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Feb 08, 2024

Danyson Tavares Assoc. AIA

Danyson Tavares S 230417 N2

Danyson Tavares

Photo Courtesy of Danyson Tavares

Executive Director, YouthBuild Boston

BSA Associate AIA Director

Professional or personal website:


M.Arch + B.S Arch from Wentworth Institute of Technology

Professional interests:

Community Economic Development and Empowerment through community-led design and planning.

BSA involvement:

Member since 2010

Current Board Member, Associate AIA Director

When did you first become interested in architecture as a possible career?

My journey into the world of architecture and design is indebted to the remarkable Carol Lee Bright, my senior-year teacher at Brockton High School in 2006. A passionate and inspiring educator, Carol ignited my love for these disciplines. Even in my early adulthood, with a natural affinity for art and design, her enthusiasm and dedication made me instantly fall in love with architecture. Her influence has been profound, shaping my path and fueling my passion for the creative and transformative possibilities within the field. I am grateful for her guidance and mentorship, which continue to resonate in my love for architecture today.

If you could give the you of 10 years ago advice, what would it be?

Embrace uncertainty and change; they are growth opportunities. Take risks, pursue passions, and don't fear stepping out of your comfort zone. Learn from failures, see setbacks as stepping stones, and prioritize your well-being. Cherish the present, build meaningful connections, and define success by your fulfillment and happiness, not external expectations.

BPS Youth Build

BPS YouthBuild

Photo Courtesy of Danyson Tavares

Has your career taken you anywhere you didn’t expect?

My career has led me to unexpected places, especially as of late, currently, as the Executive Director of a local non-profit organization. I attribute this to my long-time passion of dedication to community service and equity advocacy. While the path wasn't what I initially envisioned I am a testament to staying open to opportunities aligned with my personal beliefs and commitment to social justice and positive community impact.

What has been your most proud moment as an architect/designer?

Oh, that’s an easy one! The WIT Design Materials Fund, available to Wentworth Institute of Technology's School of Architecture and Design students, is an initiative established to provide essential financial support for success through the Architecture program. I was fortunate to establish this fund alongside my colleagues while working at Dimella Shaffer Architects. As a long-time professor at WIT, I unfortunately witnessed students without the necessary funds to advance through the program. I'm proud to contribute to leveling the playing field, ensuring all students, regardless of background, have the resources for success.

What do you hope to contribute from your work?

Boston contends with a history of segregation, notably impacting neighborhoods like Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. Deeply entrenched institutionalized racism has impeded these predominantly Black communities from experiencing restorative forces, strategic urban planning, and wealth accumulation. At YouthBuild Boston (YBB), our work aims to counteract this historical inequality through targeted reconstruction, addressing persistent challenges of economic hardships, violence, perpetual poverty, and systemic racism. By focusing on the unique context of Boston, we strive to foster positive transformation and equity within these communities for the youth and their families.

What do you see as the largest barrier to equity in your profession?

The architecture industry lack representation, with less than 2% Black male architects and 1 in 5 Black female architects. Shockingly, less than 1% of honors awards since 1907 have been given to Black individuals. This discouraging reality may dissuade young Black students from choosing architecture due to perceived limited long-term rewards and support. To address this, we need education on racial inequities, amplification of Black architects' voices, and meaningful support to early architecture programs. We must continue to recognize biases and actively support underrepresented groups for a more equitable and diverse future in architecture.

Up Academy Shed

UpAcademy Shed

Photo Courtesy of Danyson Tavares

What are some changes that you have implemented in your firm (or for yourself) to address issues of equity in your profession?

At YBB, we invest in early architecture education for high school students to foster diversity and interest in the field. Through hands-on experiences and mentorship, these programs break down barriers, encouraging underrepresented groups to consider architecture careers. By introducing concepts early, we address representation disparities, contributing to a more diverse workforce. Promoting inclusivity and providing resources for early education are crucial steps for the architecture industry.

What do you see as the largest barrier to a zero-waste building, city, and world?

Sustainability, often transforms into a luxury that disproportionately affects disinvested communities. These communities grapple with more extensive systemic issues, including inadequate infrastructure, limited access to resources, and social disparities. The pursuit of sustainability cannot be divorced from these broader challenges. To be truly inclusive, sustainability initiatives need to address and redress the larger systemic issues faced by these communities.



Image Courtesy of Danyson Tavares

Who do you most enjoy partnering with on community projects?

Without a doubt, collaborating with youth in community design is the most rewarding! Youth perspectives bring fresh ideas, creativity, and a unique understanding of evolving needs. Engaging young people in the design process ensures their voices are heard, fostering ownership and connection to the community's future. Empowering youth not only taps into a different perspective of the built environment but also cultivates a sense of responsibility and civic engagement among the next generation, ensuring that the spaces created resonate with the diverse needs and aspirations of the entire community.

What architectural buzzword would you kill?

The term "community engagement". It is far too often used too loosely in architecture practice and education and at times feels incredibly disingenuous to members of the community. Genuine community engagement involves a culture of designing with the community rather than for them. Architects should prioritize meaningful collaboration, and understanding the needs, perspectives, and aspirations of the community. Practicing a more inclusive and participatory approach ensures that the design process truly reflects the community's values and enhances the likelihood of successful, well-received projects. Architects need to move beyond rhetoric and actively cultivate a collaborative design culture that respects and incorporates the voices of those they serve.

Where do you find inspiration?

My inspiration comes from observing and being amongst the presence of individuals who actively serve and contribute to the growth of the Black community in Boston and the broader diaspora. Witnessing their dedication to community empowerment, positive change, and unity is a constant source of motivation, validation, and encouragement for me.

What are you reading right now?

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

What was your least favorite college class and why?

This will make a ton of people upset but Architectural History. The lack of diversity in architectural history is disturbing and rooted in historical biases, exclusionary practices, and institutional structures that favor predominantly white perspectives. This has resulted in the marginalization of architects from diverse backgrounds and has led to the erasure of contributions to the profession from BIPOC designers.