Posts tagged with "NOMA":

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Architecture and design organizations speak out as protests over racial injustice continue

Earlier this week, AN published a mission-redefining statement written by Kimberly Dowdell, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was killed in public view at the hands of members of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25. “As architects, how can we protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public if our country is not properly including Black Americans as full members of our society?” wrote Dowdell. In the days—now weeks—since Floyd’s death, protests and demonstrations, ranging in size from less than a dozen people to crowds numbering in the thousands, have been staged in all 50 states as Americans demand accountability and a swift end to racial injustice and police brutality. Leading organizations and professional networks within the architecture and design community have also been quick to respond in solidarity with official statements. All of them have expressed their outrage and sorrow regarding Floyd’s death—and the current state of affairs in America—while also acknowledging that meaningful conversations about race, inequality, and the built environment need to happen as do sweeping changes. Below are some of these statements published in full. AN will add additional statements to this list accordingly. From Jane Frederick, president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA):
“As Americans, we are mindful of this nation’s dark history of racial inequality. We are appalled by any actions that further threaten the universal respect and human dignity that everyone deserves. As architects, we remain committed to advancing civil rights protections, fair housing policies, and accessibility in the built world to help achieve the more perfect union we all seek. The fact is that architects and AIA, in our more than 160-year history, have not always felt compelled to share our perspectives. But the times we live in, the horrific nature of the events we witness, and the role we see for every member of our society demands that we speak out.”
From the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA):
“After hearing feedback from our membership and after much reflection, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) issues the following statement regarding the killing of George Floyd: The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) joins millions of people around the world in mourning the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by a police officer. ASLA recognizes that the brutal systems of slavery and Jim Crowism have dehumanized black people and weakened their communities. We also acknowledge that the planning and design of the built environment, including landscape architecture, has often had a disproportionate adverse impact on black communities. Systemic racism in the built environment has taken many forms, including redlining, urban renewal, and disinvestment. Environmental injustices, including lack of equitable access to clean air and water and greater concentrations of pollution, continue to plague these communities. Further, gentrification and displacement make it impossible for black communities to continue to exist. The landscape architecture profession can play a critical role in reversing these trends. Public spaces have always been a critically important platform for the protest movement and democratic change. They have also become sites of violent confrontation and oppression against the black community. It is important that ASLA and others amplify the black narrative of these spaces. ASLA stands in solidarity with black communities in the fight against racial injustice and police violence against black people. Moving forward, ASLA will deepen our partnership with the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN) to create a meaningful, sustainable plan of action to help guide the profession in addressing the wants and needs of black communities—no matter how much work and time it takes. Black Lives Matter.”
From the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN):
In the shadow of the racialized murder of George Floyd and the history of violence against black communities in America, the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN) stands in solidarity with the protests against such killings and associated acts of terrorism. As black design professionals working within public and community realms, we are keenly aware of the need for our presence as stewards of equity and equality. This racialized shadow has long been present in American communities, places, and practices. It has been 100 years since the Red Summer of 1919, when black people were attacked and murdered across the United States. Two years later, the prosperous black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma—sometimes known as the ‘Black Wall Street’ — was attacked by a white mob. The legacy of the death and property destruction is still being addressed today. Within this 100-year timeframe, there have been countless other acts of hate and violence against black people and their communities. These events all speak to a need for our nation and our profession to truthfully reconcile the legacy of systemic racism and violence rooted in landscapes of institutional slavery. The continued refusal to reconcile this legacy does not pay respect to the role black people played in creating American landscapes. We are committed to fighting these transgressions and omissions through cultural, historical, and social practices. We embrace cultural research that reveals the history of black people living in and building the American landscape. The BlackLAN values working as a collective to bring voice to the importance of black landscape architects in American society.”
From Paul Edmundson, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
Like so many others, I have been profoundly dismayed and deeply saddened at what is happening in our country. George Floyd’s horrific and inexcusable death in Minneapolis; the shooting of peaceful protestors in Louisville; the fomenting of violence; destructive outbreaks in cities across the country; and the politicization of what should have been a compassionate response by leaders in our society: I would like to think that America is better than this. It is evident, however, that we have a long way to go to ensure that justice and equity are applied to all Americans. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has made a commitment as an institution to ensure that our own work reflects the equal value of every single American in our history and in our culture. A major reflection of that commitment is the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, created by the National Trust in response to the tragic events in Charlottesville in August of 2017. We believe that historic preservation can play a critical role in acknowledging and healing the divisions in our nation, by telling the full story of our often-difficult history, by elevating and preserving the enormous and important contributions African Americans have made to our nation, and by carrying that powerful legacy forward through places of truth and reconciliation. We also believe that recognizing the dedication of communities of color to the American experiment through the places we work to save—from Rosenwald schools to the home of Madame C.J. Walker—will help to inspire innovation, investment, and faith in our democracy. Each of us, in our own communities, businesses, and institutions at all levels, must commit to do all we can to create constructive spaces where justice and peace can flourish—including in those places that reflect our history as Americans. If we are successful, we will find our way to a more unified society, where outbreaks of pain and outrage will become only a thing of the past. We have much work to do in this country to acknowledge and shift a legacy begun hundreds of years ago, but I firmly believe we can find a way to healing and peace by respecting the humanity of every person, and by making that evident in the very fabric of our communities.”
