About 15 years ago, Dennis Mann, University of Cincinnati professor of architecture, began working with a colleague to collect information for what would become the nation's first-ever Directory of African American Architects.
The value of that research has just been recognized with a prestigious American Institute of Architects’ 2007 award for collaboration achievement. The award – the Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievements – pays tribute to distinguished achievement in the advancement of the architectural profession.
“The directory’s existence helped give a presence to African-American architects. It helped people contact each other and thus helped to reinforce the creation of a community of architects,” according to internationally renowned architect and AIA Fellow J. Max Bond, Jr.
This is not the first recognition provided Mann’s research efforts, part of a 40-year teaching career in UC's top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). His work landed Mann on the front page of The Wall Street Journal in the late 1990s. It’s also been applauded in outlets ranging from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and many other newspapers and magazines.
"It's research work that needed to be done. It's the kind of painstaking work that we in academia need to contribute to the profession," explains Mann.
And it’s work that contributes to architects’ lives in a very powerful way. Mann recounts, "I received a letter not long ago from an African American architect who had just discovered the directory online. He wrote that he never saw a black architect when he was growing up. There was no one he could talk to about his ambitions at the time. He grew up thinking there was no one else around who shared his interest in design. He said that finding the directory was overwhelming for him, just to know that he isn't alone in the profession."
Explains Mann, "I have to seek out from other sources whether these hundreds of grads are now licensed architects. That requires consulting other sources and might require a phone call or e-mail to each one. I'm always on the hunt for new names, but it takes a great deal of time and effort."
Modestly, Mann claims that the research has done more for him than vice versa. He asserts, "It's changed me for the better. There is a community of people in the profession passionate about this issue. We're more than a community of colleagues. We're friends."