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  • November 26, 2022
    AIANY Engagement PLASTARC

    A recent conversation at AIANY’s Center for Architecture called Evolving Beyond Participatory Design explored ideas about how architects can act as advocates and agents for change both within the field and within the greater community, whether through elevating the voices of marginalized communities or fighting for just working conditions.

    Melissa Marsh, PLASTARC founder and co-founder of AIANY’s Social Science and Architecture Committee, moderated a panel of design professionals tackling community agency from various angles and at different points along the process. Christine Gaspar, a community-engaged design practitioner, noted that public participation for certain communities may include processing past harm at the impetus of decision-makers and allowing space for them to work through this trauma in an engaged process. Building professionals working within these communities need to find ways to use these difficult perspectives.

    Gaspar worked for seven years rebuilding low-income communities after Hurricane Katrina with the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, a project of Mississippi State University’s architecture program. Since then, she worked for thirteen years at CUP, a design studio that focuses on culturally relevant, easily accessible campaigns to help the public understand their rights, policy debates and more. CUP partners directly with community members–organizers, designers, artists, students–to create these impactful materials. Designers need to reframe the way they present work to marginalized communities–have less of an “isn’t this great” and more “what are we missing?” approach, according to Gaspar.

    Community involvement from start to end and allows for more place to plug in, according to Alexa Gonzalez, the Principal at the Hive Public Space. Her work focuses on the power of public spaces to create memories and connections, while evolving the identity and impact of each community. Genuine, engaged conversation with community members creates ownership and incentive for everyone. Often people limit their choices in participatory work by thinking of it in terms of a short-term project, rather than a long-term process. “Our roles in… facilitating public spaces should be simply connecting the dots.  It’s important to reassure those who are on the ground and already doing the work that we’re there to amplify their voices and their efforts,” she said. Successful participatory work is about building processes, not products.

    Marsh draws a distinction between art and architecture: Architecture is art that people occupy, and architects are responsible for the safety of the occupants. She asks, what is the purpose of a space when people occupy it?

    Cheriyah Wilmot, a B.arch Honor Student at the NYC College of Technology and President of NOMASNYCCT takes this further: What does community culture look like in NYC? And how do we represent that in the built environment? How do we design for a specific culture or multiple cultures? What is the difference between place-making versus place-saving?

    She discussed making the design process transparent and accessible to the public. This broadens the perspective of inputs that designers have access to and offers unique angles, such as an analysis of history or demographics. Sometimes pushing the conversation into uncomfortable categories are necessary, according to Gonzales.

    However, people who attend meetings are not often representative of the whole community or are simply the loudest voices. And some people have trouble making community meetings work, in-between jobs and childcare. Gasper notes that one way to value community members’ time and particular expertise is to pay people to participate in a project.

    In the context of community collaboration and transparency, it’s important that communities see an image of the end project. This shows them that the architects and designers not only listened to what they had to say, but took it on board and followed through. A one-size-fits all design is antithetical to true participatory design. Smaller steps throughout the process, taken together, builds trust and commitment to the project even after a project is finished.

    Want to Join the Conversation?
    The AIANY Social Science + Architecture Committee meets monthly. Meetings are open to the public and typically occur at 8:30 am on the last Thursday of each month.

    Thanks again to our panelists:
    Christine Gaspar, Faculty Design Futures Student Leadership Forum
    Alexa Gonzalez, Principal at the Hive Public Space
    Cheriyah Wilmot, B.arch Honor Student at the New York City College of Technology

    About the Author
    Michele Rafferty is a freelance content coordinator working with PLASTARC, a consultancy dedicated to increasing the flexibility and desirability of space using social research and occupant engagement.