From the American Planning Association (APA):
The American Planning Association is heartbroken over the brutal, senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this week, and the immense pain inflicted on the black community, which continues to suffer from the insidious and blatant effects of structural racism nationwide. We are also profoundly saddened by the additional burdens being visited on our cities, which are still reeling from the devastating effect of a global pandemic, and concerned for the tens of thousands of planners across the nation who strive daily — despite setbacks and frustrations — to raise the voice of the voiceless. The impact of Mr. Floyd's death and other recent grave injustices like it must be viewed in light of the historical trauma inflicted on African American communities, including discrimination wrought by the planning profession itself, which led to structural disadvantages in housing, transportation, education and employment that last to this day. APA recognizes this reality and is working to center equity in all planning processes in keeping with our mission of creating great communities for all. From our landmark Planning for Equity Policy Guide, to the ethical principles that undergird the professional practice of planning articulated in the AICP Code of Ethics, to the new online public engagement toolkit to ensure that all voices are heard, we're working to help planners and others recognize and eradicate the bad policy decisions of the past. Together we can take an active role in rebuilding and transforming communities to create a society that ensures safety, health and prosperity for all its inhabitants. APA will continue to develop and deliver tools, techniques, support and encouragement to planners tirelessly combating all forms of racism and inequity. Let's stand in solidarity with communities of color nationwide at this painful time, moving beyond righteous anger and advocating for peaceful dialogue that educates and builds the bonds of great communities for all.”
From Docomomo US:
At this time of profound sorrow and frustration over the murder of George Floyd, Docomomo US honors the call put forth by the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), ‘to condemn racism and take an active role in eliminating the racial biases that account for a myriad of social, economic, and health disparities, and most importantly, result in the loss of human lives.’ We recognize that we are all part of the structure of American racism, and we re-affirm our ongoing, never-ending commitment to identify, oppose, and eliminate racial inequality and injustice wherever it occurs, including within our own organization. We will encourage our chapters to do the same. As a very first, humble step, Docomomo US will focus on updating and highlighting our online register to better feature and recognize the important work and contributions of African American and minority modernist architects and designers to our culture, our cities, and our architectural heritage. This is a struggle that we all must take part in; we encourage you to participate in this effort by submitting a minority architect or designer for our website.”
From Diane Regas, president and CEO of the Trust for Public Land:
We mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all other Black Americans who have been unjustly killed. This week we have seen just how dangerous simple acts that many White people take for granted can be for People of Color in this country. The heart of our mission is rooted in our belief that everyone has a fundamental right to enjoy the outdoors —regardless of race, socio-economic status, or zip code. No one should face a threat of violence while jogging, birding, or visiting with friends. We need a new way forward. In order to do the real work of building a more just society, we must acknowledge the history of racial discrimination, injustice, and violence that has and continues to harm generations of People of Color in this country. The Trust for Public Land is redoubling our commitment to engage communities in creating inclusive parks and open spaces where People of Color are welcome and safe to enjoy the outdoors.”
From the Architectural League of New York
The murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis—and the murders of Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others—lays bare, yet again, the pervasive and enduring racism that disfigures American society. Simultaneous with these deaths, systemic racist violence shows itself as part of all of the converging crises of this moment: the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant economic collapse; climate change; our ongoing “everyday” crises of police brutality, housing insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, radically unequal and unjust education and criminal legal systems, and overarching economic inequality. Each of these sources of oppression in American society has had and is having massively disproportionate impacts on Black and brown Americans. Every system, every institution in American society, including the discipline of architecture, is implicated. The built environment—our public, private, and civic spaces, and the ways we design, construct, and inhabit them—reifies lopsided power relationships, economic inequality, and thwarted opportunity. Through inadequately examined design, planning, and land-use decisions; through the negligent or malevolent location of infrastructure, “renewal,” and noxious uses in poor and minority neighborhoods; through embodying and failing to challenge the aggrandizement of Whiteness and the depreciation of Blackness and all other cultures in aesthetic, technological, and historical norms and values; through our inadequate commitment to helping provide the human right of adequate shelter and other basic needs, we perpetuate the status quo and the unjust world it has created. Dismantling and rebuilding these systems and practices—and the very structures of American society—is not the work of a month or a year; it is work that must engage all of us, immediately, continuously, for a lifetime. We commit The Architectural League to ongoing action for change.”
From Sarah Curry, president of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS):

