Getting to Know the 2% – Joseph Ignacio Ruiz

Seeking Equity & Diversity in Architecture

In partnership with SDNOMA, we are proud to present, Overcoming the 2%: Seeking Equity and Diversity in our Built Environment. As it is approaching quickly, we created a video capturing our panelist’s views on the most significant challenges people of color currently face in entering the profession. Did you know that only 2% of licensed architects are Black and African American? 

Join us on May 13th at 5:00 pm, where we will hear from Melina Aluwi, Philicia Harris, Jamie Intervalo, Mathew Picardl, and Joseph Ignacio Ruiz about why this disparity exists and what we need to do to change it.

Have a watch, and sign up for the webinar to discuss how we as an industry can overcome these challenges.



Joseph Ignacio Ruiz

Hello, Joseph, what profession are you in?

I’m in Architecture and Design. I’m the co-founder and CCO of the Madelon Group and a partner at T38 Studio.

What was the biggest challenge for you in entering the profession as a person of color?

Coming to study in the United States at a late age of my life and without knowing the language well and the insecurities that this brought to me was definitely a challenge, especially in a profession that requires a lot of verbal description. But as my work became a tool to transmit what mattered to me and the best manifestation of my approach to architecture and design, things got better. In a more general sense, I still see our industry being largely informed by a Western view on art and culture, this has more rapidly changed in other creative disciplines.

How should the challenges for people of color in your profession (or the built environment in general) be addressed?

It is hard for me to identify these challenges as a direct result of my ethnicity. It has always been more about the challenges of entering the industry as a young professional. On many levels, I still perceive it as a very elitist industry where creative outlets concentrate in certain regions of the country and where you go to school, and the connections that result from it matter. Also, practices that I considered unethical, such as unpaid internships, can put people of color at a disadvantage in the process of starting a career path. For many of these people, that is not an option and ultimately leads to abandonment of the profession or pivoting towards a part of it where they might not fully explore their interests.

What one piece of advice would you pass on to the next generation of professionals of color in your industry?

I think there is always a huge loss in practices that do not promote inclusivity. Architecture isn’t enriched by other creative industries like art, music, and design, and I believe that is a huge mistake. I do see this changing. To avoid incorrect appropriation practices, you have to be part of this shift. Believe in yourself and understand that what makes you unique and where you come from matters for good.

Click here to see a video of our panel discussing some of these issues. 

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