  • October 18, 2022
    Education of the Architect: Radical vs. Incremental Change
    Education of the Architect: Radical vs. Incremental Change Photo: Ekam Singh & Monty Rush

    On September 27, 2021, the AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee (SSAC), the AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee, and the AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee presented a virtual roundtable conversation, “Education of the Architect: Radical v. Incremental Change,” which brought together pedagogy and practice. Students, educators, and firm partners gathered online in  conversation as participants and attendees to discuss the education of the architect. 

    Moderator Peggy Peña, an architectural intern at Ami Gross Architects, began the discussion by highlighting her experiences as a recent graduate from New York Institute of Technology.  Bz Zhang, who teaches architecture at University of Southern California and organizes with Design as Protest and  Dark Matter University, noted that while we think of the word “radical” as meaning “drastic” or “extreme,” etymologically it means “at the root of,” meaning that radical change means change at the root of an issue.As for “incremental change,” Peña and Zhang both proposed “getting the discipline out of the way”—merging independent and radical thought with current curricula in lieu of perpetuating colonial or white-centric ideology in day-to-day teaching.

    Colin Koop, a partner at SOM New York, mentioned the importance of a methodical approach for any kind of change to occur. He spoke from his experience improving promotional cycles at SOM, pointing out how data collection and transparency are key in creating an equitable work environment. Dialogue with different groups of people is essential to bring change to education and the discipline.

    The discussion touched on the calls for change spurred by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, placing conversations around inclusion and diversity the profession in the context of the current American zeitgeist. Koop noted how these systemic events highlight the need for radical change instead of incremental change. In response to the question of what kind of change, radical or incremental, is more effective, Zhang responded that such a question suggests an idea of “quantity of change,” while the real question revolves around power: Who can make necessary change? Catherine Cathergoon, a BArch candidate at Pratt Institute, advocated for a balance between both radical and incremental change, encouraging a feedback loop—looking at how small changes affect the larger systems. 

    The group also identified some fundamental flaws in architectural education: eurocentrism, limited outlooks, and a lack of communication. Peña noted how diluted the term “radical change” has become in the context of the Eurocentric model of architectural education, especially in light of the momentum required to make change in society. Speaking from their experience as a queer person of color, Zhang discussed the normalized nature of racism and how momentum for change must be rooted in community values to fully serve those who need it most. Koop spoke about the role of professional environments in investing, monetizing, and funding this kind of momentum. He went on to distinguish between low-hanging fruit—such as displaying the Pride logo in the workplace—and high-hanging fruit—advancing LGBTQ+ employees to the highest levels of leadership. both are necessary, one requires far more institutional change. 

    The meaning of change has shifted for Cathergoon during the pandemic, but she is able to find support in like-minded people that advocate for progress. She highlighted the need for more people of color in roles of authority in schools, as well as the need for studio work to engage more fully with the site and the people impacted by architectural development, rather than just focusing on form and function. 

    Zhang discussed their work with Dark Matter University, where they have sought to amplify voices of color and diverse perspectives with platforms of team-teaching and a course called “Foundations of Design Justice.” Dark Matter has a majority BIPOC faculty and a multi-university student base.

    Meanwhile, Koop noted that his education largely focused on students becoming sole practitioners. This approach did not reflect the reality of the professional environment, where architectural designers primarily work in teams. As a student, he never engaged with a community during reviews or while working on a preservation project, which he found disappointing and felt would have rounded out his education.  He later noted that as a practice, SOM strives to address community engagement by maintaining it as a part of their design fee, reiterating how positive change is happening—albeit more slowly than we’d like.

    There is a lack of design education outside of university and a lack of understanding in the general population regarding the role of designers in the architectural process. This could perhaps be remedied by early architecture education in schools. 

    Zhang and Koop both experienced unhealthy work environments very early in their careers, which fostered a culture of long hours, all-nighters, and no free weekends. After Cathergoon noted how this mentality is fostered in university architecture programs, all panelists advocated for a healthier school culture to create a healthier office culture.

    Many participants also proposed developing a more holistic approach to studio review formats so that they could include community members or potential inhabitants. There was broad agreement thatimplementing this change would make the design process more effective.

