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Zena Howard

Zena Howard is a Principal and Managing Director of the North Carolina practice of global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. An award-winning architect, strategist, mentor and team builder, Zena is known for her success leading visionary, complex, and culturally-significant projects.

These achievements include the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In her role as Senior Project Manager, Zena led a multi-firm and multi-stakeholder team along an eight-year journey from its underfunded concept phase to final occupancy and celebrated public success. Other noteworthy projects include The International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC, the Durham County Human Services Complex in Durham, NC, several Durham County Public Libraries, and the District of Columbia Anacostia and Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Libraries in Washington, DC.

Through her work with private and public institutions, Zena engages disenfranchised stakeholders, unites disparate parties, and infuses cultural meaning into all her projects. Her leadership embraces cross-disciplinary collaboration as an essential tool for success, integrating a broad range of experience and specialized knowledge such as urban design, public policy, history, economics, and anthropology into the architectural process.

Her current work includes the much-anticipated expansion of the Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan, a project that commemorates the history and continuing legacy of Berry Gordy and Motown’s unique artists and internationally-recognized sound. In her home state of North Carolina, Zena leads the Perkins+Will team in the planning and design of the New Brooklyn Village development in the heart of uptown Charlotte. This 17-acre project is one of the largest and most culturally-significant community developments in the country, reimagining the razed Brooklyn neighborhood while celebrating the community’s original, rich history.

Zena’s team is working to establish a model for cities across North America to reconcile the results of poorly-conceived urban renewal and development policies which often decimated established African American communities. This “remembrance” work brings historical and cultural relevance to struggling downtowns, reignites connections between people, and resolves decades-old divides within communities.

Zena is a founding member of Perkins+Will’s global Diversity + Inclusion Council. By example and through direct action and mentoring, she is an advocate for diversity within the architecture profession, a field where minority and women professionals are historically under-represented. She is an associate professor of architecture at North Carolina State University College of Design.

A native of North Carolina, Zena earned her undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Virginia. She is a LEED-Accredited Professional, a member of the American Institute of Architects, the National Organization of Minority Architects, and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. She also serves on the North Carolina State University School of Architecture Advisory Board and the University of Virginia Alumni Association Board of Managers. She has lectured at multiple institutions including MIT, Howard University, Mississippi State University, Louisiana Tech University, Tuskegee University, University of Washington, and Tulane University. She has served on the North Carolina State Capitol Foundation Board and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. public service sorority.

[Submitted by honoree. Edited for length.]