Elevated Conversations, Tamarah Begay, AIA

Submitted by ce8f442d-41a9-… on Tue, 11/22/2022 - 21:11
{"version":"0.3.0","atoms":[],"cards":[],"markups":[["i"],["a",["href","https:\/\/www.ids-a.com\/"]],["b"]],"sections":[[1,"p",[[0,[0],0,"AIA\u2019s Elevated Conversations series features architects\nfrom diverse backgrounds and highlights their perspectives on their career\npaths, changes they\u2019ve seen in the profession, the importance of diversity and\ninclusion, and more. To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, we spoke with\nTamarah Begay, AIA, founder of "],[0,[1],1,"Indigenous\nDesign Studio + Architecture"],[0,[],1,". Begay is the first Navajo woman licensed\narchitect and an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[2],1,"What inspired you to become an architect?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"When I was young, I wanted to be a football player. Growing up with my dad, he\u2019d set me next to the TV and teach me about football. I used to carry a little football around with me all the time. When I told him I wanted to play football, he told me, \u201cOh no, you can\u2019t do that.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"I found out what architecture was soon after that. In\nelementary school, I remember a presentation of all different professions;\nthere were firefighters, doctors, police officers, and nurses. There\nwas a white male with a black suit, a white shirt, and a dark tie with a roll\nof drawings and a model. He was the last to present, and I remember being very\ninterested in his model. He presented himself as an architect. I went home, and\nI told my dad I wanted to be an architect, and he told me \u201cOh no, you can\u2019t be.\u201d\n"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Growing up on the Navajo Reservation, the plan was that I\nwas going to go to college, get a degree and sociology and come back to the\ncommunity to help people. I went to school at the University of New Mexico to\ndo that, but I always caught myself walking over to the School of Architecture.\nI wasn\u2019t disinterested in sociology; I think it brings a lot of dynamics to\narchitecture. Eventually, when I graduated, my father didn\u2019t know I graduated\nwith an architecture degree. He gave me a look that said, \u201cOh wow, you did it.\u201d "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"It took me until I was really started in my professional\ncareer to realize what he meant when he said I can\u2019t be an architect. I was\nblinded by the stereotype of what an architect looked like. I remember early on,\nI\u2019d be sitting in meetings, and I\u2019d be the only person asked to take notes. The\ncoffee would be gone, and I\u2019d be asked, \u201cOh can you go make some more coffee?\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"When I\u2019d tell them that I didn\u2019t know how to make coffee, I\u2019d\nget a disgusted look. I\u2019d explain it to them, and they\u2019d look at me like I\nwasn\u2019t part of the team. I always looked at it in a sports analogy, like\nfootball. I wanted to be part of the team, but they wouldn\u2019t let me be a part\nof the team, but I wasn\u2019t embraced in that way. I was at a firm that used me to\nget jobs, and when it would come in, they\u2019d give it to a male counterpart. I\nwas frustrated; I had ideas about design and how I wanted to approach it, but\nthey wouldn\u2019t listen, so the ultimatum became, \u201cCoach if you don\u2019t play me, then\nI\u2019m out of here.\u201d "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"So, I set out to make my own team. I created a firm that is\nimpactful to not just indigenous communities, but I want non-indigenous people\nto learn from the indigenous worldview. Taking those values and implementing\nthem into the design process, means respect for Mother Earth and going back to\ntraditional values. We\u2019re thinking about connections to the world, connections\nto language, culture, and tradition. If more people took on that perspective, and\nwere committed to having diverse voices heard, we\u2019d be on a better path with\nsome of the biggest issues out there, like climate change. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[2],1,"Who were some of your biggest role models and mentors\nwhen starting your career?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"My biggest inspiration were the female role models in my\nfamily. I had a grandmother who was a medicine woman; she\u2019d talk to us about\nliving in this world and leaving a path and making a difference, not just for\nyourself, but for your family, your community, and your people. There\u2019s such a\nbig female presence in my family; they\u2019ve all paved the path for me. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"When I was in school, I\u2019d research female Native American\narchitects and there were not many. I wouldn\u2019t look to big architects; I\u2019d look\nto local architects and a lot of our indigenous architecture. I\u2019d go to school\nand look at Pueblo architecture, like Chaco Canyon. These people built small\nurban cities, and those buildings still stand. There\u2019s a lot of thinking and\nplanning about how it was laid out based on Cardinal directions, the seasons,\nand the wind. If we can start to think about architecture like that today, then I\nthink we can make a difference in issues like climate change and really\ndesigning with nature. A lot of these indigenous structures are great, and I\noften wonder why they aren\u2019t studied more in architecture schools. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"We need to look at that and take a step back. We can learn a\nlot. So much of my inspiration came from understanding the history, culture, language,\nand traditions and implementing that, and coming up with planning principles\nthat aren\u2019t exactly literal interpretations. The meaning behind the tradition\nand the stories is where you can learn a lot about architecture. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[2],1,"What advice do you have for young people from indigenous\ncommunities who may be looking to become architects?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"I am teaching a graduate studio at the University of New\nMexico this semester. A lot of people from indigenous communities don\u2019t get\ntheir voices heard very often, and I always tell those students to speak up. I\nrecently gathered all the indigenous students in the UNM architecture\nprogram, and there were only like 12 of them. I asked if they knew each other,\nand they didn\u2019t! "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"I told them to talk to each other. They were all from\nsimilar communities; I told them they should talk about that, communicate with\neach other, ask questions, and don\u2019t be afraid to think about their identity\nand culture. I tell them to include that as part of their design. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"There are too many nonindigenous people telling indigenous\ncommunities what they need. The government might apply a design or tell us what\nour schools should look like. I tell those students that we need to speak up\nand guide what architecture for indigenous communities should be. I\u2019d tell\nyoung people to speak up, especially when it comes to thier community. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[2],1,"Why is diversity especially important in architecture?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"We\u2019re a very diverse country, and we need architecture that\npeople can be stimulated by. People are losing their culture and their\nheritage. Why doesn\u2019t architecture become a beacon for us trying to learn about\nour history and represent who we are?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[2],1,"If you could change something about the field of architecture\nwith a snap of your finger, what would it be?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"I\u2019d want the perception of architecture to change for people\naround the world. When someone thinks of an architect, the first thing that pops\ninto their head is a white male. If we can change that, we have a long way to go,\nbut explaining that there is more than architecture to drawing would be a good\nthing. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Sometimes I walk construction sites, and people will ask,\n\u201cwhere\u2019s the architect?\u201d When they find out it\u2019s me, they\u2019re often shocked that\nI\u2019m a woman. I ask what they think an architect looks like, and they have no\nidea how to respond. It\u2019s important to change the perception of what architects\ndo and what they look like. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"I got introduced to architecture at a young age, and it was\nportrayed as a field for men. That\u2019s still often the perception today. I think\nit\u2019s hard for people to see women climbing up the ladder, becoming professional\narchitects, and becoming principals in firms. "]]]]}
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Tamarah Begay, AIA, the first licensed Navajo woman architect, discusses her career path, the importance of diversity in architecture, and much more.
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