Changing Skylines with Adeaze Cadet

Photographed by Nicki Sebastian

As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month and honor the inspiring women in our community, we are thrilled to share a journal on a visionary woman – Adeaze Cadet – who has forged an incredibly impressive path for herself in the world of architecture. See below to read more about her journey, the challenges she has faced, and the accomplishments that she has earned through so much hard work, as well as for an introduction from her sister, our dear friend and longtime advisor, Dr. Akilah Cadet.

“We met in the womb. Our bond started from inception. When we arrived in the world we were, and still are, inseparable– and since then, I have always been her biggest fan.

At 22, she graduated with a BS and Masters in Architecture in just five years (an accomplishment that motivated me to get my own graduate degrees!). She passed all seven licensing tests without having to retake a single one; practically unheard of in the architectural world. Adaeze is one of 0.4% of Black women architects and finds herself working amongst a sea of white men who, filled with privilege and intimidation, wonder in confusion why my twin sister is their boss, the expert, and the game-changer. I'm an expert in organizational development and diversity so I know she was not destined for success, yet here she is, Design Principal of HOK, one of the top architectural firms in the country.

My twin has changed skylines while simultaneously motivating Black women to enter the architectural space through mentorship, talks, and reviews of her HBCU Prairie View A&M's architecture student projects. She shows Black people what is possible. She is the epitome of being successful and being a compassionate role model and mentor at the same time. She is everything and I am beyond honored to call Adaeze Cadet, AIA, NOMA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, my twin sister.”

– Akilah Cadet

“Creating and defining spaces has always fascinated me. The way a space shapes our environment, makes us feel, defines our activities, how people move through it, and the puzzle-solving needed to get the right configuration that balances form and function – these are things I have always thought about. One of my earliest memories is organizing my kindergarten classmates to use our gigantic, to me at the time, blocks make our playhouse, and later falling in love with LEGO. As I got older, my fascination only…”. As I got older, my fascination only continued to grow and my mom encouraged this deep-founded interest, buying me books on architecture that I read and immersed myself in until, at 9 years old, I decided that architecture was what I was meant to do. Years later, I graduated with my B.S. and Master of Architecture in 5 years and after completing the required training hours and passing the 7 exams I officially became a licensed architect on April 12th 2011– the best day of my life.

My journey to becoming an architect was not an easy one. The industry is predominately white male and, as a result, I am often met with implicit bias. In college, I had professors try to direct me to interior design and, when I told people I was in school for my Masters of Architecture, I was often asked what I planned to do with it. They couldn’t see a Black woman as an architect.

When I started working at a firm, I was often left out of client meetings where white junior staff would be included. As I moved up and became a Vice President, I would often still have to prove I was the architect that did the work. I also struggled to find mentorship within the industry. It was lonely rarely seeing people that looked like me at my level let alone in leadership roles.

But instead of letting that discourage me, I continued to refine my skills. I focused on the work and was fueled by my mother’s encouragement. I was inspired by one of the most driven and talented women of all time, Beyoncé. She is always pushing herself to evolve and surpass her previous masterpiece. I channeled that mindset and it paid off. I rose from an entry-level designer all the way to a principal despite the added obstacles that are very present for Black women in this space. In 2021, I joined HOK as the Design Principal leading design for the Los Angeles studio. Like me, HOK truly values the power of diverse thinking and is always pushing to continue to be a leader in the industry. I couldn’t imagine a better fit for me and I’m so excited for what the future will bring.

Sometimes, when I remember the 9-year-old version of myself playing with LEGO bricks and dreaming up imaginary spaces, I pinch myself in awe that I actually made it to where I am today - an architect creating real spaces that shape the environment where people live, work, and make lasting memories. The road was bumpy, but I stayed focused. I kept my eye on my intentions and I didn’t let any outside distractions, naysayers, or my own insecurities stop me from my goals. And now I’m living my dream doing what I was born to do.”

– Adaeze Cadet

Adaeze wearing the Abrielle Dress

Adaeze wearing the June Top, the Abril Cardigan, and the Diana Jean

Adaeze wearing the Abrielle Dress

Adaeze wearing the Asalea Dress

Adaeze wearing the Abrielle Dress