This young Haitian-American woman is a powerhouse in her own right. Pascale Sablan’s passion for design, activism and Haiti has distinguished her from her peers, making her only the 315th living African-American female architect to receive licensure in the United States.
What attracted you to architecture?
I was blessed with the opportunity to travel abroad quite frequently during my childhood. I observed that architecture can be a direct interpretation of culture, or in some cases, a particular family. What I understood “home” to be in the United States was very different in another country. The idea that you can make a tailored space sparked my creativity and imagination.
“An architect!” was always my answer when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. While pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture at Pratt Institute, I developed my voice; I learned how to defend both my designs and my design process. It was also where I developed my drawing skills, since I did hand drafting and model making (it was common to find me covered in sawdust from working with my hands in the woodshop). More importantly, I was introduced to a collaborative working process. Late at night in the studio, after the professors went home, all of the students would get together to share their ideas and knowledge.
What are some of the major projects you’ve been part of?
I have been on the design team for a variety of mixed-use, commercial, cultural and residential projects in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, India, Azerbaijan, Japan, and United Arab Emirates. However most of my recent projects are highly confidential and can not share.
Here are a few projects that I am most proud to be apart of the design team. The African Burial Ground National Monument, the first structure in the U.S. to acknowledge and commemorate the remains of both enslaved and free Africans. I was part of the process that protected our ancestors’ memories and contributions. The AMHE Haiti Campus that I collaborated with my ACE Mentoring students to design. This project allowed me to combine two of my passions, giving back to my native country as well as mentoring to introduce students to this incredible field.
You were named AIA young architect of the year. How important is that honor?
Being named one of the 2018 AIA Young Architect Award Recipient is an incredible honor. In their words, “Emerging talent deserves recognition. The AIA Young Architects Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.”
This is a national award that honors architects who make a difference in the profession in both their work and in their activism. It is humbling to be recognized many of my hero’s. It is also an enormous opportunity to shed light on the various organizations that I support. Organizations such as the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation and National Organization of Minority Architects where I serve as both the Northeast Regional Vice President & Historian. I curated the SAY IT LOUD Minority Designer Exhibition that focus on making the architectural field a more inclusive profession. This exhibition was featured at the Center of Architecture in New York, the United Nations Visitors Centre and the American Institute of Architecture National Convention.
As an architect when you look at Haitian architecture, what should be going on there?
Vibrant, colorful, textured, infused with story and culture. Many of the traditional structures tell a French story and not necessarily a Haitian narrative. With all these opportunities of design and reconstruction my hope is that the true Haitian vision, identity and future aspirations are captured and told through the built environment.
What would you consider the apex of your career, what do you want to achieve further in the field?
Becoming a registered Architect of New York was by far one of my most proud moment. The exam process was a lengthy and grueling experience but the victory of the undertaking is now I am 315th living female African American Registered Architect in the United States. As of 2017, there are only 400 women who hold this distinction. We make up .02 percent of the design and construction profession. With this accomplishment I now possess the authority to be responsible and held accountable of my environment. Through my journey I have come to realize that being a great architect also includes empowering those without a voice and to be a persistent advocate for underserved communities.
What advice do you have for aspiring architects?
Network, network, and network — not just professionally, but with your classmates as well. Your classmates and colleagues are going to grow with you and do amazing things, and someday you will be surrounded by people who inspire you to push yourself to do more. Lastly, you always have something to offer to the design conversation and process, no matter what that little voice in your head says. Always be expressive, don’t be shy, and share, share, share.