Zena Howard, a seasoned architect, is the lead architect for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is set to open this September. She will be among President Barack Obama and other dignitaries who will dedicate the museum at an outdoor ceremony on Sept. 24, 2016, beginning at 9 a.m. Catch a glimpse of our shero when the public is invited to gather on the Washington Monument grounds across the street from the museum to witness the ceremony on Jumbotrons and enjoy a three-day festival.
With 25 years of experience, Howard has worked on a host of private and public institutions, museum and cultural facilities, libraries, and higher education facilities including the Durham County Human Services Complex (Durham, North Carolina); Anacostia Neighborhood Library (Washington, D.C.); International Civil Rights Center & Museum (Greensboro, North Carolina); and Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library (Washington, D.C.). According to her bio, her experience focuses on clients with specialized and/or unique design goals such as environmentally sensitive artifact exhibit areas, environmentally and spatially sensitive spaces for autistic children, historically and culturally significant buildings and locations, and sustainable design in pursuit of LEED certification and other high performance building goals.
Howard earned her Bachelor of Science degree in architecture from the University of Virginia. She is a LEED-accredited professional (LEEP AP), a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Organization of Minority Architects. Curbed.com reports Howard works on Perkins+Will’s global diversity and inclusion committee and visits elementary schools to encourage girls to join the profession. The field of architecture is very much a White male-dominated industry. According to Farida Abu-Bakare an Atlanta-based design professional at HOK, “African American women make up less than 0.3 percent of the architecture industry. There are approximately 300 licensed African American women architects in the whole of the United States. I am a rarity in the field. It’s overwhelming being in an industry that doesn’t see your demographic enough to correlate it with the occupation you love.”
Howard’s favorite project to date is the National Museum of African American History and Culture.