The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects' Center for Architecture was packed Friday evening for the first Latinos in Architecture (LiA) exhibition opening in San Antonio. The exhibit – "Nexo," meaning “link” in Spanish – featured work of local Latino designers and architects.
As with any new endeavor into untested waters, the event's success and establishment of this new committee was not guaranteed – and at first, not expected.
After our initial pitch to AIA San Antonio for the creation of the LiA Committee, there were questions regarding the need for the group. Some doubted the demand for a Latino-focused committee, given the prominent Hispanic population of the city, while others used the same demographics to ask how the Committee did not already exist.
LiA has established committees in AIA chapters in Dallas, Austin, San Francisco and, as of June, San Antonio. Based on the first exhibition's success, we've come to the conclusion that an organization like this is long overdue.
More than 75 colleagues and friends laughed and mingled throughout the night, examining 18 different projects of Latino designers featured on large display boards while a projector presented the work of design students, including those from UTSA, San Antonio College, and the ACE (architecture, construction, engineering) Mentor Program. Another screen ran images of projects created by professional architects and designers.
We extended the deadline for the exhibition at first because we were worried we wouldn't have enough projects to display. LiA was then flooded with emails and submissions, proving the interest for this Committee exists and the need is real. More than 40 professional architects and designers submitted projects for consideration in the 18 spots. We hope to grow the exhibition to larger locations next year.
In 2011, the national AIA reported that only 3% of licensed architects in the United States are Hispanic. LiA was formed in San Antonio to assist in increasing that percentage by serving as a networking resource for those already working in design-related fields, a support system for those interested in pursuing a career, and to spark interest from younger generations.
As an evolving profession, architecture requires the need for open discussion among colleagues and peers. After graduating from school, former students find that conversations regarding professional development do not occur as frequently at the office. The sharing of experiences in design-related fields – whether a minority or not – can be a learning experience and influence an individual creatively and professionally.
Historically, few Latinos have pursued design careers. The lack of professional mentors in schools and in the community had a predictable outcome and is one of many issues that can be addressed with this effort to improve the Latino presence in design-related professions.
The kickoff event exceeded all expectations, with an overwhelming response from the design community and sponsors. The event included an open discussion of what other LiA Committees were accomplishing and what we wanted for San Antonio. Shortly after, the AIA San Antonio decided to allow our Latinos in Architecture Committee to be established as part of the chapter.
We figured that September, which is National Hispanic Heritage Month, would be a good time to host our first exhibit.
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile, and Mexico celebrate their independence in September, so LiA San Antonio wanted to recognize this month, as other chapters of LiA do, with an exhibition featuring work of local Latino designers.
Future goals for the LiA Committee will be guided by the three established focus principals: education, professional relationships, and community.
Our first and main educational initiative right now is to expand book drive opportunities and create relationships with local high schools. The Book Drive, a legacy project we would like to grow, is collecting industry books from various design firms citywide to donate to local high schools. The Book Drive ends Oct. 10. All books can be dropped off at the AIA Center for Architecture at 1344 South Flores St.
We're continuing our relationship with the ACE Mentor Program and will eventually integrate a continuing effort into our educational component. In the professional realm, future objectives include creating networking opportunities and helping further career goals for those involved. Our community contribution component aims to begin with the establishment of a scholarship program focused on the education of young Latinos in our city.
The closing event for "Nexo" will be at the AIA at 6 p.m. Oct. 10. Entry is $5 at the door. For more information, visit the AIA San Antonio website. Latinos in Architecture is also on Twitter @LiA_SanAntonio and Facebook. Further inquires can be sent to email@example.com.