It is almost impossible to put into words the feeling we get in the pit of our hearts when we are unable to distract ourselves from the egregious manifestations of racial inequality in the United States of America. Some of us are new to feeling, or do not regularly feel, so angry, helpless, and disgusted. Some of us have lived with that scary discomfort for so long now that it is as familiar, as anxiety-inducing, and as exhausting as a recurring nightmare. During times like these, all of us have the potential and responsibility to embrace empathy, seek justice, and uplift those who need it the most, no matter how difficult it may seem to be.

Though we may wish it otherwise, racism has always been and will continue to be inseparable from the realm of architecture. This profession we’re inheriting has a long history of excluding people of color and underserved groups from the design process, even when their homes and livelihoods are repeatedly the first to be demolished to make way for ‘bigger and better’ developments. Between the 1960’s and today, the percentage of licensed architects in the United States that are African-American has not exceeded 3 percent; and as of right now, in all of this country’s recorded history and among the over 110,000 currently licensed architects in the U.S., there have not yet been 500 licensed architects who identify as African-American women. Though most of us were not taught these facts in architectural history classes, a few of us have had to live these lessons in our very real present and, unfortunately, for the foreseeable future. Our education and experience in this field is a reflection of society’s privileged ability to disregard the minority and benefit the majority. There are no more excuses—we cannot un-know or un-see what the pandemic has exacerbated and what advocacy has brought to light over the past few months; and as Desmond Tutu said, ‘if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’ The pursuit of equality is an interdisciplinary issue that we, as students, designers, recent graduates, and almost-architects, should be excited to do our part to solve.”  Read more here. 
From the Professional Association for Design (AIGA):

AIGA, the professional association for design, stands in solidarity with Black designers, creative business owners, educators, students—as well as their families, cultures, and communities—in the condemnation of racism, intersectional discrimination, fear, and acts of violence, including murder.

It’s with great sadness and anger that we reflect and take a stand against the violent deaths of George Floyd and Black adults and children across the United States. It’s a pattern of loss that spans generations and directly impacts the safety, health, and liberty of Black Americans. Members of our community are weighed down by the knowledge that they or their loved ones may be killed in their homes, community parks, driving in their cars, or walking in their neighborhoods. Whether they live in Saint Louis, Minneapolis, New York City, Louisville, or countless communities across our Nation and around the world.

As designers, we understand the power of a well-designed and human-centered system to drive health, security, and justice in our communities—and to protect and ensure the rights of all people. We are attuned to identifying unethical systems. Systems that exclude certain individuals or groups, lead to dead ends, anger, and in the most monstrous cases, the consistent loss of life from historically abused and disenfranchised communities.

