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Zena Howard is a Principal and Global Cultural and Civic Practice Chair of architecture and design firm Perkins&Will. An award-winning architect, strategist, mentor and team builder, her career has been defined by visionary, complex, and culturally-significant projects, such as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., that navigate social issues of equity and justice, restoring lost cultural connections by honoring history and memory. Other noteworthy projects include Greenville Town Common at Sycamore Hill in Greenville, North Carolina; the District of Columbia Anacostia and Tenley Friendship Neighborhood Libraries in Washington, DC; the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina; and the Durham County Human Services Complex in Durham, North Carolina.
Zena has been integral in developing and realizing Remembrance Design™, an urban and architectural design process that engages historically marginalized and negatively impacted communities to redress painful issues, bridge diverse experiences, inspire resilient communities, and infuse culture into projects. She embraces cross-disciplinary collaboration as an essential design tool to integrate a broad range of experience and specialized knowledge, such as urban design, public policy, art, history, economics, and anthropology, into the architectural process. Her current work includes Destination Crenshaw, a community-inspired project in South Los Angeles that will be the nation’s largest art and cultural celebration of African American contribution to world culture.
Zena is also a founding member of Perkins&Will’s global Diversity and Inclusion Council. By example and through advocacy and mentoring, she advances diversity within the architecture profession, a field where minority and women professionals are historically under-represented. Zena amplifies diverse perspectives and project approaches in forums throughout the profession, the public, educational institutions and cultural and civic organizations. Her mission is to encourage participation and foster engagement across all populations.
A native of North Carolina, Zena earned her undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Virginia. She is a LEED-Accredited Professional, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a member of the National Organization of Minority Architects, and a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. She has been an Associate Professor of Architecture at North Carolina State University’s College of Design and currently serves on the Architecture School’s Advisory Board. She is a member of the University of Virginia Alumni Association’s Board of Managers and the University of Virginia School of Architecture Dean’s Advisory Board. She has been a visiting Professor of Architecture at the University of Washington and is the 2019 and 2020 Kea Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. She has lectured at multiple institutions including MIT, Howard University, Mississippi State University, Louisiana Tech University, Tuskegee University, Tulane University, The College of William & Mary, Georgia Tech University, Clemson University, and Duke University.