    While Chattergoon lamented the disconnect between practice and pedagogy, she remained hopeful that equitable representation could allow younger professionals to thrive. She defined the role of an architect in two words: vision and sight, a dichotomous relationship between the imagined and the concurrent reality. Her hope for conscious and equitable change, was more than  just a sentiment—it was a call to action.

    Koop encouraged professionals to mentor rising professionals from completely different backgrounds to encourage diversity and inclusion at all levels.

    The conversation concluded with the opening sentiment of reimagining the word “radical” and its role in architectural education. Through this conversation between students, educators. and working professionals, a number of strategies and ideas came forward to change the culture and education of the architect towards a more inclusive future.

    Want to Join the Conversation?

    The AIANY Social Science + Architecture Committee meets monthly. Meetings are open to the public and typically occur at 8:30 am on the last Thursday of each month.

    Panelists: 

    Catherine Chattergoon, B. Arch Candidate and Student Advisor to the Dean, Pratt Institute
    Colin Koop, AIA, Design Partner, SOM
    Peggy Peña, Assoc. AIA, NOMA, Architectural Intern, Amie Gross Architects; Co-Chair, AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee; Co-Chair, NYCOBA NOMA Project Pipeline
    Bz (Brenda) Zhang, Assoc. AIA, NOMA, Citizen Architect Fellow, University of Southern California; Core Organizer, Design As Protest Collective; Core Organizer, Dark Matter University
    Colin Koop, AIA, Design Partner, SOM

    Authors: 

    Ekam Singh is an architecture student at Pratt Institute and a fellow of the New Voices in Architecture Journalism program (The Architect’s Newspaper/Pratt Institute). 

    Monty Rush is a Pratt student with an interest in construction and a fellow of the New Voices in Architecture Journalism program (The Architect’s Newspaper/ Pratt Institute).

  • June 27, 2022

    Text by Michele Rafferty

    The latest conversation in our Public Space series, Tracing Gender and Sexual Inequalities, examined how leveraging data, research, and informed collaboration can create more just public spaces that elevate rather than alienate marginalized communities.  The conversation addressed questions such as: At what point does public space become hostile to certain gender and sexual identities? How can reviewing existing data help us understand the absence of, and create more, opportunities around advocating for positive change?

    “Societal attitudes towards public spaces have long been plagued by binary thinking,” noted Fauzia Khanani, AIA host and the founder of Studio Fōr. “Inclusive design offers a powerful tool for disrupting this cycle”—and for creating spaces that unify and heal.

    Amy Rosen, a sociospatial designer with PLASTARC, asked, “What if architecture and design were void of gender, sexual, and racial oppression?”  Gender stereotypes shape the way we design our societies, and society often relies on these stereotypes to comprehend people and construct spaces, Rosen pointed out. But what if, instead of exploiting people, design embraced the variability of human expression?

    “There is value in speaking directly to people, just as hard metrics help us get a picture of how people interact with spaces,” they said. “The value of data becomes clearest when we actually use it.” 

    But, Rosen cautioned, data has limitations and must be approached thoughtfully and interpreted with context and nuance. Otherwise, “solutions” may be tone-deaf or address only symptoms rather than root causes.

    A.L. Hu, a writer and design initiatives manager for Ascendant Neighborhood Development referenced Kevin Guyan’s book Queer Data: Using Gender, Sex and Sexuality Data for Action. Historically queer people have been counted mostly in data related to criminal acts, such as criminalized sex or cross-dressing, as well as in a corpus of data addressing illness and disease.  In relation to queer people, data was often collected to document evidence of what those collecting it considered to be problematic. Hu posed the question, what would a paradigm of data collection that serves the interests of queer people actually look like? “The big question of queer data is ‘who’s it for?’ and ‘who does it serve?’” they emphasized.