This is a problem that’s crossed generations and centuries, and enough is enough. These wrongs can no longer be permitted to stand. No problem can be solved that is not first identified and soberly acknowledged. AIGA acknowledges the issues and pledges to do its part to confront this egregious reality by both empowering and supporting our members and community to do the same. Even though the full effects of our investments aren’t likely to be fully realized by our generations, it’s time for designers and the organizations that support them to do our part to shift the tide of change toward solutions, peace, and justice.” Read more here.
From the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH):
The wrongful murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police has proven a tipping point in the attitudes and actions of many Americans. Protesters around the country have taken to the streets, during an unprecedented pandemic, to demonstrate their commitment to securing for black Americans the basic rights and protections of every person. We share in their hurt and anger. It was nearly seven years ago that Dianne Harris penned a poignant essay for the Society of Architectural Historians entitled ‘Race, Space, and Trayvon Martin.’ In this essay, Harris describes the way that the structures and ideologies of anti-black racism were made material in the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. How histories of spatial segregation and gated communities came to a head in what was described as a young black man literally ‘out of place.’ Her conclusion that race and space are inextricably linked in deadly ways for many minorities should not come as any surprise to us today. As these insights were made during the, now retrospectively, optimistic Obama years, writing such words seemed to hold the promise of better things to come. Yet instead of witnessing a decline in violence against black Americans, we find ourselves facing more and more tragedy, sometimes on a daily basis, as cell phone footage and investigative journalism reveal the routine character of anti-black racism in the United States. From the signs of young black children reading ‘Stop Killing Us’ in Tampa to the human barricade willing to stand between black protesters and police officers in Louisville, we can find examples of people deciding to take action to ensure that our nation lives up to its promises of life and liberty. These individuals are joined by hundreds of other Americans—people of every age, color, and economic background—who support their efforts, but feel powerless, afraid, or unsure about how to contribute. ‘What is it that I can do to help?’ ‘What can I possibly do that will make a difference?’ If our peers can take to the streets and risk their health and lives for a political principle, even as the White House threatens to respond to such lawful protests with military force, then we must at least summon the courage to publicly acknowledge the importance of their sacrifice. Their work is essential to maintaining a healthy democracy and we stand in solidarity with their efforts.” Read more here.
From AIA New York and the Center for Architecture:
The events of the past week and the injustices that these events are forcing us to confront have been heartbreaking and overwhelming. On May 25, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, MN. His name was added to a long list of victims of unjust violence towards black communities and other communities of color in America. This is nothing new, we have crossed this ground before in our history. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report warned that, ‘our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, and one white—separate and unequal.” The burden of this pain and suffering, while not felt equally, must fall on all of us. AIA New York and the Center for Architecture, as two organizations dedicated to furthering the practice of architecture to the highest of standards, place design excellence at the very core of our mission. In the most fundamental sense, we rely on our built environment to provide spaces for shelter, for employment, for governance, for entertainment, and for public gathering—including, when necessary, spaces for protest. Architecture and architects have a vital role in healing injustice, and we must hold ourselves accountable. The current COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic fallout have only served to underscore the existing structures of racial inequality in our society. While we have all been experiencing this crisis, we are not all impacted equally. Black people and people of color have felt health and economic impacts most acutely, including within the architecture profession. This glaring inequality serves as a call to action, and our organizations feel this at the deepest level. Now is the time to have more difficult conversations about what our community and profession can do to make change, and to work for justice and fair access to opportunity and wellbeing. An architect offers society specific skills that are not accessible to everyone and is often in a position of privilege; thus it falls on our community to put our hard-won problem-solving skills to work in the struggle for a more just and equitable society. This cannot be done if our profession continues to fail to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.” Read more here.
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National Organization of Minority Architects redefines mission amid nationwide protests

Yesterday, as people nationwide protested the police killing of George Floyd and broader violence against Black Americans, the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) announced a redefined mission. The organization and its current president, Kimberly Dowdell, had been working on creating a strategic plan for the group for several months but made the announcement last weekend as part of a way to address the events of the past week. An announcement online stated that “NOMA’s mission, rooted in a rich legacy of activism, is to empower our local chapters and membership to foster justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, community advocacy, professional development, and design excellence.” Dowdell announced the change in an open letter posted on NOMA’s website that contextualized the update in the history of racism and anti-Black violence in the United States. Connecting architects’ mission to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, Dowdell asked, As architects, how can we protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public if our country is not properly including Black Americans as full members of our society?” The full, unedited letter is below:
The air in our nation is thick with a profound sense of grief and despair. Our collective air is so very thick that it’s literally hard to breathe. We struggle to grasp for air as we all navigate a global pandemic coupled with the deadly and pervasive virus called racism that has plagued America for over four centuries. As the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), we are calling on our members and our broader professional community to condemn racism and take an active role in eliminating the racial biases that account for a myriad of social, economic, and health disparities, and most importantly, result in the loss of human lives – Black lives. As architects, we are professionally responsible for protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. The tragic execution of Black Americans at the hands of people infected by racism has plagued our nation for generations. On this day 99 years ago, the racially motivated burning of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma claimed the lives of over 300 Black residents who were thriving independently in their own community. Just this week, our nation is grappling with the senseless murder of George Floyd, and all of the countless names of Black men and women who have recently lost their lives as a result of hatred, sparked by the color of their skin. As architects, how can we protect the health, safety and welfare of the public if our country is not properly including Black Americans as full members of our society? Black Americans and other people of color have been subjected to injustice and inequality for far too long. NOMA was founded in Detroit by twelve Black architects in 1971 on the heels of one of the most racially challenging eras in American history. Born out of the Civil Rights Movement, NOMA was formed for the purpose of minimizing the effect of racism on our profession. Today, NOMA must call for more. As an organization, we must BE more. Over NOMA’s five decades of existence, we have borne witness to the seemingly endless tragedies perpetrated against Black Americans and people representing other communities of color. After careful consideration, NOMA has determined that this moment is ripe for us to take a far stronger stance. We have been advocating for justice throughout our history and now is the time to clearly articulate what matters to us the most.

