Elsa G. De León is a Staff Architect and Designer at MGA Partners and an advocate for international students, women in the built environment, immigrants, and refugees. Elsa is a proud Mexican native and received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture and Master of Architecture from the University of Texas at San Antonio. After moving to Philadelphia, she longed for ways to engage with the community in which she lives in. This led to her volunteerism in ADE's Latinx Heritage Month Workshop in collaboration with VocatioTechnical High School. Elsa hopes to use her voice and creativity to teach students how they can become agents of change and advocates for their community, as well as see themselves in careers where they didn’t before.
Q: Could you describe the workshop you conducted at The Story Factory?
A: "The Latinx Heritage Month Workshop was a successful challenge. I was able to use my Hispanic heritage as an opportunity to break the ice with students, and really connect with them. Our prompt was "Design your Safe Space". My intent was for them to think about the elements that exist in their safe space and use that as inspiration while considering how textures, patterns, colors, materiality, and biophilia made them feel. They began thinking outside the box and communicating as a team and their final models demonstrated so."
Q: What personal insights or experiences have shaped your own journey in this field?
A: "From growing up with my family being split between the U.S. and Mexico to the hard work my father always instilled in me and my siblings, I try to use my culture and experience as a motivation for my everyday work and life. Not only did my cousins speak different languages, but our cities’ infrastructure and way of living were completely different. After that, it all got bolstered when I had to leave my country due to crime and political complications while trying to finish high school and get ready to start college. As a First-Gen, the transition sparked in me a particular interest in cultural heritage and how it influences the way we approach the built environment."
Q: How do you believe workshops like these play a role in making students aware of design career opportunities?
A: "I strongly believe they are an essential part of their education. Many students have never heard about the professions available in the design field. It is important to teach them about all the diverse ways they can be part of the built environment and think creatively. They all should know that they can pick a career they enjoy."
Q: How do you think recognizing Latinx heritage in design education can contribute to a more inclusive design industry?
A: "I can’t express enough how important it is to appreciate and respect the minority groups in our professions. Especially because the AEC industry is highly dominated by Caucasian males, and it is not very often you run into a Hispanic professional. It’s important to acknowledge the diversity in ideas and experiences Latinx and BIPOC bring to the table. Having a certain level of recognition allows other minority people to flourish and feel empowered by our diverse community."
Q: How do you envision your volunteer work contributing to the broader goal of increasing diversity in the design and construction industry?
A: "I consider myself an advocate of females and especially minorities in the construction industry. Volunteer opportunities are a course of action to find the correct audience to connect with and encourage each other. I try to take a personal approach and share my life and professional experience when possible. We all have something to learn from each other, therefore I hope that I’m able to inspire others to share the ideas I wish somebody had told me when I was younger. My hope is to help someone see their potential and to dream big so they can go out in the world and encourage others to do the same."
Interested in volunteering with CFAD's Architecture and Design Education program? Please reach out to Michael Spain (email@example.com), Liza Niles (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Carly Clifford (email@example.com) for more information.
“If you can design one thing, you can design everything.” – Massimo Vignelli More...