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Structural Inequality

Black Architects in the United States

Victoria Kaplan

Architecture is a challenging profession. The education is rigorous and the licensing process lengthy; the industry is volatile and compensation lags behind other professions. All architects make a huge investment to be able to practice, but additional obstacles are placed in the way of women and people of color.

Structural Inequality relates this disparity through the stories of twenty black architects from around the United States and examines the sociological context of architectural practice. Through these experiences, research, and observation, Victoria Kaplan explores the role systemic racism plays in an occupation commonly referred to as the "white gentlemen's profession."

Given the shifting demographics of the United States, Kaplan demonstrates that it is incumbent on the profession to act now to create a multicultural field of practitioners who mirror the changing client base. Structural Inequality provides the context to inform and facilitate the necessary conversation on increasing diversity in architecture.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 244Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7425-4582-3 • Hardback • May 2006 • $93.00 • (£65.00)
978-0-7425-4583-0 • Paperback • May 2006 • $36.00 • (£24.95)
Victoria Kaplan has worked in finance for the last twenty years. She served as a corporate financial analyst and managed a community development venture capital fund. She brings her MBA in finance and her PhD in human and organizational development together to work for economic and social justice. She is the founder of writing for change, an organization that uses storytelling as a vehicle to educate audiences about systemic racism.
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Architecture: A White Gentlemen's Prefession?
Chapter 3 Out in the World: The Reality of Practice
Chapter 4 Certified Minority: The Perception and the Reality
Chapter 5 Crazy-Making: Running a Business
Chapter 6 It's Who You Know: The Importance of Social Networks
Chapter 7 Summary and Recommendations
Even at the start of the 21st century, African Americans still comprise only 1% of the membership of American Institute of Architects (AIA). In Structural Inequality, Victoria Kaplan gets under the skin of that 1%. Their compelling stories reveal the ironies confronting African Americans in architectural practice: love/hate relationships with the AIA, opportunities and stigmas associated with government set-aside programs, the pains of invisibility coupled with the burdens of high visibility. They underscore the value of mentoring—both as mentor and mentee, connecting with communities and colleagues through the National Organization of Minority Architects, and the delicate balancing act needed to manage their firms. They also point to new opportunities of operating globally. Structural Inequality is should be required reading for all of us who strive for greater diversity in the architecture profession.
Kathryn Anthony, Professor at the University of Illinois and Author ofDesigning for Diversity

Architecture is not an occupation noted for its self-examination. Into this pool of complacency, Kaplan's book arrives as a well-aimed shot that should cause ripples for years. This impassioned ethnography shows what it is like to be a black architect in America, and how the invisible—and hence unquestioned—social web within the occupation operates to marginalize not only the black architect's work, but their very existence.
Garry Stevens, author of The Favored Circle

In this unique book, Victoria Kaplan brings us the seldom-heard voices of black architects communicating their experiences in their chosen profession. Though they advocate, and are even passionate about, the fundamental tenets of the profession, institutional racism excludes black architects from the “commanding heights.” Kaplan sheds new light on the persistence of racism in the field of architecture and its impoverishing effect on our culture.
Magali Sarfatti Larson, author of Behind the Postmodern Facade

Appropriate for all, from general audiences through graduate students and professionals. Recommended.

Victoria Kaplan has produced a wonderful book that exposes how racial considerations severely limit the opportunities of black architects in what is still regarded as a "white gentlemen's profession." Based on ethnographic data with twenty black architects from all over the United States, Kaplan documents how black architects are excluded from networks that result in getting the good jobs, are disliked by customers who want to work with architects who are like them, and are relegated to secondary job assignments when they work in firms. Although her focus is black architects, she shows how racism works in the hearts and minds of nice white middle class folks and makes them behave in ways that reproduce the racial status quo even when dealing with those they regard as “exceptional blacks.” This is a fascinating discussion of the interstices of subtle, smiling discrimination.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Duke University; author of Racism Without Racists