    The 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, a fight between trans women and police at a 24-hour cafe in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, is an example of blurring the boundary between public and private space, as well as safe and unsafe space.

    The police saw the riot as a violent disruption by a group of “crossdressers.” But for the queer community, the drag queens who frequented the cafe were reacting to long-running harassment from the police which had been happening all summer.

    “The riot was as much a reaction to the situation in that cafeteria that night, as it was to years of queerphobic policing throughout the city of San Francisco,” said Hu. The fact that the riot spilled out into the public setting of the street underscored that the conflict was not just a private matter between the customers and the management of the cafe, but a public one between queer people and the city…The public show of queer solidarity and care in the streets made it queer vigilantism. The riot called into question [whether] queer people are ever safe, in private or public, who gets to take up space, and who gets to be part of the public.”

    The research of Victor Gonzalez, a recent graduate from Colorado University Boulder and the Executive Chair for the American Institute of Architecture student JEDI committee, focuses on sexual racism in public spaces. Gonzalez found there was a consistent pattern of sexual racism at queer bars and clubs in Denver. Sexual racism, is the “set of negative sexual attitudes, sexual exclusion, or fetishization of those who are non-white,” he said. Physical spaces cannot be racist in and of themselves, but they can provide spacial and territorial conditions for sexual racism to thrive.

    There are no quick fixes for the problem but Gonzalez discovered some correctives that can be integrated into the built form itself, to counteract the effects or dissuade the presence of sexual racism.  One bar, called Pride & Swagger, had posters at its entrance condemning racism and other forms of discrimination. This set a tone about the type of space that would exist inside the building.

    Jennifer Gardner is a design strategist who works at the US Office of Personnel Management, a government agency that uses human-centered design to help other agencies privilege human needs in policy and service design. “What makes a vibrant public space?” she asked. “Why do we even want to be in public spaces in the first place?”

    She has frequently used an ice-breaking activity where she shows a series of pictures of public spaces to people, in order to understand what appeals to them about these spaces.  Many people liked the warmth and color of an environment or the closeness of the people in the images. In some cases, what drew them to the scenes were that the people in the photos reminded them of their own family. “This sort of observational data is essential for urban design,” Gardner said. 

    Planners play an important role in making public spaces accessible to those who aren’t typically present or visible. This is also an important consideration for community-based organizations, led by and advocating for groups typically left out of the decision-making process, when they lobby for investment to support their self-led programming.  Data about public space can be a powerful tool in this evaluation process

    Gardner is currently designing a “public life data protocol,” which could enable the wider use of data to inform public spaces, with the goal of shifting historic biases against people-centered design in policy decisions. This data-collection tool, which will be open, adaptable, and usable by anybody, should encourage more democratic participation in public space, illuminating blind spots we may have by informing our decision-making through evidence, rather than anecdote.

    Brittni Collins, assistant director at Times Squares Arts, offered an example of an inclusive use of public space—a three month installation in Times Square called  “A Fountain for Survivors” by the artist Pamela Council.  The “Survivors” in the piece’s title is left open for self-identification, and the structure itself is 18-feet tall, a cocoon-like hooded shell, filled with exuberant color, housing a fountain. For Council, fountains function as “living sculpture” and make unique contributions to public spaces through “working in culture’s meeting places, as gathering places, and places where people make wishes, giving people this buoyant sense of hope…”

    When collecting data, researchers must attempt to observe and understand behavior without judging the people engaged in it. This is inherently challenging, but according to Gardner, her open protocol is designed to guard against biases. 

    “There are some huge ethical questions around surveillance, period,” said Gardner. To illustrate, she discussed how one company that uses visual capture to build data profiles of spaces may use invasive data, such as faces, whereas another may use more nondescript identifiers, such as the width of shoulders. 

    The responsible use of nuanced data to create more inclusive and safer spaces is a key concern of these panelists, as is cultivating a genuine sense of community rather than, in Rosen’s words, “a pandering, even if well-intentioned, one imposed from above.”

