Atianna is a native of New Orleans, and passionate about using art and design to advance social and environmental justice. She founded WATER BLOCK in 2018, which is an urban design studio that works to provide greater access for stakeholders and residents to get involved in design and community development projects that impact their livelihood and overall health. Her company was awarded the grand prize at the 2018 Propeller Water Challenge Pitch Competition as part of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, and has garnered fellowship recognition by 4pt0 Schools. Atianna has been recognised with awards for excellence in architecture, served on Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Transition Committee, and was selected as a Young Cultural Innovator Fellow at the Salzburg Global Forum in Austria. These acknowledgements highlight her national and international work aimed at building equity in design and environmental practice. Atianna received her M.Sc in Disaster Resilience Leadership from Tulane University, Bachelor of Architecture from Louisiana State University, and Certificate in Community Development Finance from the University of New Orleans.
Only 0.4% of black women are licensed architects in the US, and there's similar discrepancies in urban planning, landscape architecture and other professions that impact our natural and built environment. This homogeneity in leadership does not reflect the diversity in our communities, and excludes vast amounts of talent and brain power that can be used to collectively tackle our world’s most challenging issues. Recognition of these injustices led me to create WATER BLOCK, and in turn, WATER BLOCK Kids.
WATER BLOCK Kids teaches youth about design (architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and real estate) through workshops and at-home learning tools. As advancements in career equity and demands for climate action increase, it is important for youth to understand the design concepts and decisions that impact their lives. It is also vital to support the growth and representation of the next generation of design and environmental leaders (especially those with intersectional identities related to race, gender and class).
MOTIVATION FOR AND COMMITMENT TO CREATING A BETTER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE PLANET
My personal and professional experiences, as a young black woman from New Orleans, have defined the “why” behind my work and shaped my career trajectory. After Hurricane Katrina, exclusionary recovery practices disregarded our city’s most vulnerable populations, and perpetuated social inequalities and factors of displacement. This experience introduced me to environmental justice, and continues to inspire me to create opportunities that provide greater access to design and environmental conversations.