Affirmative Action in Architecture: Implications for Architectural Education

August 30, 2022


Historical architectural texts significantly promote culture, its norms, and values in the architectural school. Recently, there have been a lot of texts that highlight the need to include women in the field. Other texts portray a deep-rooted discourse on gender and racial imbalances in historical architectural texts.


Modern architecture builds upon knowledge obtained from the past. Educators are currently presenting to students a modern education based on the past. Unfortunately, the presentation is biased in many ways. There is a greater need for educators to go beyond affirmative action. They should enter into another realm where diversity and cultural values are included in architectural education.

What is affirmative action?

Affirmative action definition can be viewed from an array of angles. It is also referred to as positive discrimination, anti-discrimination, or equal rights policy. It is a policy created and enshrined in the law with the sole role of promoting minority groups. A group is considered a minority when it is disadvantaged over others both in education and society.


They can be a race, ethnic group, gender, or religious group. The policy focus on historical injustices, discrimination, and vulnerabilities. It then creates policies that help eliminate all the vices and give equal opportunities in education and work.


Compared with the 1960s and 70s, education today has improved in the US and other countries. the levels of discrimination are lesser than they were then. There is still a high level of discrimination in universities. Specifically, the school of architecture records discrimination in admissions. You can write an essay about discrimination and the role of affirmative action in university admissions. There are various paper samples available on Studydriver to give you more ideas. You can access them online from your college or any other place.

How affirmative action works in different spheres

The main aim of affirmative action is to design for diversity across different parts of society. It is backed by the government to provide equal opportunities to underrepresented groups. The underrepresentation can be in the field of academics, government jobs, political representation, and private work opportunities. They can extend access to better housing, financing, and elimination of discrimination and other historical biases.

Affirmative action in the architecture field

The AJ race diversity survey recently published an alarming report. The report shows the architecture field is systematically racist. The problem of racism is continually worsening, with the gap widening daily. It is made worse by the numerous obstacles created against people with a non-white background. The most affected groups are the black, Asian, and other people from monitory ethnic backgrounds.


The report shows the problem is not only in the work field but also in the educational field. According to the report, 43% of those interviewed say racism is more prevalent today in architecture than it was 30 years ago. Affirmative action in the architecture field is needed today more than ever.


Architecture today is changing, with urban architecture taking center stage. If various forms of discrimination continue to be experienced, it will continually have negative effects on society. Continued affirmative action will help bring such negative effects to an end.

The history of Affirmative Action in Architectural Education

To explain history better, Sharon E. Sutton has written a book. It is titled “When Ivory Towers Were Black: A Story about Race in America’s Cities and Universities.” Its narrative is about the struggles faced by minority students at Columbia University’s school of architecture. It all started in the 1960s and progressed into the 1970s.


Immense cultural transformations were going on in universities around the US. The universities had dominant pedagogies and policies that prioritized whiteness overwhelmingly. There was an urgent need for affirmative action that would bring a paradigm shift in the school of architecture. Vigorous lobbying, movements, and demonstrations started in the early 1960s.


There was hope when President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order Number 11246 in 1965. It required every government contractor to extend the chances of jobs to minorities through affirmative action. This EO had a significant impact on architectural education throughout US universities.

The disruption at Columbia University by architecture students

The Columbia University campus was a place of dirty politics in the 1960s. There was a proposed new gymnasium construction in Morningside Park. It attracted immediate resistance from the community and students. The gymnasium was deemed to cause heightened segregation. In February 1967, a group of students staged protests against CIA recruitment on campus.


Student selection on boards was aligned to race, and there was selective military recruitment on campus. In April 1967, a group of 800 students staged a fierce demonstration. Protests went on into the better part of 1968. The result was the formation of university policies that included all students. Discrimination in admission and the construction of the proposed gymnasium was stopped.

How affirmative action affects architects and architectural education

The construction of the gymnasium left the university in deep debt. Due to this, tuition fees were increased to raise money for paying debts and salaries. The demonstrations empowered students more. Better campus structures were created, and students got better freedom of self-expression.


The university agreed to add more black students as faculty members. More black students were admitted into the university. The once white-dominated institution was changed. Given these results, it is evident that Affirmative action opens new opportunities to minorities.


The administration of President Lyndon Johnson will be remembered for initiating affirmative action in the US. He was instrumental in promoting the improvement of opportunities for black Americans between 1963 to 1969. The disruption bore fruit after more black students were admitted to campus. Although discrimination is still witnessed today, affirmative action has helped bring great changes in the architecture field. The changes are felt both in the work field and in academics.


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