    According to Gonzalez, it’s important for designers to avoid egotistically making the final decision on what a space should be, ignoring the input of the communities that inhabit it.  “I think that’s where a lot of the errors happen,” he said.  “Just as important as all your data analysis and preparation before building a space, is to leave those final decisions to the communities you’re building for.”

     

    Want to get involved?

    The AIANY Social Science + Architecture Committee meets regularly. Meetings are open to the public and typically occur at 8:30 am on the last Thursday of each month.

    Jennifer Gardner is an urbanist and civic designer whose work promotes equity and opportunity through sustainable, human-centered design and policy. Gardner works as a design strategist at the Lab at OPM, an interdisciplinary team of consultant designers supporting federal government organizations to transform their programs, processes, and people through human-centered design. Gardner has an MS in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute and a BA in English Literature from Cornell University.

    Victor Gonzalez is an emerging Mexican architecture professional currently practicing in Denver, Colorado. He currently serves on the AIA Colorado J.E.D.I. Committee and as the executive chair for the national AIAS J.E.D.I. Taskforce.

    A.L. Hu is a queer, nonbinary, transgender Taiwanese-American architect, organizer, and facilitator who lives and works in New York City. Hu was a 2019-2021 Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow and they are currently Design Initiatives Manager at Ascendant Neighborhood Development in East Harlem. Hu writes the not-so-regular Queer Agenda newsletter, and provides brainpower and energy for Queeries, an ongoing community-building initiative for and by LGBTQIA+ architects and designers. They received a Master of Architecture from Columbia University GSAPP.

    Amy Rosen applies integrated design methodologies to everything they do—seeking opportunities to tie architecture into systematic and fluid urban networks. Rosen is an advocate for the power of design to inspire, to unify, and to heal. Using their architectural education as a backbone, Rosen incorporates equity and social sustainability into their design process. 

     

    About the Author

    Michele Rafferty is a freelance content coordinator working with PLASTARC, a consultancy dedicated to increasing the flexibility and desirability of space using social research and occupant engagement.

  • April 22, 2022
    Decorative graphic

    Text by Michele Rafferty

    An online program hosted by the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY) and its Center for Architecture addressed public space research and design, exploring how to gauge security inequities and create inclusive and equitable public spaces.

    “I would be remiss to say that every single person in New York City experiences public space in the same way when it comes to safety and security,” said moderator Fauzia Khanani, the Principal Architect of the award-winning New York firm Studio Fōr and the co-chair of the AIA New York’s Social Science and Architecture Committee. “Historically, the needs and perspectives of every community member have been rarely considered and incorporated into public space design.”

    She encouraged the group to consider how design decisions and data can lead to creating equity in public spaces.

    Linnea Tillett, the founder of Tillett Lighting Design and Associates, has lectured widely on the subject, asking whether it is possible to design a nighttime public space where everyone feels safe and secure. “My vigorous answer,” she said, “is no,” because feelings of personal safety are “deeply complicated and personal… but, design research and implementation do have the potential to create nighttime spaces which are warm and welcoming.”

    Sharon CottonTamara GreenfieldLayman Lee, and Isabel Saffon gave a collaborative presentation on how civic engagement can help drive the implementation of public health and public safety measures. An active community member in the Wagner Houses, a public housing development in East Harlem, Cotton has participated in community service going back 20 years as a member of the Neighborhood Watch; her most recent role has been as the Sergeant of Arms for the Wagner Tenants Association Board. Greenfield is the Deputy Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety. Lee is the Project Director of the Neighborhood Safety Initiative (NSI) at the Center for Court Innovation, a lead implementer of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP), and Saffon is currently the Associate Director of Neighborhood Equity Design at the Center for Innovation at the NSI, which also supports MAP, reimagining public safety through civic participation.

