Behind the Facade: FTI Voices of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Like many businesses and institutions, we at FTI have been wrestling with challenges of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), what it means to us, how to realize these important aspirations in the Institute. In many respects these aspirations are baked into our DNA in the form of our missions strategies and core values, which explicitly states: “...engaging and elevating a broad based and inclusive membership through pursuit of the Institute’s Mission.”

We take this seriously. We target sectors of the notoriously fragmented construction industry in an attempt to bring all stakeholders into this active dialogue that is FTI. We track the demographics of membership and event participation to see how we are doing. We’ve had success in engaging women in the Institute, especially in leadership roles. Our president and half of the Executive Committee are women. We’ve consistently and deliberately involved women in our events and programs.

We’ve been far less successful in engaging and involving minority voices. We’ve tended to blame that on our industry, which is lacking in both gender and racial diversity. We can’t do that. We must, as an organization, find ways to overcome these contextual challenges in pursuit of DEI objectives. So, we raised a DEI flag among our membership and asked for interested volunteers.

These are the voices you will hear from in this issue of SKINS.

The individuals that responded have formed the FTI DEI Task Group and have been struggling with how to think about, what to do about, how to bring about progressive change toward a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable membership and social network within the Institute.

The committee first considered, and ultimately rejected as an empty gesture, the publication of a DEI statement (see Dahmahlee Lawrence’s article), a trend among firms, corporations, and institutions since the summer demonstrations of 2020. The shared aspiration of the task group is to move beyond words and into active strategies and initiatives that can move the needle on minority involvement in the Institute. Among these strategies is to actively engage minority representation in use of the platforms we’ve created at FTI. So, we are starting with the DEI task group itself and the SKINS platform. Each member of the task group was invited to submit an article for this issue, speaking to whatever resonated with them in terms of the broad spectrum of DEI issues. Not surprisingly, the resulting articles each represent a varied and unique perspective.

I personally authored the first article in an attempt to contextualize our ongoing DEI conversation at FTI.

A piece by our Executive Director at FTI, Val Block, explores the role of mentoring in the pursuit of our DEI objectives. Val has been actively reaching out to NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects) and others to discuss what they have been doing and potential opportunities for collaboration. She describes various forms of mentoring programs currently in place and how what she’s found is shaping our thinking at FTI. In a parallel trajectory, Sanjeev Tankha provides a call to action for firm leaders, reminding them that building an inclusive and diverse workforce involves the adoption of recruiting and hiring practices that strategically engage minority communities.

Dahmahlee Lawrence shares her personal experience as a designer with a compelling interest in facade technology. She argues the importance of diversity among those architects whom we hold up as exemplary to our students and young professionals, and suggests the inclusion of figures like Diebebo Kere, Zaha Hadid, and Frida Escobedo Lopez. Next, Raditia Lasry points out that diversity, equity and inclusion is also about what is going on inside us and how we are connecting with those around us. She suggests the importance of getting beyond the human facade and sharing the stories of who we are as fellow human beings.

Finally, Alexandra Blakeslee asks who really benefits from the work we do in designing and delivering safe, efficient and comfortable buildings and urban spaces. Shouldn’t we all have the right to facade systems that provide comfort, view, daylight, and natural ventilation? Alex’s article is followed by an interesting report from The Municipal Art Society of New York, the latest release in their “Fight for Light” campaign, which explores equal access to air and light in the public realm.

We wrap up by pointing to just a couple of the DEI related resources our task group has encountered in our research; there are many out there. We would be happy to share more of these if you are interested. You can reach us at As always, we’d love to hear from you and welcome any questions, comments, insights and inspirations you may have.

Our best to all,

William Green, Technoform
Guest Editor, SKINS Issue #125, October 2021

Great thanks to William and the FTI DEI Task Group from all of us on
The SKINS Team:

Mic Patterson, Facade Tectonics Institute
Executive Editor

Val Block, Facade Tectonics Institute
Associate Editor

Brienna Rust, SGH
Christopher Payne, Gensler
Content Editors

Nick Carrillo, WWCCA
Event Calendar Editor

Alberto Alarcon, Kuraray
Event Calendar Editor

This is the personal opinion of William Green and does not reflect the views of Facade Tectonics Institute.

Photo of William Green

William Green

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