Zena Howard, managing director of the North Carolina practice of Perkins+Will, was recently elevated to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows. Elevation to Fellow honors architects making significant contributions to the profession and community while demonstrating high standards of excellence in their work, leadership, and mentorship. Only three percent of AIA members have earned Fellows distinction.
An award-winning architect, educator, and firm leader, Howard’s work regionally and nationally includes the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC; the Durham County Human Services Complex in Durham, NC; the Motown Museum Expansion in Detroit, MI; the Anacostia and Tenley-Friendship libraries, both in Washington, DC; and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, NC.
“Zena is a natural leader and an admired architect who embodies in her work and her values the best expression of what architecture should be,” states Phil Freelon, FAIA, design director and principal in the Perkins+Will North Carolina practice. “Perhaps Zena’s greatest impact on our profession is her championing of diversity and inclusion in a field where minority and women professionals are historically under-represented.”
Howard is an advocate of mixing cultural and learning elements into every building type, drawing on the distinctive stories - inherent in every project - to educate and inspire. As a team leader, she embraces multidisciplinary collaboration as an essential tool, integrating a broad range of disciplines such as urban design, public policy, history, research, and anthropology into the architectural process.
She is currently working in several cities across North America to reconcile the results of poorly-conceived urban renewal and development policies which often decimated established African American and other minority communities. This “remembrance” work brings historical and cultural relevance to struggling downtowns, reignites connections between people, and engages people that have historically been denied a voice in the design and decision-making process. In cities such as Los Angeles, Vancouver, Charlotte, and Greenville NC, Howard and her team are helping to envision and create cultural destinations that will celebrate the history and context of these vibrant communities.
At Perkins+Will, Howard is a founding member of the Global Diversity Council and represents the firm through active engagement with community, cultural and academic institutions. She serves on the Advisory Board of the School of Architecture at North Carolina State University and is an associate professor of architecture in the College of Design. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, she is a member of the University of Virginia Alumni Association Board of Managers.