Mission

Our existing mission is to champion diversity within the design professions by promoting the excellence, community engagement, and professional development of our members. While these issues remain important to us, we acknowledge that those words feel hollow in times such as this. Unfortunately, these trying times of racial unrest occur too frequently. While the recalibration of our mission has been in the works for quite some time, our national board has voted to enact NOMA’s new mission statement, effective immediately:

NOMA’s mission, rooted in a rich legacy of activism, is to empower our local chapters and membership to foster justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, community advocacy, professional development and design excellence.

To be clear, there is power in words and we did not simply rush to react to the current state of affairs. We have been in the process of adopting a new strategic plan for the past several months. In the near future, we will engage our local chapters to establish a revised set of aims and objectives to support our updated mission. NOMA’s mission had not changed in over a decade, and we are doing so today in order to better equip our members to be the change that we seek to design for our society. We are taking a stand, and we hope that you will stand with us. With just over half a year left of my two year term as NOMA’s president, I am asking everyone to dig deep and help us battle the circumstances that not only result in racially motivated violence against people of color, but also prevent people of color from entering into and thriving in the profession of architecture. As a professional organization, our primary focus should be on supporting and serving our members. Right now, our members are hurting. This is traumatic. NOMA is here to address this pain in the best ways we know how. Before we can confidently advocate for greater economic opportunities for architects of color, we need to ensure that those very people are first able to breathe. It so happens that my NOMA presidential platform for 2019-2020 is ALL in for NOMA. ALL is an acronym to promote diverse Access, Leadership and Legacy in the context of the profession of architecture. The other reason for using the word ALL is to signal that this is an effort that we need ALL people to join in. Broadly speaking, we should ALL be struggling to make sense of how our fellow humans are being mistreated. I encourage our White members and allies to take the lead in dismantling racism whenever you see it emerge.

B.R.A.V.E.

We must all leverage our positions of privilege to help our most vulnerable citizens, neighbors and colleagues strive for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I urge you to consider what’s happening right now as an American problem that we must all face together. Can we collectively be ALL in for NOMA? More importantly, can we all be BRAVE, as in committing ourselves to the list of items below for which BRAVE is an acronym?
B.R.A.V.E - banish, reach, advocate, vote & engage
If we can promote these basic ideas in our firms, our organizations and in our communities, our nation will be better for it. Perhaps then, we can all breathe a little bit easier. Only then, can we target our energy and creativity towards designing a better world for all. In Solidarity, Kim Kimberly Dowdell 2019-2020 NOMA National President
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Robert Coles, trailblazing Buffalo architect, dies at 90

