079: Increasing Black Women in Architecture

Episode 079: Increasing Black Women in Architecture

How can we elevate and celebrate Black Women Architects?

FIRST 500 was founded with this mission in mind. Founder Tiara Hughes set out with the goa of elevating and celebrating Black Women Architects to raise awareness about their distinction through an excellent central community. FIRST 500 inspires Black women and girls to infinitely increase our licensed representation in the industry to better reflect the environments we serve. Tiara is building a database to bring visibility and showcase Black Women Architects, collecting and designing resources to support rising talent who are exploring architecture. She is also speaking to leaders about how to expand awareness and support.


A St. Louis native, based in Chicago, Tiara Hughes is a Senior Urban Designer at SOM, an adjunct professor at IIT, a Commissioner with the City of Chicago Landmarks Commission, and founder of FIRST 500, a global platform dedicated to elevating and celebrating Black Women Architects.

She is a devoted activist, educator, and advocate for underrepresented communities and voices, and currently serves on the Board for NOMA and the Charnley-Persky House Board of Directors for the SAH. Tiara’s personal experiences in the industry along with her passion for advocacy led her to establish FIRST 500 in 2018. As the founder and executive director of FIRST 500, Tiara raises awareness of the importance of Black Women Architects throughout history and their contribution to the built environment.

As a designer, Tiara creates work that emphasizes greater socioeconomic equity and cultural awareness. She believes “Ultimately our efforts to positively impact communities of color will expand outward and evolve our institutions, our firms, our industry, and by extension, our communities.” In 2021, Tiara received the prestigious AIA Associates Award. In 2022, she received Landmark Illinois’ Influencer award for her progressive and inclusive efforts to preserve the built environment and advance the design industry.

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