The Ongoing Journey

As part of the upcoming Boston Society of Architect/AIA Exhibition IMPACT: Inspired and Inspiring Women in Design Award of Excellence 20th Anniversary on display from February 14, 2020 to April 5, 2020, I was asked to contribute an image as a previous award recipient. Below is my image and entry.

We are all the summation of the steps we take—forward, backwards, and sideways. Sometimes the momentum propels us to new places, and sometimes we fall flat on our face.

My professional journey embraces both professional work and professional service to the AIA and the community of Boston. Blending these has developed my voice as a designer, and more important, my advocacy and connections to the people I serve through the built environment. I truly believe architects change the world.

A couple of years ago I met Sir Ken Robinson, an educator and expert in creativity. After hearing him speak, I approached him and introduced myself. Later he asked me what I did. I said, “I’m an architect.” His response: “that’s it?” In that moment, he reminded me I was more than a title or job description, just as architects do more than design buildings. We are advocates, family members, citizens, educators, and more. We see the world through our unique lens. It is our power and responsibility to use our voice in society. The next time someone asks you, “What do you do?” How many ways can you answer?

In school, I learned the power of a single brick. When I become a Fellow in the AIA, I made sure there was a brick with my name on it in Washington, DC. Every time I visit this place, I reflect on the steps I took to get where I am, but more importantly how there are more in my future.

Feet at AIA Fellows Bricks

The year 2020 marks the 20th Anniversary of the WID Award of Excellence. For two decades, we have been inspired and astounded by the incredible Awardees. To mark this significant milestone, the Women In Design Community exhibition—IMPACT—was curated to reflect, honor and share the collective impact the recipients have made on our broader community.

The exhibition coincides with the 2020 International Women’s Day. It will be complemented by a range of programming that seeks to reinforce the qualities that are honored through the award: The award is presented in recognition of a person who has enhanced one’s own life in design, whose work exemplifies the best of process and product, and who uses a position of achievement to give back to the design field and to the community at large.

The WID Award of Excellence was an initiative born out of a simple question—what might an awards program look like if it reflected the values of the women in the field? What emerged was an award that recognizes design excellence, but in equal parts journey and character. It considers how the Awardees impact the built world, and also how they use their position to positively influence those around them. It is about contributing in a way that is bigger than a single person.

Much has changed in the two decades that have passed since the inception of this award, and yet we find much progress left to be made. While our industry continues to grapple with issues of gender equity, we also are experiencing a cultural shift that expects more inclusivity and challenges the stereotypes that have for so many generations stifled women’s advancement. And as we evolve, we are seeing that meaningful impact transcends the singular hero(ine); it creates positive changes in our communities.

IMPACT will reveal how women have been a force within the design industry for countless years, and that they exist in the names and faces of the awardees, both accessible and aspirational. The exhibition is not about a single woman, but a community of women who are present and powerful, who influence our future world and inspire our future leaders. It is about reflecting back while also looking forward—to the young woman establishing herself in the field, to the little girl who likes to tinker, and to the young boy who may find heroines as readily available and inspirational as heroes. It will showcase how great design can be transformative to communities, as well as how we must inspire and support one another as we strive toward excellence.

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Emily is an Architect, Mother of 2, and Somerville, MA resident.

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