    Greenfield spoke about how the NSI works to build out resident networks, which help transform public spaces into safe public spaces. The Mayor’s Action Plan, which the group works to implement, was selected in 2014 as a response to a spike in violence in New York City public housing. The NSI builds residence teams by recruiting 15 residents from each development, and providing training and stipends.

    NeighborhoodStat events engage the community in building public safety decision-making processes through a participatory process. Part of this involves residents discussing how to best invest $30,000 of funds made available by the initiative in a way that improves public safety in their communities. Saffon and her team collect data at the NeighborhodStat events that they use to tailor the process to better fit a diverse community. The action plans resulting from this process are “quick, tangible wins while we wait for long term policy change to happen,” Lee said.

    Cotton laid out the specifics of some of these action plan success stories at Wagner Houses, where at the time of its implementation, the median income was around $25,000 a year. A group of community activists cleaned up a green space. Before they took action, it was unsanitary and unsafe. At night it was dark, people slept there, and it was a haven for drug dealing. After consulting with the residents, they all decided that it was the area they wanted to make safer. So the resident-activists ran night and day audits to collect data on activity in the green space.

    Since implementing their action plan, the space has hosted talent shows, food giveaways, school bag giveaways, Christmas giveaways, and a variety of programs that foster community gatherings.

    The audience asked Cotton about difficulties she had faced in completing projects. She said getting the timing right was often a “Some took a year, some two years” situation and that MAP was the first time she really saw progress.

    In response to a question about the best ways to collect data, Lee explained that, while surveys are a ubiquitous tool, they would often run into survey fatigue. One way to counteract this fatigue is by offering monetary incentives for survey participation and having dedicated people collect survey data. For example, at an event where they were handing out food and knew there would be a crowd, she would make sure there was somebody on the food line to hand out surveys.

    “Designers can be advocates when they see things happening which are not to the benefit of most… communities,” Tillett said. Smart Lighting could potentially be used as a form of surveillance. She emphasized that “these are choices which should not be made without much cooperation and collaboration,” and that “designers… [need to be] willing to work within the institutions and not stand outside it.”

    Join the AIANY Social Science + Architecture Committee or drop into one of our monthly meetings. They are open to the public and typically occur at 8:30 am on the fourth Thursday of each month.

    About the Author
    Michele Rafferty is a freelance content coordinator working with PLASTARC, a consultancy that uses analysis and data to help companies integrate their employees’ and clients’ needs, while organizing and leveraging their physical space.

  • March 18, 2022
    Decorative graphic for Climate Inequities panel

    Text by Jessica Morris

    On November 18, 2021, AIA New York’s Social Science and Architecture Committee hosted the first of two programs in a series on Public Space Research and Design. “Gauging Climate Inequities” brought together a set of research and practice perspectives that articulate the complexities, challenges, and imperatives for designers working towards just practices. “Just Practice” is the 2022 AIANY Presidential Theme. The discussion outlined approaches to interdisciplinary design research that both question and aim to support the best practices in process, through critical analysis. 

    Researchers and invited guests included Helen Cole, a post-doc researcher at Barcelona Laboratory for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Timon McPhearson, Professor of Urban Ecology at The New School, Ibrahim Abdul-matin, an urban strategist and the founder of Green Squash Consulting, and Jessica Elliot, an architect with Hart Howerton, a Culture of Health Leader, and the Chair of East Harlem Community Board 11 Environment Open Space and Parks Committee

    Abdul-matin and Elliot have a firsthand, community-based understanding of the challenges involved in choosing a site for public infrastructure and building support for or opposition to public investment, as well as the socio-cultural realities that inform cohesive neighborhoods as they address built-environment preferences. 

    Cole drew from research that aggregates public health and built environment data to determine who benefits from Green Infrastructure investment in neighborhoods that are, or are at risk of, gentrifying. 

    McPhearson’s presentation highlighted the stacked-deck of vulnerabilities that high climate risk and historically under-resourced communities often bear, while questioning engagement methods and the lack of rigor, intentionality, and consistency in scoping criteria for public investments.

