The Board of Directors and the Strategic Council of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has honored Pascale Sablan, FAIA, with the 2021 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Established in 1972, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award annually honors an architect or organization that champions a range of social issues. As an architect and an activist, Sablan is a strong proponent of women and diverse design professionals. Through documentation, careful curation, and promotion of their work, she has greatly enhanced the profession and broadened social awareness of the built environment. As only the 315th black woman architect to attain licensure in the United States, Sablan’s drive has inspired those around her and spurred the network she has built to advocate for themselves and their communities.
Sablan is a senior associate at New York’s S9 Architecture and has represented the firm at a number of local and national professional events and educational institutions, assuming a variety of roles from lecturer to panel discussion participant. Her very first project, while a member of Aarris Architects’ team, helped position her as an advocate. Sablan joined the firm when it was a finalist for the design of the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York, and she helped construct models and contributed to drawings from the schematic design through design development. Sablan also drafted the numerous symbols now engraved along the walls of this important monument, which shares the history of the more than 20,000 African slaves buried beneath City Hall and neighboring federal buildings.
A member of the Haitian diaspora, Sablan was selected to serve as the lead architect for a new school campus in the country, replacing the one destroyed in the devastating 2010 earthquake. For the project, Sablan blended her humanitarian and mentoring interests and designed the sustainable campus with the aid of high school students involved in the ACE Mentor Program. Together, they shaped the campus and its requisite structures to withstand future events while positioning it as an important resource for both students and the community surrounding it. In addition, Sablan has regularly traveled to Haiti to assist in rebuilding the significant number of elementary schools destroyed in the earthquake and to lead construction workshops for local contractors.
In order to involve everyone in the design process, specifically marginalized people, Sablan founded Beyond the Built Environment, LLC, which addresses the disparities in the profession and engages diverse audiences through her strategy to engage, elevate, educate, and collaborate. Her efforts have been widely recognized with awards and honors, including an AIA Young Architects Award, the New York Center for Architecture’s Emerging Professional Award, and the National Organization of Minority Architects Member of the Year Award.