Archtivism Goes Beyond Ego | Architect Nyasha Harper-Michon | Louisiana Channel

“How can we do things differently?”

Meet archtivist Nyasha Harper Michon, who works for a different understanding and practice of architecture – less elitist, more inclusive.

“I see the archtivist architect as going beyond ego. In the traditional way of being an architect, there is a bit of an ego issue. Even when we think of the Pritzker Prize, it’s about celebrating one architect every time, or a pair or a trio. And that’s already a way of seeing architecture where it’s about one person or this top designer who knows it all, has all the ideas or all the ingenuity, and we should revere this architect who has done these masterpieces.”

“I think the archtivist architect is not like that. It’s much more a facilitator, a listener, someone who practices empathy and who isn’t so much about being in the spotlight, but sees more how to coordinate, facilitate processes to be able to create more inclusive and resilient cities.”

Nyasha Harper Michon also argues for abandoning “reference man” as a standard model for architecture and design and to widen the scope of potential users already in the conceptional and planning phases:

“Reference man is this 1,80 m, heterosexual, able-bodied, white man upper middle class who is used as a standard for design. It completely disregards women, the elderly, children, people of color, LGTB+, people with disabilities – and I think even most men. Reference man is not at all representative of anyone in the end.”

Nyasha Harper-Michon was born to Trinidadian parents in Paris, France, in 1993. She credits her multicultural background to having lived and worked in Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Port-of-Spain, and Washington D.C. Nyasha is a registered architect, holding a bachelor’s degree in architecture from École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture, Paris Val-de-Seine, and a Master of Science in architecture from the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture.

Nyasha Harper-Michon is a purpose-driven architect, built environment expert, business strategist, and inclusion & sustainability advocate who thrives at the intersection of cities, design, inclusion, sustainability, and technology. She is a self-proclaimed ‘Archtivist’—a term she coined for architecture professionals and enthusiasts driving economic, environmental, and social reform to foster positive changes in society and within the profession. Passionate about supporting the health and well-being of people, places, and the planet, Nyasha is involved in various projects, from supporting the transition to net-zero, regenerative cities to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion within the architecture field and built environment sector.

Nyasha is a LinkedIn Top Voice Green Europe and is a Senior Manager, Strategic Development at UNStudio, an international architectural design studio. She has written columns and articles for Dutch magazines Azine and deArchitect and has an essay published in Pakhuis de Zwijger’s book 18 Perspectives on Designing Cities for All.

She is a board member of WomenMakeTheCity, a foundation working to foster inclusive, equitable, and sustainable cities through an intersectional feminist approach. She has also been invited to advise City of Amsterdam built environment staff on diversity & inclusion in a workshop series. In addition, Nyasha teaches at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture and the Technical University of Delft.

Nyasha has been invited to speak about Archtivism at numerous renowned architecture, built environment and cities-related events and venues, including World Congress of Architects UIA Copenhagen 2023, Impact Festival Frankfurt 2023, Talent Night TEDxAmsterdamWomen, Pakhuis de Zwijger: Designing Cities for All, Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam, TU Delft: BK Talks, Amsterdam Academy of Architecture: Kromhout Lecture and BNA-Royal Institute of Dutch Architects: Architects Day. She was also a jury member for the Rotterdam Architecture Prize 2021.

Nyasha Harper-Mishon was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in October 2023. The interview took place at the office of WomenMakeTheCity in central Amsterdam.

Camera: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Edited by: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023

Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling. This film is supported by Dreyersfond and Fritz Hansen.

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