:: M A D A M E architect
As with many GRAND moments in life, the beginnings are usually quite humble. I was asked, one day back in early June by Julia Gamolina, a friend of mine, a former classmate from our days of all-nighters at Cornell University in pursuit of a degree in architecture, to be interviewed for her July features for the online platform / blog / magazine, Madame Architect. A momentously GRAND opportunity, I was given the space to share my thoughts on being that which you WISH TO SEE in an industry that defines itself by what is SEEN. As a woman in design and, in particular, a Black Woman in design, it is NOT too often that I get to see REPRESENTATIONS of myself. Through this wonderful moment that my friend Julia so magnificently crafted, I was able to do the exact opposite: SHINE.
BE a REPRESENTATIVE of what is usually not seen. Making the unseen, SEEN.
So, the biggest thank you to Julia for crafting this beautiful moment. And even more importantly, thank you to everyone who has shaped me in my journey. And without further ado, below, I share a quick snippet of the interview written by Julia Gamolina titled: I Am: Elease Samms on Filling Gaps, Giving Back, and Being That Which You Wish to See
Excerpt From: I Am: Elease Samms on Filling Gaps, Giving Back, and Being That Which You Wish to See
Elease Samms is a Louisiana native but grew up in Central Florida. She was one of the first graduates from Orlando's Support Our Scholars program, from which she headed to Cornell University's Architecture Program on a full scholarship. Graduating from Cornell in 2013, Elease is now a Project Designer at KTH Architects. Her primary interests in the field of Healthcare Architecture stem from growing up as a daughter of an Orlando Health, Pediatric Level 2 Registered Nurse, and from a desire to work primarily with local communities. Elease is currently enrolled in NCARB's Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and regularly mentors students of Orlando's Support Our Scholars Program, as well as students through COMPACT at Jones High School. In her conversation with Julia Gamolina, Elease speaks about filling gaps, giving back, and increasing representation, encouraging anyone interested in architecture to know that the field is always open to them.
JG: How did your interest in architecture first develop?
ES: My interest in architecture bloomed early. With two Jamaican-born parents who followed more “traditional” career routes for “islanders,” my parents did all they could to ensure that my brother and I could follow whatever dreams our hearts set us on. In elementary school, the one thing I knew for sure was that I loved art - my mom, though a registered nurse, was always a wonderful artist and was my go-to for anything creative. It’s from her that I knew, when I grew up, no matter what I did, it had to allow me to create.
I first set my mind on Interior Design; however that changed with the TV Show my Extreme Home Makeover Edition [laughs]. Having grown up in River Ridge, Louisiana for all my elementary and middle school years, I knew how critical designing a home that could stand the test of time - or at least hurricanes – and that could be affordable, would be to those who are not able to own homes easily. As no stranger to the troubles of the lower ninth ward, I knew that I wanted to not only makeover homes, but to build homes that could be responsive so that families would no longer have to be displaced or lose loved ones because of flooding. At the same time, I also wanted to create homes that were beautiful. Beautiful design is for everyone and should be unaffected by socioeconomic backgrounds.
JG: How did architecture school shape your approach to and outlook on the field?
ES: To this very day, I firmly believe that Cornell’s architecture program was truly the awakening I didn’t realize I needed. It took a total of three years, one failed studio, and many, many nights of being talked out of transferring schools - because not only was I homesick, but I also felt like I never truly belonged at Cornell, let alone in the architecture program - to realize that I was approaching everything wrong. I was burning myself out to keep up appearances – to “never let anyone see me break”, an old school affirmation ingrained in me – all for what?