of Black History Month this year with a special lecture by Shelley Davis, an architectural designer and project manager who also serves as one of two SFNOMA vice-presidents. On February 27, 2013, I attended her presentation and was captivated by the well-researched lecture entitled The Evolution of African American Architects with slides of over 25 architects spanning from 1846 to the present. The presentation, according to Ms. Davis, “traces the historic achievements of black master builders and tradesmen who despite the atrocities of slavery, would find opportunity in learning construction trades as slave laborers and spawn a legacy of skilled African American Architects.”

Using portraits, quotes of the architects and their signature buildings, “the presentation underscored the key terms of history, culture, perception perspective and identity to weave a story of pioneering black architects who through sheer determination and persistence battled the false perception of black professionals due to racism and gradually created a new perspective for following generations to establish an identity not just as black architects but as well respected architects.” Davis’s lecture was part of a series of lectures SFNOMA has created to bring awareness and appreciation to underrepresented cultures in architecture. The presentation, Asian American Architects was co-presented by SFNOMA’s Rod Henmi, FAIA, Director of Design at HKIT Architects and Architect Annette Diniz on April 24, 2013, and The New Vernacular and Future Politics, Latin American Architects in the U.S is planned for September.

NOMA’s mission is to champion diversity within the design profession by promoting excellence, active community engagement and supporting professional development of the members. The San Francisco chapter typically holds its lectures and summer camp at the California College of the Arts and Architecture on 1111 Eighth Street in San Francisco. This summer, SFNOMA’s forth-annual Architecture Summer Camp for middle school students will take place as part of the NOMA national Project Pipeline program introducing architecture, as a career option, to minority youth. It serves as a unique, valuable, and critical component to diversify the profession.

Shelley Davis set the backdrop with “the concerted efforts of organizations like NOMA to bring awareness to the low percentage of African Americans in the field as well as other minority groups with the goal of fostering a collective effort to increase the low representation of many minorities including African American architects, at less than 2 percent,” compared to 13.6 percent of those identifying themselves as African Americans in our country (2010 Census). “Currently there are only 1589 male African American Architects and 289 female African American architects out of the total of 105,596 registered architects (2012 NCARB Survey) in the United States,” Davis reported. I imagine many more have graduated from architectural schools and are not licensed as many women (and some men) too may not select to get licensed but continue on to work in architecture or in related fields.

The long history of contributions to architecture and building started with plantation slaves in the south. One particularly compelling story Davis told was "that of Moses Mckissak (1790-1865), a slave tradesman and builder in Tennessee, who passed on his knowledge of the construction trade to his son. His two grandsons would later establish the architecture firm McKissak and McKissack, in 1905. One hundred years later McKissack and MCKissack is still going strong and a leader in the construction industry led by Deryl McKissack who is not only the 5th generation of her family to run the business, but also a woman who is well known for her strong leadership and business skills."

Courtesy Shelley Davis,Anne Daiva Photography

Ms Davis introduced other success stories such as Horace King (1807-1885) who used the money he earned designing and building covered bridges to pay for his way out of slavery. She gives quick but equal time to Robert Taylor (1868-1942), who fought his way to be the first African American to attend MIT, Paul R Williams (1884-1980), first African American member of the AIA, who designed over 3000 buildings, many in Southern California, was also the first African American male to become a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Beverly Loraine Green (1915-1957) licensed in Illinois in 1942 and noted as the first African American woman architect, Barbara Laurie, AIA, NOMA (1942-2013) a partner with Deverouax and Purnell Architects, became an associate professor of architecture at Howard University and began the 200+ program which promotes visibility for African American women in architecture. Dr. Sharon E. Sutton FAIA, the first African American woman in the US promoted to full professor in an accredited professional architectural program, Allison Williams FAIA, NOMA, a Loeb Fellow at Harvard (1987) and Design Director at Perkins and Will from 1997-2012, Jack Travis FAIA, NOMAC, architect and professor interested in cultural integration, and Deanna Van Buren current Loeb Fellow (2013) focused on creating new markets within the field and principal of FOURM design+studio in Oakland.

At the end of Shelley Davis’ presentation, my gut reaction was that the challenging circumstances these architects and most architects of color face was understated because of my reading of Victoria Kaplan's Social Inequality: Black Architects in the United States (Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, 2006), explaining how discrimination and difficulty is structurally unequaled in the profession. I would add that this structural disadvantage applies to gender as well as to race with some variations.

Horace King

My heartfelt thanks go to Shelley Davis for sharing her research notes, knowledge and writing that I pieced together for this article.

    I surfed the web to learn more about a few of the architects she introduced ( but there are many more), I include snippets of what I found and added some of what I learned from Sutton and Davis in the hope to inspire readers to explore beyond their own identities and to push for a wider view and increased cultural values in in our profession.

Horace King (September 8, 1807 – May 28, 1885) was an American architect, engineer, and bridge builder.[1*] King is considered the most respected bridge builder of the 19th century Deep South, constructing dozens of bridges in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.[2*] Born into slavery in South Carolina in 1807, King became a prominent bridge architect and construction manager in the Chattahoochee River Valley region of Alabama and Georgia before purchasing his freedom in 1846 (*Wikipedia website).

Robert Robinson Taylor was a key faculty addition to Tuskegee Institute after his graduation in 1892 "placing the school at the forefront of the Black architectural educational enclave, the emerging Historically Black Colleges and Universities" according to Davis in 2003 nac-q AIA publication.

