It’s time to turn words into action

Alfonso Padro_Director of Education at HKS Architects

There are things all of us can – and should – do to make the profession more diverse, writes Alfonso Padro

The combined impact of the covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests has, quite rightly, put equality firmly back on the agenda. For those of us working in architecture and related professions it has highlighted once again the shocking lack of diversity that exists.

I cannot claim to truly understand the toxic effects of discrimination on the basis of colour or ethnicity. What I do understand with regards to our profession, however, is that the broad lack of diversity – which can also include background, gender (particularly at senior levels) and sexual orientation – is holding us back.

Architecture exists to improve lives and is – or should be – a vital means of supporting the creation of greater equality in our society. But while the profession bears so little resemblance to the communities it purports to help, it limits its own effectiveness.

I’m a Londoner (albeit it one with a mother from the Philippines and a Spanish father), educated in a diverse inner-city school. At the age of 15 or 16 I realised that I wanted to be an architect. When consulting my then careers teacher I was discouraged and told it wasn’t a realistic aim for someone like me. By which I assume he meant an inner-city kid with mixed heritage whose parents worked in catering and for the post office.

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