    The speakers each shared a published paper or document that anchored their perspectives. Taken together, the suite of provocative research calls into question what designers are capable of in practice.   

    Cole’s research on green gentrification finds that benefits are not equitable. For planners and designers, these implications may serve to inform early project-planning assumptions. The paper raises awareness of how health-based data can be applied to spatial analysis, as part of a body of research that serves to define difficult terms—such as “gentrification”—in a way that can be measured and approached intentionally.

    McPhearson’s research on siting criteria (how/where a building is situated on it’s lot), the scoping and regulatory processes that serve to locate a project, posits a smart and well-timed opportunity to identify a critical gap in an equitable process that can be addressed intentionally. Through analyzing codified language in public documents that precede green infrastructure investment, a picture of priorities centered on hydrology and economics emerged. McPhearson suggests that if environmental justice is to be a primary motivator in deciding where to put green infrastructure in cities, there is much work to be done in anchoring that “commitment” in the criteria that paves the way for project implementation. Furthermore, engagement and pre-planning should be codified to improve the process, accountability, acceptance, and outcomes in communities that have been subject to past planning injustices. 

    This case study examines legacy planning practices and their evolution through one project’s decades-long planning and development, which highlights past injustices while pointing to the legal protections and processes which are now in place. These processes ensure more and better communication about public investment prior to implementation. 

    One of the recommendations from McPhearson’s siting research—to engage, inform, and partner with willing communities early in the pre-design process—would be a stark shift from the current status quo, whereby informational design reviews are delivered at public presentations, with little opportunity to incorporate meaningful feedback. This is the usual current practice, too-little, too-late approach, that community members know all too well. 

    It is fair to recognize and acknowledge the limitations of our agency partners, but also to assert the importance of funding pre-design research and engagement undertaken in partnership with cities and communities, by trusted community-based design and planning professionals. Pre-design research builds capacity, acknowledges and harnesses local expertise, and embeds the potential for the benefits of the investment to be received more willingly and more equitably. 

    So, what can designers do? We can continue to work, personally and professionally, to build trust within our multidimensional communities. We can engage creatively in the civic processes that exist around large-scale public investment. We can be critical in our design tactics and processes, in order to consider the implications of these and other research findings, while advocating for process audits and changes to the status-quo that will result in more equitable design approaches. 

    While architects and design teams are not always at the seat of power and are not solely responsible for allocating funding or controlling regulatory processes and implementation timelines, our expansive knowledge before, during, and after the impact-cycle of the work that we collectively engage is vital to success and this knowledge must inform and pervade every aspect of client and stakeholder engagement and design decision making. We should always approach design through this lens of research-based understanding.  

     

    Want to get involved?

    The AIANY Social Science + Architecture Committee meets regularly. Meetings are open to the public and typically occur at 8:30 am on the last Thursday of each month.

     

    Event panelists:

    Ibrahim Abdul-matin, Co-founder, Green Squash Consulting; Board Member, International Living Future Institute; Board Member, Sapelo Square

    Helen Cole, PhD, Co-coordinator for Urban Environment, Health and Equity, Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (BCNUEJ), Institut de Ciència Ambiental i Tecnologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB)

    Timon McPhearson, Director of the Urban Systems Lab and Professor of Urban Ecology, The New School; Research Fellow, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Stockholm Resilience Center, and the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science

     

    Author: 

    Jessica Morris, Assoc. AIA is an independent design consultant and interdisciplinary professional working at the intersection of environment, cultural sustainability and human behavior. She engages in teaching, research and practice with a focus on innovative, integrated thinking across disciplines while reconciling relics of our pasts. She drives strategic advancement of client-side goals towards shaping healthy, mindful atmospheres in institutional, public and private realms. Since 2020, Jessica has Co-Chaired the AIANY Planning & Urban Design Committee.

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