Beverly Loraine Greene, Senior Portrait c. 1935 Courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives

Beverly Loraine Greene, (1915-1957) believed to be the first African American woman architect in the United States, was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 4, 1915. She grew up in Chicago and was raised by her father, James A. Greene, a lawyer, and her mother, Vera Greene, a homemaker. Greene earned a Bachelor of Science degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois in 1936. One year later she earned a Master's of Science degree in city planning and housing from the same university. On December 28, 1942, at the age of twenty-seven, Greene was registered in the State of Illinois as an architect.
After completing her third degree at Columbia, Greene returned to her hometown and initially worked for the Chicago Housing Authority. Greene was one of the first African Americans in the agency. Despite her education and her official recognition as an architect, Greene found it difficult to obtain jobs in the profession. Greene accepted a scholarship at Columbia University where she would study urban planning. She received a Master's Degree in Architecture from Columbia on June 5, 1945.

Sharon E. Sutton, Courtesy of Sharon E. Sutton

Dr. Sharon E. Sutton, FAIA is Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Adjunct Professor of Social Work, and Director of CEEDS (Center for Environment, Education, and Design Studies) at the University of Washington. She has been an architecture educator since 1975, having held positions at Pratt Institute, Columbia University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan where she became the first African American woman in the United States to be promoted to full professor of architecture. Sutton teaches community-based undergraduate and graduate design studios and offers graduate seminars in professional practice and architecture research methods. She is the author of Weaving a Tapestry of Resistance: The Places, Power, and Poetry of a Sustainable Society (Bergin & Garvey, 1996)derived from a K-12 urban design program she founded while at the University of Michigan and she and Susan P. Kemp edited The Paradox of Urban Space: Inequality and Transformation in Marginalized Communities (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011). Currently, she is completing When Ivory Towers Were Black a book documenting the country's most audacious effort to recruit ethnic minority architects and urban planners, which occurred at Columbia University during the national Black Campus Movement, 1965-1972.

Jack Travis, Courtesy of Jack Travis

Jack Travis, FAIA, NOMA, is owner and principal of Jack Travis Architects, a firm that works to effect urban and environmental design concepts from a black perspective. Among his firm’s clients are Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, and John Saunders of ABC Sports. In 1992, Travis edited African American Architects: In Current Practice, the first publication to profile the work of black architects practicing in the U.S. In 1994, he founded the Studio for Afri-Culturalism in Architecture and Design, a nonprofit organization that collects, documents, and disseminates information on African Americans and African-American culture. Travis is a professor at Pratt Institute and the Fashion Institute of Technology. (From arch+ black website.) He sees himself as extending his creative direction with his purpose to enrich the American cultural palette in interior design and architecture considering and connecting to the positive aspects of living one's identity. He is interested in and has written about the history of African American architects in detail for the AIA National Associates Committee Quarterly, Hidden in Plain View I recommend for those who want to learn more than this one hour presentation that got my attention. He speaks out at conferences around the world, in 2010 he was an Invited speaker at the Africa World Festival of Arts, Dakar, Senegal and there is a 3 min video from the Museum where he talks about culture and design.

Deanna Van Buren

Deanna VanBuren recently launched a design practice, FOURM design+studio in Oakland, California, to develop two new markets in architecture. She is exploring how designing environments for the electronic gaming industry can have an impact on the public’s appreciation of good design and on its demand for better quality in physical places. She is also applying design to alternative systems to incarceration, in order to create new spaces for justice that are reparative and support innovative policies in probation, incarceration and adjudication. While at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard as a 2013 Loeb scholar, she addressed the paucity of research and design theory in these areas and explored the impacts of art and design within the public realm. (Summarized from Loeb website)

Leslie Allen: Buckelew Art Show and Fundraiser

by Leslie Allen    |    Share #877

"Steep Ravine Cabin with Poppies"

"MarinScapes," the annual landscape art show and fundraiser for Buckelew Programs, will include the work of OWA architect and artist Leslie Allen.  Admission is $15 including wine and cheese, Friday night, June 28 and the afternoons of Sat and Sun, June 29-30.  Located on campus of Dominican University in San Rafael, at the Edgehill Heritage House, 50 Acacia Drive.  Buckelew Programs support people and families living with mental health and substance abuse.

More information is here.

Growing a Small Firm: Elevating the Role of Women

by Eliza Hart, ed.    |    Share #878

Online continuing education program AEC Knowledge along with AIA SF presents a panel discussion on "Growing a Small Firm: Elevating the Role of Women"

San Francisco Architect Mark Cavanero has hosted a series at AIA SF for the past few months. In March, the topic was Women in Architecture. This is a link to the program as it was recorded by AEC Knowledge for people who missed it and would like AIA credit.

The link to the video is here.

OWA Book Circle: Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

by Wendy Bertrand    |    Share #879

An Invitation: Are you LEANING IN??? Could you lean more???

All OWA members and friends are invited by the OWA Book Circle to read Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. This short read brings to the front simmering topics about the workplace, the family and the level of our personal ambition.
These issues are very much part of our mission in OWA and it will surely trigger a lively and informative exchange, and perhaps ideas for organizational action could surface.
Everyone is invited to participate in the discussion of LEAN IN on Thursday November 7, 2013 at 6 pm hosted by OWA member Susan Aitken:

Time: November 7, 2013
 at 6pm
 Hamilton + Aitken Architects

525 Brannan Street #400

San Francisco, CA 94107



LEAN IN is available at most bookstores or you may borrow it from the OWA Book Circle Library collection at Hamilton & Aitken, attention Albert Ho for check out or by contacting Wendy Bertrand who will put you on the waiting list to read one of the 4 copies now circulating.
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