When Rose Florian and Kordae Henry met as graduate architecture students at the University of Pennsylvania, the pair started thinking about the power of an image. Their work required them to design renderings, but the fast-paced rhythm of school kept them from designing their own scalies, the architectural term for the people who show up in renderings to offer scale and context to buildings.
“So we had to resource the already-limited available stock from other websites,” explains Florian. She and Henry were struck by the lack of diversity offered in those scalies, which are used to portray everything from a couple taking a walk to a child playing.
Florian and Henry came to the field from unique backgrounds. Florian is Puerto Rican and received her undergraduate in architecture there; she notes that “understanding representation and diversity wasn’t something we were talking about back home.”
Henry describes his undergraduate experience as “almost the opposite.” He attended Morgan State University, a historically black college in Baltimore, and says, “Everyone around me practicing architecture was my skin color. It was very rare to have that experience in the profession. You don’t know how important that is until you leave that environment and enter a different culture.”
The importance of representation crystallized for both Florian and Henry after graduating from Penn. And in the notably non-diverse field of architecture, they realized it’d be up to them to bring about change.