More than 50 architects, designers, and students arrived at the American Institute of Architects‘ Center for Architecture Friday afternoon to attend the third annual Latinos in Architecture (LIA) Nexo exhibit, which features design work from both local professional architecture firms and students.
A projector in the middle of the room featured student work from institutions such as UTSA, San Antonio College, and ACE, a local high school mentorship program, while the professional entries from multiple architecture firms were perched on the surrounding white walls. The works at the center, located at 1344 S. Flores St. #102, will be on display until Oct. 12.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a national association for licensed architects and emerging professionals; AIA San Antonio is the fourth largest chapter in the State of Texas. Latinos in Architecture is one of AIA’s branches that aims to improve Latino presence in design-related professions.
“(Latinos) are in the minority still, the numbers show it nationally. The idea is to home grow professionals,” said LIA Co-Chair Adrianna Swindle. “We have to focus on that and tune in on that – it’s a big effort focused on the youth. We also have a repository of professional architecture books through our book drive, and for the last two years, we’ve been taking the books to local high schools that want to create architecture libraries.”
Swindle said that the exhibit, which is displayed throughout the month of September every year, is also meant to highlight National Hispanic Heritage Month. However, Swindle added that although AIA is “a minority-based organization, it’s broader than that and not solely exclusive for minorities.”
“This is open to anyone in the architecture community,” said Donovan Linsey, an architecture student at UTSA. “And it’s cool to be architecture students and have free events like this that the AIA sponsors that students can go to.”
This year, Swindle said that LIA received around 20 professional applications, 17 of which were chosen to be included in the exhibit.
“We received 70 student applications, and those are all up there (on the slideshow),” she added. “It’s cool because the students have an opportunity to display their work in a public and professional setting.”
In addition to the excitement of mingling with professionals, enjoying an array of hors d’oeuvres, and viewing a wide variety of designs on the walls, many of the design and architecture students also saw the exhibit as a learning opportunity.
“It’s really important to know what to put on the exhibition boards, because no one is here to present the project,” said UTSA architecture student Estefania Barajas. ‘We’re still learning, so coming here to see how architects are presenting (their projects) is really awesome.”
Professional designers and architects reflected on the value of exposing young people to more events like the ones put on by the LIA.
“Latinos growing up (are usually) not exposed to many Latino architects, and I would have loved to have this experience as a student,” said Overland Partners designer Siboney Diaz-Sanchez. “The exposure, the networking opportunities … the (students) get to mingle with people in their profession and I never had that. It’s great.”
Ryan Bloom, who moved to San Antonio in January from Chicago, is studying for his architecture license. Bloom reflected on the different regional design trends and their similarities.
“Everybody’s ideas are very similar in the sense that design transfers regions,” Bloom said. “It’s done in different ways but you can dive into it no matter where you are. It’s always cool to see different regional designs.”
Bloom pointed to a design inspired by the Spanish-colonial Missions as an example.
“This is (an example of) the portrayal of some old, heritage architecture and we can see the design made out of light,” he said. “(I’ve noticed that) people celebrate the design of a region, so that’s pretty neat to see.”
Top image: UTSA architecture students Estefania Barajas, Eddie Sanchez, and Donovan Linsey look at professional firm exhibition pieces perched on the wall at the Latinos In Architecture NEXO exhibit. Photo by Rocío Guenther.