PASCALE SABLAN, AIA, LEED AP, NOMA
Name: Pascale Sablan, AIA, LEED AP, NOMA
Firm: FXFOWLE Architects
Practicing City: New York, NY
Type of Work: Various typologies, Residential, commercial, educational, cultural and infrastructure.
Featured Project: Fifth Crossing Bridge
Location: Dubai, UAE
Completion Date: Design Completion 2008
Your Role: Designer
Project Description: The competition team for the Fifth Crossing Bridge embraced a contemporary notion of design, taking the idea of a bridge beyond that of just a connecting infrastructure to an iconic landmark symbolic of the region’s cultural elements and natural resources. Most notably, the bridge’s traditional arch is reminiscent of the majestic falcon in flight, a national symbol of the UAE. The bifurcated arch stretches from the Diera side, soaring above the 12-lane crossing to create a fan wing shape. With the roadway support cables reaching a height of 95 meters, they pierce reemerge as a crescent on the underside of the roadway to create a full bridge span of 345 meters. This Fifth Crossing design connects the proud history of old Dubai as it points to the rapidly growing metropolis of a new Dubai.
How did you first learn about architecture and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?
I was blessed with the opportunity to travel abroad quite frequently during my childhood. I observed that architecture can be a direct interpretation of culture, or in some cases, a particular family. What I understood “home” to be in the U.S. was very different in another country. The idea that you can make a tailored space sparked my creativity and imagination. “An architect!” was always my answer when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. While pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture at Pratt Institute, I developed my voice; I learned how to defend both my designs and my design process. It was also where I developed my drawing skills, since I did hand drafting and model making (it was common to find me covered in sawdust from working with my hands in the woodshop). More importantly, I was introduced to a collaborative working process. Late at night in the studio, after the professors went home, all of the students would get together to share their ideas and knowledge.
After graduating from Pratt, I pursued a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University where I developed my advocacy voice–defending my design ideas and implementing holistic design visions for the built environment. I developed my point-of-view on what I wanted to see in the world and how I could use my designs to implement change. I also began experimenting with technology in the design process. Recently, I’ve been lecturing on how to manipulate technology to direct the design process.
What do you do?
I joined FXFOWLE in 2007, and was promoted to Associate in 2014. I have been on the design team for a variety of mixed-use, commercial, cultural and residential projects in the United States, Saudi Arabia, India, Azerbaijan, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates. Many of these high-profile, award-winning projects have guided the firm to international recognition for excellence in design and environmental responsibility.
I am an articulate, compelling, and sought-after speaker; in person and my presentations, I advocates for design excellence and promoting a more humanistic and environmentally-responsible society. I have represented FXFOWLE at many local and national industry events and educational programs and at prestigious colleges and universities by participating in numerous capacities—from invitational lectures and panel discussions to video and television appearances; such as American Institute of Architects (multiple chapters nationwide), Great Spaces TV, Modelo/Design Manifestos, CliffsNotes/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Online, Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, Madison College, and the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy the most about my job is the collaboration with my peers. In addition I am always surprised by how quickly architectural practice evolves. Developing new ideas and the pace at which architecture changes is the most exciting part of the profession. As with technology, it is impossible to predict what will happen in 10 years. We currently invest a lot of time and effort toward environmental sustainability, and it would be great to invest more in social sustainability, in pushing the idea of building society. That change in focus could impact architecture and the tools we use. Technology will continue to evolve, making it even easier for us to articulate our ideas and execute design. Sometimes the most interesting, intriguing architecture is not just the singular project, but how it integrates into the community. Interstitial ideas, moments for collaboration, imagination, and spark are what makes architecture profound to me.
What excites you in the work you do?
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
I am an architect, mentor and humanitarian/social advocate. My interest in and passion for architecture has been strong even before I began working in the field over a decade ago. Architects and designers have a responsibility in creating a more humanistic society. My steadfast search for design excellence and humanity in each of my projects has successfully resulted in the creation of meaningful buildings with enduring importance and cultural significance that express the aspirations of each of our clients. A strong advocate of civic involvement, it is my hope that my contributions to the industry will advance the art of architecture and design for the betterment of society and the environment, elevated dialogue regarding the manipulation of technology to direct the architectural design process, and bring greater visibility and a voice to the issues concerning women architects and architects of color.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement?
I am the 315th African American female architect in the United States to attain my architectural license. As of 2016, there are only 349 women who hold this distinction.
How long have you been involved with nycoba NOMA?
While attending the J. Max Bond Jr. memorial in 2009 held at the Center for Architecture I met a NYCOBA | NOMA board member who invited me to join the executive board. That was 8 years ago. Time flies when you are having fun!
Why are you a nycoba NOMA member?
As Immediate past President of the New York chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), New York Coalition of Black Architects (nycoba); my mission focused on promoting self-advocacy. One of the most important missions of NOMA is to raise awareness within the profession. According to the Directory of African American Architects, black women make up less than .01% of the profession. We are a rarity in schools, in teaching positions, and in the literature of great architecture. Our mission is to provide visibility for our members and their contributions to the community and the profession, and to highlight their prolific impact on the built environment. It’s been my experience that minority architects tend to be shy about their accomplishments, so during my presidency I created programs to engage professionals and students to better promote, brand, celebrate and market their work. In response to concerns over the drastic decrease in minority applicants to architectural programs across the country, NOMA developed a national program created specifically for elementary school students. “Project Pipeline” is a day or a series of days where professional architects visit schools and engage students in a design project. For high school and college students, nycoba has programs such as ‘crafting the interview’ and a ‘young designer’s conference,’ with keynote speakers, portfolio reviews, seminars, and design charrettes. These programs provide a unique opportunity for college students to mentor high school students, and promote the value of knowledge sharing and mentorship. It also reassures students that no matter what stage of their academic or professional career, they always have a wealth of knowledge to offer. In addition, we created a funded award to honor those who have either recently become a licensed architect in New York or are enrolled in a New York school of architecture pursuing a bachelor or master’s degree.
Lastly, in an effort to raise the visibility of our members in the design community, I created the Distinguished Member Highlight Recognition initiative. So many nycobaNOMA members do amazing work and hold respected positions on boards and agencies, yet their efforts and hard work remain unknown. Once a month, this program features an architect on the nycoba website and is accompanied by a brief interview focusing on their inspiration, their journey, and one of their favorite projects. In July, we hosted a ceremony to honor all of them together, and awarded them certificates to celebrate their accomplishments.
What do you value most about your nycoba NOMA membership?
What I value the most in my NYCOBA | NOMA membership are the collaborations with my fellow advocates.