An Interview with Malcolm Jones

By Grace Moore, Tween Librarian 
May 23, 2023

Black Architects in the Making is a local non-profit that has brought outstanding youth architecture workshops to the Library. Young people have learned about pathways into the profession at these workshops and enjoyed hands-on activities like designing building facades and practicing urban sketching. Winter Park Library's VR headsets have also been deployed to a BAM event where local young people could walk through architectural designs and feel as though they were in the virtual buildings.

Malcolm Jones, Chair of the Board for BAM Orlando, joined us for an interview to tell us more about his organization:

Could you give us some background on Black Architects in the Making and what you all do?

Black Architects in the Making’s focus and mission is to create and cultivate the newer generation of architects that identify as Black and African American. Unfortunately as it is, only about 4% of registered architects today identify as Black or African American, be that men or women, and so our approach to help balance out these statistics a bit is to engage youth in middle and high school with hands-on workshops that bring architecture to the forefront in fun and engaging ways.

Along with that, we offer scholarships as well as internship programs. Specifically, here at BAM Orlando, we have an internship program that we do in the summer that is powered by the Career Source of Central Florida, and we also have scholarships that we offer to graduating high school seniors that have been accepted into an accredited university or college that offers an architecture program. This continues to open up a whole new door of opportunity for students to pursue architecture down the line potentially, and BAM Orlando is  a conduit to help push that forward. 

What are some of the highlights that you've personally experienced in your work with BAM?

So many, to be honest, which shows that we actually have a lot of work to continue to do but one of the standout things for myself, was last year when we did the career fair for the internship program with Career Source. There was a young man there, he was a graduating senior, and he played football. He came to our table and wanted to know more about our company. We told him that we were an architecture firm, and his response to me was, “What is architecture?” with a puzzled look. I had to break down and explain to him that: "You see the building that you’re standing in, an architect designed this.."  It was astounding to me that this young man about 18 years old, had never heard the word architecture, right? But for him to be able to learn in real-time, and for me to see and click with him, and then for him to be able to look at myself and my colleague who looks just like him, who share similarities via skin tone and experiences and upbringing, that’s something that he now is aware of, and he also knows that he could pursue that. Because there are others who look just like him, interact like him, speak like him, and so on and so forth, are in this space. That was, for me, just a real eye-opener and I would call that a major highlight of my time being here or working with BAM. 

What advice do you have for students who are interested in architecture?

1. Go to College

There are various degrees that one could get in order to become an architect. My degree is a Master’s in Architecture. There’s a lot of schools here in Florida that offer those degrees, or you can go outside of the state and still acquire a similar degree, and you then go and register with NCARB, which is our national licensing board of architecture.

2. Get Experience

You have to acquire a certain number of hours of experience along with taking six exams in order to become a registered and qualified architect. During that entire journey, you will definitely want to get hands-on experience working at a firm. 

3. Have Fun

 Whether it be at a grand scale or something as small and simple as a single-family home, but depending what area, city, or state you grew up in, the architecture can look vastly different. Those buildings that you experience on day-to-day will shape and mold how you interact with the built environment, how you interact with others. 

I would definitely say, figure out what architecture means to you, and what your experience has been with architecture, and if it’s been a beautiful and wonderful experience, then figure out what steps you need to take to continue that, and bring that to other areas that may be able to benefit from it. Architecture has an ability and a power to shape the way people act and react to things, and how they interact with other individuals. Architecture can separate, unfortunately, but then it can do something as beautiful as bringing people together. 

What architects inspire you?

I personally love things that are more modern, and even borderline going toward futuristic, very curvy things, things that look like they came straight out of a comic book sometimes. Somebody like Zaha Hadid, who has these very curvature forms in her design. I love to see those things. 

But as far as the architects that I really resonate with and am inspired by, those would really be the architects that I get to interact with on a daily basis, notably Mr. Craig Aquart, who is actually the founder of BAM Miami, which was the first established chapter back in 2016. He is an amazing gentleman and architect, mentor, and friend. Just being able to see his drive and his desire to bring something like BAM to fruition and to offer these opportunities and outlets to students and children to become architects in the future. 

Even local architects like Tim Johnson and Dan Kirby, and friends of mine who are in the process of becoming architects, like one of my colleagues, Natalie Casey. She’s been a licensed interior designer for a very long time, but she’ll be a licensed architect very soon. So that is what I genuinely love about people, about our people, our ability to focus and figure out what it is that we want to do, what we want to become, and then once the opportunity presents itself, we just go for it. 

We look forward to having you back for Maker Day this summer on July 6! What can people look forward to experiencing with BAM that day?

We’ll be partnering with the Orlando chapter of IDA, a professional interior design organization, and working with the kids to create design boards. In interior design, materiality is a very important part of that profession, whether that be tile selection, paint colors for the wall, or many other finishes that are available that will go into any given building or space. 

So, we’ll have many different material swatches and other paint options for the students to pick and choose from and they’ll be able to put them together onto a board that they’ll be able to take that with. It’s something simple, but it will be fun and engaging for the students to use their imagination and figure out what materials and colors and finishes stand out to them. What do the colors do for the space that they would put them in -- will it be a bright, vibrant space or a darker, warmer space?

We look forward to working with you all at the library and with the students again soon. Thank you.


Many thanks to Malcolm for the interview! We look forward to continuing this partnership to bring more opportunities to the future architects and designers of Winter Park.