Born and raised in Jamaica, June Grant knew that architecture was her calling from the young age of five. Today, she is the founder and design principal at blink!LAB, an environmentally conscious and social justice-oriented design studio in Oakland. She gives her Brief But Spectacular take on being an architect.
Judy Woodruff: Born and raised in Jamaica, June Grant knew that architecture was her calling from the age of 5.
Today, she is the founder and design principal at blink!LAB, an environmentally conscious and social justice-oriented design studio in Oakland, California.
Tonight, she gives her Brief But Spectacular take on being an architect, part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
June Grant: I am one of 467 licensed African American female architects in the country. And I believe there are 150,000 licensed architects in the U.S., so we are the ultimate minority of minorities.
There’s a lot of talk about representation matters, but I think it really matters if we’re in the community on a regular basis, because kids and parents need to see us in action to understand that it is possible.
I grew up on the island of Jamaica in the city of Kingston, and, like many families, I was encouraged to take practical courses, accounting, science. But I was never interested.
And when I finally migrated to the U.S., I knew I always wanted to do architecture. My focus is actually high-performance buildings, where we’re looking at the building as a holistic experience, in terms of energy use, water use.
Growing up on Jamaica, I have lived through power outages, I have lived through water shutoffs. I have showered from a bucket. Those life experiences were important to me, and they have actually fueled how I approach a building and how I approach design.
Scarcity around resources is something I grew up around. And so I’m conscious of waste. I am really good as a design strategist. So, what I do is, I ask a lot of questions. I’m actually better at asking questions and sitting down and sketching.
So, I will ask, where have you been? What decisions were made in the past that brought us to this point? What are your aspirations for the future? And then I tend to project even further forward, 20, 50, 100 years. And those are the clients that are attracted to me, because they’re actually looking for very long-term solutions.
And then I reverse-engineer to see, how can we create those solutions today?
I grew up in a conservative society, where girls were supposed to play with dolls, and my boy cousins were given the chemistry set. But I wanted the chemistry set. I think we have to start allowing girls to explore, explore the hammer, explore with the nails, use a saw, make things, explore, be physical, tumble, fall, scratches.
We need that, because it is that exploration and self-confidence that you will need going forward in any field you pursue.
My name is June Grant, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on being an architect.
Judy Woodruff: Such a great perspective.
And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular episodes at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.