A few months back, we included Black Females In Architecture (BFA) in our resources for organizations that are uplifting Black voices in design and architecture. BFA is a network and enterprise founded to increase the visibility of Black and Black mixed heritage females within the architectural industry and other built environment fields and actively address issues of inequality and diversity within the industry.
To find out more about the impact BFA and its members are having on the industry, we spoke to one of the organization’s members, Eniola Sonusi. Learn more about BFA and check out its Instagram!
Can you briefly describe your work? What type of impact do you hope it has?
As a young professional, I have been fortunate to work on many exciting schemes in London, UK, and Lagos, Nigeria. I have worked across various sectors including aviation, arts and culture, commercial and residential. However, I have developed a keen interest for placemaking, humanitarian design and the socio-economic advantages of embracing vernacular architecture. At the core of this, the underlying theme is a desire to help people live a more rewarding, sustainable and balanced life.
What’s been one of your most rewarding experiences with the BFA?
The most rewarding thing about BFA is connecting with other women who look like me and share similar experiences. The world of architecture can be very lonely as a Black female and it’s nice to know that there is a community of Black women rooting for you. I have met some commendable women through this network and hope that more students, educators and professionals will tap into this network and leverage the opportunities available.
How can architecture help counter the systemic issues that many communities are facing today?
One of the many positives about this profession is being able to define the way people inhabit space. I think as designers we have a great responsibility to truly understand who we are designing for, and this can only happen by engaging with the users of the space without any preconceptions or imposed narratives and also improving the diversity of teams. I recently attended an online event where Dr. Bridget Snaith was speaking on her findings about the public realm and how parks and green spaces can discriminate by design. It was very insightful, and I believe more discussions like this need to take place where decisions are being made. Within design guidelines, we are forced to think about factors like accessibility, but it seems like ethnic minorities are often marginalized. This poses the question, “In order to address discrimination in placemaking, should policies be embedded within design guidelines and should ‘discrimination’ consultants be mandated in any development impacting the public realm?”
What have been some of the most successful or most important architecture projects you’ve seen?
I am most inspired by the projects led by Francis Kere’s foundation in Burkina Faso. The Kéré Foundation is dedicated to help Gando in Burkina Faso build a sustainable future for itself using a combination of traditional building techniques and modern engineering methods. With the help of his foundation, the community has self-built schools, a library and a community centre. His work inspired my thesis design project, which was focused on creating a hub for local artisans to develop their work, hold training workshops and reach a wider range of customers. The cultural enterprise centre was designed to celebrate vernacular architecture with an initial entry point in Lagos, Nigeria. It serves as a vibrant space to promote collaboration, equip the artisans with income generating opportunities and to foster social integration between various classes and tribes.
Is there any particular direction you’d like to see the field go in?
I would like to see architects, other consultants within the built environment and the general public become a truly collaborative force. The truth is, the average person doesn’t actually know what an architect does – unlike lawyers and doctors, for example. Architects have a wide breadth of knowledge and should be at the forefront of the development of cities, especially now when climate-sensitive design is of utmost importance. The industry needs to find effective ways to break down barriers, connect with the general public, promote the work that we do and steer the conversation about climate emergency design. Similarly to Participatory Urbanism, I believe architects need to advocate for climate responsive design by developing their own sustainable projects in order to demonstrate the possibilities to various stakeholders.
If you want a way to support Black Females in Architecture today, you can donate here to help fund the organization and its important work.