Securing a platform for one’s work is never easy; creating an entirely new way to showcase the portfolios of women and BIPOC architects from around the world is obviously even tougher. That’s why when Pascale Sablan finished her two-year tenure as the president of the New York chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 2017, she drew from the well of connections she had established there to arrange the first SAY IT LOUD exhibition.
At NYCOBA | NOMA, Sablan had already begun an initiative to showcase members’ work on the website once a month, and SAY IT LOUD – NEW YORK grew from those initial exhibitors. The show, staged at the Center for Architecture in January 2017, put the work of 20 minority architects on display.
That first exhibition, according to Sablan, had three main principles that have carried over to the subsequent shows that followed: “People had to see our faces (there are headshots of each architect next to their projects), hear our voices (video testimonials were run alongside all of the work), and feel our impact (the actual work on display).” SAY IT LOUD – NEW YORK also acted as a proving ground for the loud, colorful graphic design that would be used in future installations.
After the success of SAY IT LOUD’s first iteration, the show was installed at the Visitors Centre on the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan; although the campus is much more difficult to access than the Center, it provided Sablan with a much broader, more international audience. Remember Slavery: Say It Loud was produced with the UN to highlight the contributions of people of African descent for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on March 25. The show proved so successful that in March 2019, the UN helped Sablan translate the exhibition into eight different languages and installed versions of Remember Slavery: Say It Loud at UN locations around the world.
At home, Sablan told AN that now, whenever she’s invited to do a speaking engagement, she makes sure to arrange a SAY IT LOUD exhibition in the area to uplift the work of local women and BIPOC architects. So far Sablan has curated 14 more SAY IT LOUD installations across the U.S., and in the U.K., thanks to a collaboration with the Royal Institute of British Architects. With the coronavirus pandemic still raging, Sablan has had to transition her upcoming SAY IT LOUD exhibitions online, as well as digitize past versions of the show so that they’re all virtually accessible (unfortunately the installation slated for the ill-fated 2020 AIA Conference on Architecture has also been canceled).
So far, Sablan’s work has elevated the voices and work of 250 designers, from students to established and licensed architects; Sablan told AN that she wants to double the number of architects represented to 500, accrue submissions from every inhabited continent, and ultimately, use the content the initiative has collected to create a textbook (or series) of diverse design resources. Collecting and displaying quality work, its impact, and the experiences of the designers would all go a long way to help SAY IT LOUD act as a repository for those looking to report on, find precedent in, or hire diverse designers.
In an effort to boost the amount of media attention that diverse designers receive, Sablan has also launched the SAY IT WITH – MEdia commitment, a call to action for architecture and design journalism outlets to tangibly increase their representation of diverse designers. Signers would pledge to increase their coverage by 5 percent each year, up to a 15 percent minimum, and to include historic and cultural research to contextualize those projects. The beauty of SAY IT WITH – MEdia, Sablan said, is that it works hand-in-hand with the archive SAY IT LOUD is building; she’s already assembled a growing wellspring of sources to draw from.
And if you, dear reader, want to submit to the next SAY IT LOUD, the deadline is September 1. Interested women and BIPOC architects can apply at https://www.beyondthebuilt.com/say-it-now, and view already-submitted work here.