Immigrant from the Dominican Republic Constructed Vibrant Architecture Firm in Greater Salem, and Lays the Foundation for Other Young People to Pursue a Career in Architecture

Darguin Fortuna, Founder, Flow Design Architects

Darguin Fortuna grew up on his grandparents’ rice farm in the Dominican Republic, but threw himself into schoolwork to pursue a degree in architecture. At 20, he was two years into that program when he and his mother received green cards. “My mom had first applied years before, and I hadn’t known if I’d get mine while I was still young enough to qualify as her dependent,” he says. 
Knowing he’d face a difficult path but would earn far more as an architect in the United States in the long run, Fortuna left college and moved with his family to Massachusetts in 2010. “My odds of succeeding as an architect were far better if I came,” he says. His mother became a home health aide, while Fortuna enrolled in English classes at North Shore Community College and worked at Wendy’s. After receiving his ESL Certificate, he transferred to Boston Architectural College. 
Fortuna also married an American with whom he now has three children. It wasn’t easy to support the family while studying and working fast-food jobs, and for several years the family relied on food stamps and WIC support to get by. “I was so proud when we were finally told we no longer qualified — it meant we’d made it through and we were standing on our own feet,” he says. 
After completing his certification exams, Fortuna worked at several large firms, but didn’t like the stuffy corporate environment. “I wanted a more diverse and equitable practice,” he says. To get that, he realized he would have to start his own. In 2016, he launched Flow Design Architects, which focuses on sustainable commercial and residential design—and brings Fortuna’s unique vibrancy to client relations/projects. “That first year, we did just 15 projects. Last year we did over 450,” he says. Flow Design Architects now employs 12 people in the Salem area. 
Fortuna is grateful for the support he’s received from mentors at BAC and local design firms. The Massachusetts Small Business Development Center at Salem State University also helped him refine his business plan. “When you’re starting out, you come across these angels who help you on your way,” he says. 
Now a U.S. citizen, Fortuna teaches aspiring architects at BAC, offers an online course, and gives career talks across the state. “I’m passionate about promoting diversity, and I want other young people to realize architecture is a career they can do too,” he says. 


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