Germane Barnes is designer-in-residence for the Opa-Locka Community Development Corp. in Florida and a lecturer in the School of Architecture at the University of Miami.

My initial reaction to Young’s speech was that it is 50 years later and architecture is still dealing with the same issues. Similar to the young student mentioned in the speech, I too dealt with an absence of black role models in academia. It is unfortunate that the average school of architecture employs less than two black full-time faculty members. Minority recruitment is devoid of the proper voices who relate to the intended audience.

Architecture’s culpability in discrepancies within the built environment is rarely discussed as the “escape hatch” Young references but is still prominent. The same developers and institutions continue to perpetuate social and racial discrimination and architects willfully accept the commissions.

Architecture continues to be an elite white male’s profession. However, strides have been made in closing the gender gap. Perhaps those pleading for a solution to the racial gap simply have to wait their turn, an additional 50 years. Most architecture institutions prioritize tectonics, history, and design. It is rare for an institution to create a platform for interdisciplinary research on race. If architecture as a whole is really concerned with interrogating its appearance as a homogeneous profession it has to create paths for diverse discourse.

Additionally, this idea of the unpaid internship and intense studio culture needs to be erased. One of the biggest deterrents of students of color is the unaffordability of architecture. Most cannot afford a college education without gainful employment to supplement their loans or scholarships. If a student must work a job to attend classes when does that student have the opportunity to design given the time and intensity required on studio projects? One must have a sustainable financial infrastructure to pursue this field. That is a fundamental flaw.

As a practitioner I am challenged with the topic of low incoming housing [that Young discussed]. The solution, however, is a simple one: design for the user and not the developer. While budgets do exist, this provides the opportunity for architects to be innovative with building materials, orientation, and design. A talented designer should be able to create a project that fulfills the needs of all intended parties. In academic settings students should be exposed to true housing scenarios as opposed to theoretical proposals. While the theoretical is important, grounding the student in reality is the first priority. When this mantra is disseminated through all levels of architecture it helps to shift the perception of low-income and workforce housing. The last hurdle is one of policy. Given the knowledge and expertise of architects and design professionals, policy changes can be enacted to correct past transgressions. However, this requires architecture to willfully acknowledge its discriminatory past and move forward.

As a professor I am optimistic that more women are entering the field of architecture as well as promotions to leadership positions. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for black professionals. University search committees subscribe to a formulaic process of recruitment that traditionally centers on whether the candidates attended a school in the Northeast. When that is no longer an unspoken requirement there may be diversity in hires. Additionally, humanities institutions are beginning to provide funds for research on race and the built environment which should facilitate these types of conversations. The final hurdle will be who moderates the conversations. If the individuals tasked with convening this discussion are representative of the current architectural landscape, nothing will change.