Master of Architecture student Deron Charlery wins Gensler Rising Black Designers Scholarship

by Jared Lane (MUP '23)

Published October 20, 2022

Deron Charlerly.

UB Master of Architecture student Deron Charlery was recently awarded the 2022 Gensler Rising Black Designers Scholarship, a prestigious award made by the global design firm to break down barriers to entry into the profession of architecture for Black students.

The first-generation college student from the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia was one of five young designers to win the prestigious award, which Gensler established in 2020 to help underrepresented Black students overcome the costs of higher education. Selected scholars receive a $10,000 tuition scholarship and eligibility for a position within Gensler’s Summer Fellowship Program. 

In their announcement of the scholarship award, Gensler described Charlery as a "creative, precocious, and innovative student" who is passionate about serving communities through design that works seamlessly between infrastructure, the environment, and human life.

Re-Housing: A community space with housing for disadvantaged youth

Charlery applies this ethos in his project submission for the award: "Re:Housing," a proposal for affordable housing in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of New York City that builds community and meets the needs of disadvantaged youth. 

“Re:Housing contains physical attributes of how people live in Bed-Stuy. Places of collectivity and domesticity such as rooftops and stoops were observed and used as motifs for design iteration," says Charlery, who developed the project with fellow MArch student Alex Johnson.

“The change from a building about bodies in space to one that engages with the environment allows for direct connection between residents, the youth, and the community, creating a new take on affordable housing.”

For instance, a protected exterior space fosters interaction along walkways and stoops, while an indoor/outdoor performance space features a courtyard for public events. A youth center offers space for community organizations to develop support programs for youth influenced by gang violence.

Charlerly credits his initial interest in architecture to his older brother studying it back home. He later joined the ACE (Architecture, Construction, & Engineering) Mentor Program before coming to UB to pursue his BS in Architecture and now the professional Master of Architecture degree.

“Through my education I would describe myself as someone intrigued by unconventional forms of approaching architecture, which  provides a different way of representing information. Representation matters in everything we do as designers. We must understand the occupant that the architecture is addressing as well as how we choose to communicate our ideas to our clients through different mediums.” 

First-generation student says scholarship inspires him to continue breaking barriers through design

Inclusivity, according to Charlery, is further driven by the collaborative intensity of an architectural project and thoughtful client engagement.

“Oftentimes I asked myself why architecture? To me, by its nature architecture is and should be inclusive. From the architects, consultants, engineers, and other specialists plus disciplines outside of the building industry that come together to push the project forward. Working on an architectural project involves and promotes heavy dialogue and communication from the building industry teams, the client, and the occupants.”

Winning this scholarship not only recognizes all the hard work I have accomplished thus far, but also gives me an opportunity to break even more barriers so other Black, first-generation and immigrant students can see that they, too, can accomplish this or even more.

- Deron Charlery

Last summer, Charlery had the opportunity to put these principles into practice for Gensler as one of four Summer Fellows selected to join its  Professional Service Firms Practice Area, which focuses on client engagement and design impact.

“Working with the PSF Practice Area helped me to understand clients and their culture, which then opens up various means for us as designers to alleviate some of their concerns in the workplace. This fellowship experience has broadened my perspective on the field and the countless things we can do to impact not only those around us but the environment, too.”

“My interests in Gensler lie in knowing and understanding the impact design has on the communities it serves, as well as how the firm represents those communities through their work. There is a connection in the way Gensler approaches design, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced and contributed to it."

As he looks ahead toward graduation this Spring, Charlery has plans to pursue licensure while serving his community through small-scale design-build projects and youth mentorship. 

“Winning this scholarship not only recognizes all the hard work I have accomplished thus far, but also gives me an opportunity to break even more barriers so other Black, first-generation and immigrant students can see that they, too, can accomplish this or even more.”