Architect Devanne Pena Focuses on Increasing Number of Black Women in Architecture by Michael Ford

Architect Devanne Pena Focuses on Increasing Number of Black Women in Architecture by Michael Ford

I first met Devanna Pena in Detroit, during the National Organization of Minority Architect’s conference hosted by The Detroit chapter of NOMA. We shared a brief conversation about our top five MC’s during a shuttle ride to the Bros Art Ball. That short conversation has blossomed into a friendship which has led to us supporting each other in various initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in the field of architecture. When Devanne was announced as the editor of The NOMA Magazine, I was eager to join the team of volunteers to support her in having her visions for the publication come to life. Devanne’s design thinking is out of the box. She is a Hip Hop Architect. If you see her, ask her about her presentation with Perkins & Will, where she represents the stages of her career with Tupac tracks. Earlier this year, I called on Devanne to help me facilitate The Universal Hip Hop Museum Design Cypher in The Bronx, where we joined hip hop pioneers, community members, high school students and others to create the programming and conceptual vision of The Universal Hip Hop Museum.

I caught up with Devanne to talk about her recent interview with KUT 90.5, Austin’s NPR station, These Black Women Hope to Build Diversity Within Austin’s Architect Community.

MF: What made you reach out to NPR to discuss lack of diversity in architecture?

DP: I had not met, let alone heard of, an African American woman registered architect until I graduated from North Carolina State University in 2012; that is problematic. I chose to reach out to KUT because as a licensed architect, I have even more of a platform and obligation to continue to pave the way for a group of people historically left out of the architectural profession in our country. The mission of KUT, Austin’s NPR Station, is to create experiences that deepen understanding and connect people; it was a no-brainer!

Over the last decade, there has been an increase of public advocacy for the advancement of women and minorities in our profession. I started on the architecture track a decade ago, and I am a product of this advocacy paired with a tenacity inherited by way of the intersection of the two groups: I am a black woman. Representation is everything.

MF: How have people responded to the article?

DP: The feedback that the segment and article is receiving is simply awe-inspiring. It has prompted important dialogues with my coworkers, which is particularly important because sometimes those dialogues can be tough to start or even awkward, and makes me feel more connected to the people here and my company, Page, on a much deeper level. I’ve received messages and calls from family, friends, NOMA and AIA colleagues, past employers, and local design professionals of many ethnicities all voicing their support and inspiration. It is truly overwhelming. The thought of coming from a single-mothered home in Fayetteville, NC to making a place in Austin as a fully registered architect, still gives me goosebumps. The last 10 years has been nothing short of a mountain; I have no other choice but to reach as I climb.


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