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avatar for Dr. Sharon E. Sutton, FAIA

Dr. Sharon E. Sutton, FAIA

Parsons School of Design
Visiting Faculty

Activist, musician, and celebrated educator and scholar Sharon E. Sutton will serve as this year’s key note speaker at the 41st Annual Association for Community Design (ACD) conference hosted by the Neighborhood Design Center this June.  Sutton’s advocacy work in participatory planning and design processes within traditionally disenfranchised communities makes her an inspiring choice for this year’s conference key note. We are thrilled to have her.  

Sutton has dedicated her career to promoting inclusivity and diversity within built environment professions as well as exploring America’s continuing struggle with racial justice and its effect on the built environment. She is truly a pioneer in the field of community design and serves as an example of the possibilities that exist for students of color if only afford the opportunity. Sutton’s work is reflective of her own personal life story. 

Her most recent book, When Ivory Towers Were Black: A Story about Race in America’s Cities and Universities, highlights her development as an architect and the 1968 moment to increase the presence of students of color in the architecture program at Columbia University. Sutton – a benefactor of Columbia’s attempt to provide students of color greater opportunity, went on to become a highly accomplished academic and designer. Referring to 1968 as a “magical intoxicating time”, Sutton is the true embodiment of the year that sparked a movement. 

She is the twelfth African American woman in history to be licensed to practice architecture, the first to be promoted to full professor of architecture, the second to be elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the first to be president of the National Architectural Accrediting Board. She holds five academic degrees—in music, architecture, philosophy, and psychology—and has studied graphic art internationally. 

Sutton has served on the faculties of Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, Columbia University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and most recently the University of Washington. She is a pioneer of 1968 and we look forward to hearing her speak at this year’s ACD conference