Marnique Heath, FAIA, speaks to AIA on the Importance of Diversity in Architecture and Design by Studios Architecture

Marnique Heath, FAIA, speaks to AIA on the Importance of Diversity in Architecture and Design

DATEFebruary 28, 2024

SOURCEAIA Resource Center

In honor of Black History Month the AIA spoke with Marnique Heath, FAIA, on diversity in the architecture world, challenges facing the profession, and why architects should be civil servants.

Marnique Heath, FAIA, is a Principal and Chair of the Board of Directors of STUDIOS Architecture based in Washington D.C. She was recognized as a member of AIA's College of Fellows in 2023.Raised in Virginia Beach, Heath received both her Bachelors and Masters degrees in architecture from the University of Virginia and started at STUDIOS soon after. Still at the firm 25 years later, Heath leads their Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Council which advances issues related to DEIB both internally and externally. In honor of Black History Month, we spoke with Heath about people that inspire her, diversity in the architecture field, and much more. 

What inspired you to become an architect?

When I was really young I loved to do things that involved making or drawing. When I had time on my own I’d make things out of random scraps I’d find around the house, or draw what I saw from magazines. A lot of that was fashion and interior design oriented, but it was all in the spirit of being creative. As I got a little older, my parents started talking to me about different things I could explore in creative fields and architecture was one of those things. They presented it to me as something that would allow me to explore a lot of different avenues with design, and that’s proven to be true. We touch a lot of different things like the scale of cities, the scale to parks, to buildings, to the scale of interiors and furniture and products. I’ve always maintained an interest in all of those scales. By the time I was in high school, my parents started to connect me to people they knew who led architecture firms locally. I had a chance to see what architects did and learn about the profession that way. When it was time to go to college, I knew architecture was the path I wanted to take.

You founded the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Council at STUDIOS. What does that council work towards and why is diversity especially important in the world of architecture?

Architecture, for so many years, has been a white man’s profession. I’m excited to be part of a firm that recognizes that phenomenon needs to change and that by bringing more voices to the table the solutions we propose are much more rich. While it wasn’t always overtly spoken, I could see in the way that we’ve operated that we’ve always believed in giving people the opportunity to have a voice through design. One of the reasons I’ve remained at STUDIOS my entire career is because I had freedom to lead early. I think young women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, any underrepresented populations can bring a different perspective to the table. It’s important to have diversity to represent the diverse communities we touch and it’s important to let that diversity influence us to think about design in new and different ways. Diverse voices also means people who are new to the profession. People who bring new ideas and new energy. As architects we must be more open and receptive to more voices in these discussions. STUDIOS DEIB Council ensures we bring diverse voices into the firm. We ensure equitable hiring practices and that we’re looking beyond the traditional schools that we may have relied on in the past for potential candidates. The Council also hosts events where the stories and experiences of underrepresented groups are celebrated to expose everyone in the studio to experiences beyond their own.

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