Understanding the pervasive issue of our industry’s challenges in the education and hiring pipeline, we have partnered with the National Organization of Minority Architects to reshape our own part in this. Through their extensive network, we have expanded KPF’s recruitment efforts to include successful hires of new grads from HBCUs. NOMA’s programs have also connected KPF architects and students to provide mentorship to up-and-coming architects from a broad range of backgrounds, at different points in their education. Efforts such as the ACE Mentoring Program, of which KPF has been a supporter for decades, traditionally involved in-person events. Because these have proven difficult to maintain during the pandemic, we reached out to new contacts from New York City mentoring programs such as Students Sponsor Partners (SSP) and forged relationships that we hope to sustain for many years to come.
In the fall of 2021, we will be teaching a design studio focused on public housing at the Yale School of Architecture. We will share our experience on the rehabilitation of the NYCHA Red Hook Houses, and engage NYCHA officials in the process. These types of projects rely on community input and engagement, an aspect of the profession which gives our work clear purpose, and particularly inspires the next generation of designers.
We also know that mentoring goes both ways. We have a lot to learn from the experts and scholars who have spent their life’s work studying racial discrimination and the systems that have led to the unacceptable lack of equity in our society today. KPF Public was established in the summer of 2020 as a platform to address issues of racial and social inequality and combat the inequities that exist within the profession and the built environment. Almost one year later, members of this group have become key voices in influencing the firm’s actions, organizing internal educational programs such as a recent lecture by April De Simone, a social impact designer and strategist. Ms. De Simone presented her work and research titled “Spatialized Psychologies of Inequity” to the global staff and participated in a Q&A via Zoom.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our new practice of holding a weekly global Town Meeting in virtual space has allowed us to learn from and about each other. Many KPF staff members shared highly personal and inspiring stories, particularly as they related to the recent wave of deplorable anti-AAPI racism. We hosted a talk by Nancy Yao Maasbach, director of the Museum of Chinese in New York, and grew stronger as a community thanks to this series of candid and moving presentations.