I was the project manager for a religious organization that rebuilt homes post-Katrina. The first one I worked on belonged to a 9th Ward family. The wife was pregnant. In tears, the husband told me, “I want our child to grow up here.” There was very little money, but we figured it out. A team of carpenters from New York made beautiful custom cabinets for the nursery. The baby was born two weeks before we finished.
For three years I was the dean of design at the Priestley School of Architecture and Construction, which focused on inner-city, at-risk youth. We did design/build projects for the neighborhood. Our philosophy was that inherent within the design process is a great high school education.
Being at a nonprofit for so long, you get tired of not being an “architect.” It’s hard to get licensed and do nonprofit work at the same time. You’re young, you have cool ideas—you want to do that work right away. Because how easy will it be to go from an architect’s salary to a nonprofit worker’s? As I pursue licensure, I do think the path could be more inclusive to alternative tracks taken by more socially conscious designers.