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Building a Legacy: Malcolm Jones on Architecture, Community, and Inspiring Future Generations

Malcolm Jones, AIA, NOMA, NCARB

Principal Architect /Owner MAJ Architecture and Design

Published on May 19, 2024

Malcolm Jones is a distinguished alumnus of Florida International University and a Florida-certified architect. He currently leads as the owner and principal architect at MAJ Architecture and Design. In addition to his professional pursuits, Malcolm is an adjunct professor at City Lab Orlando, part of the University of Florida Graduate School of Architecture.
His commitment to diversity and education in the field is exemplified through his leadership as chair of Black Architects in the Making Orlando. This program inspires and nurtures young middle and high school students of color to explore and excel in architecture. Malcolm also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Orlando Foundation for Architecture, contributing significantly to the architectural landscape and discourse in the region. Malcolm, it’s a pleasure to have you with us.

Could you share some details about your background and journey?

Sure, where to begin? I don’t come from a family of architects; no one in my family was involved in architecture. My interest in architecture began because of my mother, who told me I was going to be an architect. Despite having no background in the field, she saw me playing with Legos and K’nex, sketching here and there, and equated that to a future in architecture. So, she said, “You’re going to be an architect,” and I thought, “Alright, sounds like a plan.”
My high school in Tampa, Florida, had a drafting design program, which I enrolled in and loved.
Architecture requires a certain passion and desire because of how demanding it can be as a career. After high school, I applied to Florida International University in Miami to get my Master’s in Architecture, graduating in 2018. I then moved to Orlando and started my professional career at a firm in Maitland, Florida, where I worked for about four and a half years. My last day there was December 22, 2022, and I officially started my own practice, MAJ Architecture and Design, on January 1, 2023. It’s been a journey with many ups and downs, but fortunately, more ups than downs. I’m continually growing and figuring out how to serve the industry better.

Can you tell us more about MAJ Architecture and Design? What are your passions and specialties?

Courtesy: MAJ Architecture and Design

My passion is definitely community-based work. I’m a big people person and extroverted, so I love being among people. I can speak more about my projects in a moment. At the firm I worked at before going solo, I was a project manager in the multifamily department for the last two years. My strongest project type is multifamily. However, being on your own means you can’t pigeonhole yourself; you need to expand. As an emerging professional, I recognize my strengths and weaknesses. I’m more technically inclined, so I understand how things work and come together. For innovative, sexy designs, I collaborate with others. My goal is always to achieve the best results for the company and any given project.
Regarding community projects, I really enjoy and love them. For instance, I’m involved with the Polis Institute’s community action plan for Eatonville, Florida, the oldest incorporated African-American town in the U.S. Through my nonprofit work with Black Architects in the Making of Orlando, I’ve engaged with Eatonville’s residents and youth. It’s about being of service and making a difference in the community.

How do you view the future of the profession and the passion of the young architects you’re mentoring?

With middle and high school students, it’s a bit early to tell the future of architecture, but when they become inspired, it gives hope. Our mission to diversify the field seems attainable as these kids get more interested and engaged. We provide scholarships, connect them with internships, and support them in pursuing architecture at universities.
At the collegiate level, many students are already working at firms and are integrated into professional practice. They are eager to learn about AI and BIM technologies, which are becoming essential in the field. I’m teaching an advanced BIM course, and it’s a learning experience for me too. The future of architecture will definitely involve AI, and students need to be comfortable with these technologies to stay relevant.

Could you share the design process for your practice? How do you approach creating a design?

I take a practical approach. It starts with due diligence: understanding the project type, site constraints, municipality requirements, and client expectations. Once the basics are set, you can implement design ideas, whether focusing on sustainability, aesthetics, or other factors. AI tools are becoming increasingly important for conceptual design and master planning, allowing for quick iterations and data-supported decisions. As a small firm, these tools can be game-changers in conveying designs to clients effectively. My largest project at the previous firm was a 360-unit multifamily development, and I’m looking forward to tackling more significant projects with my practice.

You’re also deeply involved in mentoring and supporting the next generation of architects, particularly through Black Architects in the Making Orlando. Could you elaborate on the impact and importance of this initiative?

Black Architects in the Making Orlando is a program that’s very close to my heart. We aim to expose young students of color to architecture, a field where diversity is still lacking. Through workshops, site visits, and mentorship, we show these students that a career in architecture is possible and provide them with the resources to pursue it. We also offer scholarships and help connect students with internships. Seeing the enthusiasm and passion in these young minds is incredibly rewarding, and it gives me hope for a more diverse and inclusive future in architecture.

What advice would you give to young, aspiring architects who are just starting out in their careers?

My advice would be to stay curious and open-minded. Architecture is a field that requires both creativity and technical skills, so always be willing to learn and adapt. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek mentorship from experienced professionals. Networking is also crucial—building relationships with peers, mentors, and industry professionals can open many doors. Lastly, stay passionate and resilient. The journey can be challenging, but the rewards are worth it if you’re truly passionate about architecture.

Courtesy: MAJ Architecture and Design

What are your future goals for MAJ Architecture and Design? Where do you see your firm heading in the next few years?

My goal for MAJ Architecture and Design is to continue growing and taking on more significant and impactful projects. I want to expand our reach and work on a diverse range of projects, from multifamily developments to community-based projects that make a difference. I also aim to integrate more advanced technologies into our practice to enhance our design capabilities and efficiency. Ultimately, I want MAJ Architecture and Design to be known for innovative, sustainable, and community-focused architecture that positively impacts the built environment.

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