In honor of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, the AIANY WIA Committee hosted a forum at our May committee meeting to support our AAPI colleagues and friends. The focus of the discussion was to shed light on the experiences of our Asian peers, elevate their voices, and open up a conversation to learn how to be empathetic allies through these challenging times.

We invited Bianca Weeko Martin, M. Arch Candidate at University of Waterloo and Publications Manager at RAP/LASG; Amanda Miller, AIA, NOMA,  Project Architect at Hoffman Architects and Co-Chair, AIANY Diversity & Inclusion Committee; Sara Ngan, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate at FXCollaborative; Mindy No, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal at Perkins Eastman and Ayumi Sugiyama, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Former Director of Cultural Projects at SHoP. The speakers represented architects and designers at different stages in their careers, with East and Southeast Asian ethnic heritages. Each of them generously shared with our members their personal stories with candid insights and observations.

For this timely forum, AIANY WIA offered a safe and supportive space for sharing important cross-cultural perception information and bringing an understanding of the current social and professional biases to the forefront.

Statistics of an uptick in Anti-Asian crimes in the past year, and references to the proportion of Asians and Asian architects in New York and the US provided context to the event.

Kerry Nolan, AIA, Senior Associate, Beyer Blinder Belle and Advisory Board Member of the AIANY WIA Committee moderated the conversation. She posed sensitive questions about the speakers’ upbringing and their professional environments, emphasizing their unique narratives and breaking the stereotypical perception of the Asian community as a monolith. While our panelists all had experiences that shaped them differently, the conversation underscored similarities in biases they have faced in the workplace and beyond, especially in the past year amid the pandemic and the rise of attacks against Asians. Sara and Ayumi shared their thoughts on the model minority myth and how it affects womxn in the workplace. Amanda spoke about being a transracial adoptee. Bianca reflected on the need within education to broaden the western canon of architecture as the cultural norm, to include more typologies that speak to other parts of the world. Mindy and Sara also stressed the importance of mentors and role models that are representative and supportive of one’s identity while sharing ways in which firm leadership and professional organizations can support Asian professionals and show intersectionality within industry groups.

We are so grateful for an engaged audience, many of whom shared relevant resources, some of which are:

We hope to continue this conversation to encourage representation and celebrate diverse voices in our profession.

You can access related AAPI resources and references, compiled here.

For WIA’s upcoming events, good reads, related events across town, and relevant topics shared at the meeting, please view our May committee meeting agenda here.