Indujah Srikaran, Architecture, Coventry, West Midlands
What inspired you to want a life in Architecture and the creative industries?Personal experiences within the built environment from a young age such as playing on the streets, visiting Grandparents in Sri Lanka, and going on Art study trips abroad inspired me to enter the creative field. For me it was always exciting to see how people used spaces beyond the purposes in which they were made for. Architecture involves understanding a vast range of fields and is a constant learning process around people, society, culture, politics, and economics etc.
As a female ethnic minority with Sri Lankan heritage, I have always been conscious of issues on gender and race as well as the effects of civil war and natural disasters on people around the world. I knew that architecture could be used as a tool, and I wanted to create architecture which could celebrate diverse communities through the integration of our various cultural backgrounds and help design cities which reflected an assortment of people and their experiences.
Who inspired you in finding your path to Architecture and the creative industries?Growing up I never had any exposure to the creative industries outside of school as most of my family went into other more ‘stable’ sectors. However, during secondary school I had some extremely passionate Art and English teachers who were willing to go out of their way in helping me to develop my talents.
During my architectural education Mary Vaughan Johnson, in particular, was a huge influence in helping me to understand and find where my personal experiences in architecture fitted within an industry that did not reflect people of my background. She revealed to me my strengths and encouraged me to pursue writing and teaching as well as design.
How you unlock obstacles and overcome bias in your work?
To unlock obstacles and overcome bias it is important to address them directly when they occur, challenge them upfront and bring awareness to them within your work. For me personally, this occurs through writing and teaching. People need to be made aware of their actions, responsibilities, and power. Although it should never be someone’s burden to have to explain or ‘solve’ unequitable issues, we must all try to hold people accountable and pick our battles when possible.
It is also important to build a network of people who face similar barriers in order to defeat these together. You should never feel alone. If there is no one representing you in your conventional route, deviate and seek a mentor yourself. Approach those who inspire you and build relationships with those who can guide you to be the creative you aspire to be.
What improvements you feel are required to promote effective change in the academic and working environment?
Although there are many improvements needed to promote effective change within the architectural environment, one of the key barriers is diverse representation – displaying a variety of people from a wide range of socio-economic, cultural, and geographical backgrounds in higher positions. To enable this, unconscious bias needs to be tackled from an early stage in the profession. As students begin studying and working within the architecture field, they must feel their background is valued and respected for contribution towards our future and the design of our built environment.