An Interview with Pascale Sablan of Beyond the Built Environment

High-Profile recently interviewed Pascale Sablan, FAIA, NOMA, LEED AP, founder and executive director of Beyond the Built Environment LLC.

Pascale Sablan / Photo by Christina Deo

High-Profile: What is Beyond the Built Environment’s mission?

Pascale Sablan: Beyond the Built Environment uniquely addresses the inequitable disparities in architecture by providing a holistic platform aimed to support numerous stages of the architecture pipeline. I founded it in 2018 to represent marginalized people, both within the profession and within communities most underserved by the profession.

We promote agency among diverse audiences and advocate for equity in the built environment through our approach which utilizes a method I termed “the triple E, C.” The triple E, C method is a strategy to “Engage, Elevate, Educate, and Collaborate.” We engage diverse audiences through programming promoting intellectual discourse and exchange. We elevate the identities and contributions of women and diverse designers through exhibitions, curated lectures, and documentaries that testify to the provided value of their built work and its spatial impact. We educate the masses through formal and informal learning opportunities that introduce architecture as a bridge to fill the gaps of inequity. We collaborate with community stakeholders and organizations to crowdsource information and amplify opportunities to advocate for equitable and reflectively diverse environments.

We aim to involve everyone – from preschoolers to practitioners and pundits – as critical stakeholders and advocate for just, diverse environments.

HP: Can you tell us about the SAY IT LOUD exhibits and how they correlate with the Great Designers Library on your website?

PS: Beyond the Built Environment was founded to create a platform for diverse designers to document themselves. We maintain a digital record of SAY IT LOUD exhibits, featuring profiles of architects and architectural designers and their work and contributions to the built environment.

The constantly increasing Great Diverse Designers Library serves as a resource to potential employers – developers looking for diverse architects and designers to hire for a project – and to students who feel diversity is missing from their architecture educations, and anyone in between. The library currently includes 639 diverse designers from around the globe.

HP: What is Beyond the Built Environment currently working on? Any particular event or initiative?

PS: SAY IT WITH – ME(dia) is an initiative that requires media outlets – digital, print, and broadcast – to increase representation. Representation matters and media publications have neglected the stories and contributions, and in some cases, erased the existence of women and BIPOC designers. With this pledge, they are committing to dismantling that injustice through their platform. On Juneteenth of this year, we released the progress. Six media outlets have signed on to the pledge resulting in over 268,000 monthly impressions!

SAY IT LOUD – NOW is an extension of the SAY IT LOUD Exhibition initiative. On Juneteenth of 2020, we reported that BBE has elevated and proclaimed the greatness of 250 diverse designers through the 15 SAY IT LOUD exhibitions. The goal initially was to reach 500 in five years. The urgency for this content is now, and as we discuss the books that must be removed from the curriculum, we are looking to make a meaningful addition. We will publish a Great Diverse Designers textbook. This call for action is setting a goal of increasing the content of the library to both serve as a directory for business opportunities for the featured designers and material for the publication of our textbook.

HP: How can other firms become involved?

PS: Everyone can get involved and move the mission forward. Firms can encourage their staff to submit, sponsor staff members submissions, or even sponsor a SAY IT LOUD exhibition for their community.

Organizations can partner with Beyond the Built Environment to collaborate on the hosting of an exhibition or help plan/sponsor a SEE IT LOUD camp. Organizations with a strong relationship with media publications can leverage their influence to encourage publications to commit to the SAY IT WITH – MEdia pledge and support the publication of the Great Diverse Designers book.

Individuals can submit for and encourage their network to submit for SAY IT LOUD exhibitions, or can sign up to host a BBE Instagram takeover for a week to share their stories. They too can leverage their influence to encourage publications to commit to the SAY IT WITH – MEdia pledge and support the publication of the Great Diverse Designers book. Designers can also volunteer to be a mentor for the SEE IT LOUD camp as well as encourage students in their community to join one of our events.

Everyone can support us by visiting our past exhibition virtual galleries and explore and get to know about these incredible women and BIPOC designers and spread the word about their greatness!!

HP: What is your hope for the future of Beyond the Built Environment?

PS: In underserved communities, poorly appointed architecture perpetuates inequality. These inequities more often adversely affect communities of color. As an architect, I deeply value collaborative processes of creating environments that reflect and sustain diversity and the dignity of human life. I believe representation is quintessential to achieving diversity. With my advocacy work, I aspire to inspire marginalized groups to understand the important role they can have in deciding and designing their environments.

Dismantling and eradicating racism and oppression from the built environment and the profession is my ultimate goal for Beyond the Built Environment.