Advocacy in Architecture
What is advocacy? Advocacy is having the ability to speak up for oneself or on the behalf of others regarding issues that affect our lives.
Why is advocacy significant to me, as a future architect? Architects are often involved in current issues of varying scales that have a large impact on the lives of many. We are trained as problem-solvers and, therefore, should demand that our voices be heard. Advocacy allows us to be the voice of many different people from varying perspectives; this allows us to stand up for what we believe in and to play a part in bettering our world. Advocacy is a way to serve a community or group you identify with or care about.
A few forms advocacy can take in architecture school: inclusion of others, acting as the voice of your class or group when issues arise, acknowledging issues and respectfully making others aware of them, creating opportunities for others to voice their opinions and beliefs, critiquing what we know as day-to-day ‘norms’, and being involved in revising and maintaining your school’s social equity policy.
How-to Advocate Day-to-Day (in Architecture School)
Assure that the topic or issue you are passionate about is more than a personal issue or bias.
If you witness or experience an event that prompts a passion that completely consumes you (this could be positive, negative, or even a mix of emotions), give yourself some time to calm down and allow your best logic + reasoning to infuse into your passion. Don’t stifle your passion, but channel it into developing a productive, logical argument and strategy.
Stay determined to inform and educate others after the initial influx of passions subside.
Educate yourself. Understand different contexts of the issue, different arguments supporting the cause, and common counterarguments.
After you have calmed down and channeled your passion into logic, decide on your most effective and feasible course of action to spread awareness.
Continue to educate and inform others when opportunities arise. Speak up if you notice something unethical or inequitable. Don’t be afraid to spotlight an issue, but remain respectful to others. Stay calm and open-minded when conversing about the topic; show people that you should acknowledge these issues and openly talk about them, even in daily conversation.
A personal experience with advocacy
Over the course of a week or so, I witnessed a series of events within my studio that immediately damaged our studio culture. Both students and professors were responsible for this negative energy. I, along with other classmates, quickly became outraged at what we were witnessing, but I did not know what course of action would be most effective in the situation. After giving myself a little bit of time to cool down, I was able to come up with a strategy to resolve the situation. I asked my professor to meet with me and I made an outline of what I wanted to acknowledge and discuss. Through explaining the students’ perceptions of, and reactions to, the situation, utilizing our Student Culture and Equity Policy as a governing tool, and mentioning ways the situation could have been alleviated or even prevented, I was able to have a constructive conversation with my professor. Allowing myself time to structure a plan that appropriately and effectively represented me and my peers led to a correspondence that fostered a better understanding of our studio roles and dynamics.