Following a long, fruitful, and often challenging career that was marked by rampant racial discrimination but helped open doors for fellow architects of color, Robert Traynham Coles, founding member and inaugural secretary of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA), has passed away at the age of 90. Elected in 1994 as the first African American architect to serve as chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows, Coles established his practice three decades prior in his native Buffalo, New York. Throughout his career, Coles was known as somewhat of a hometown hero: A polished designer of local landmarks (the JFK Community Center, the Alumni Arena and Natatorium at the University at Buffalo, and the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library are among them), a community organizer, and a tireless champion of the underserved who dedicated his career to “an architecture of social conscience” according to an announcement released by nycoba, the New York chapter of NOMA. Coles’s home and studio, a modernist hybrid prefab affair, located in Buffalo’s Hamlin Park Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. “His house on the parkway was the sleeper. It’s a distinctively and exemplary modern house, as distinctive as Jefferson's Monticello,” architect Clinton Brown told the Buffalo News. “He was one of the few architects to be living in the house he designed when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of America's most significant houses.” “One of the most important lessons from his life and work is he was a great architect,” added Brown. “He's often pigeonholed as an African American architect. His work is some of the best architecture ever built in Buffalo.” Outside of his beloved hometown, Coles also designed buildings in New York City, Washington, D.C., Providence, Rhode Island, and Rochester, New York. Coles also served as an educator and mentor, holding teaching positions at the University of Kansas and Carnegie Mellon University. Coles himself received his undergraduate architecture degree from the University of Minnesota before attending the Massachusetts of Technology, where he received a master’s of architecture in 1955. Following his graduation, Coles studied in Europe and apprenticed in Boston before returning to Buffalo in 1961 and opening his eponymous practice two years later. It is the oldest African American-own architectural firm in both New York and in the Northeast. Coles was the recipient of numerous local and national accolades including, most recently, the 2019 Edward C. Kemper Award from the AIA for his significant contributions to the practice of architecture. Many of these awards, as the Buffalo News points out, were in recognition of his work with minority architecture students and fledgling practitioners. “Our cities have become more diverse and the populations are multi-racial, but we need architects who also are diverse and multiracial to build the cities of the future for those populations,” Coles told Buffalo-Toronto National Public Radio affiliate WBFO in a 2019 profile, which noted that a majority of the architects who worked with Coles at his firm over the years were minorities and women. Coles also published a memoir, Architecture and Advocacy, in 2016. According to the WFBO profile, he was hard at work writing a second book as of last year. “Bob Coles was a Buffalo original and a brilliant, trailblazing figure in architecture,” Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said in a statement. “He fought for African American representation in all aspects of architecture and mentored architects of all races. His creative vision came to life throughout Western New York and in other parts of the nation.” Coles is survived by his wife, Sylvia, and two children.
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How architecture is exacerbating the coronavirus crisis for minorities and Black Americans

For the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, AN will use this column to keep our readers up to date on how the pandemic is affecting architecture and related industries. This weekly article is meant to digest the latest major developments in the crisis and synthesize broader patterns and what they could mean for architecture in the United States. The previous edition of the column can be found here.  While the coronavirus pandemic continues to pummel the entire country, it is hitting certain populations harder than others, particularly Black, Latino, and Native American people. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the CDC released its first national data tracking race among COVID-19 patients, which showed that in March, “the percentage of Black [hospitalized COVID-19] patients (33 percent) was much higher than the percentage of African-Americans in the population as a whole.” Local data from cities and states tracking race among COVID-19 patients showed that the health disparity is even worse in certain areas: In Louisiana, about 70 percent of the people who have died are Black, though only a third of that state’s population is; “African-Americans account for…72 percent of virus-related fatalities in Chicago, even though they make up a little less than a third of the population,” according to the Times; the virus has killed more people in the Navajo nation than in the much larger state of New Mexico; and, as of Thursday, all the people who have died in St. Louis so far from COVID-19 complications have been Black Why is this the case? The answer could have something to do with architecture, particularly housing. According to public health experts, while other factors, like implicit bias in healthcare and higher rates of heart disease and diabetes, certainly play a role in the racial coronavirus disparities, crowded housing in low-income neighborhoods could be facilitating the spread of the disease and increasing “weathering,” or the wear and tear of environmental stresses on the body, which increases the severity of coronavirus cases. Urban design inequities also almost certainly play a role in transmission—even with social distancing rules in full effect, subway stations in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in the Bronx in New York City are packed with commuting essential workers. “COVID-19 has been a magnifying glass on the weaknesses in our systems,” said Kimberly Dowdell, principal at HOK and president of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA). Though racialized housing disparities are nothing new, the stark death toll of the pandemic is harshly illustrating those disparities’ effects. “There’s a saying that when America sneezes, the Black community catches a cold,” Dowdell said, pointing to an enormous wealth gap between Black and White Americans as one of the main reasons why Black people in the U.S. suffer more acutely during crises like the current one. The Brookings Institution recently reported that in 2016, the net worth of a typical white American family ($171,000) was nearly ten times greater than that of a typical Black American family ($17,150). While a variety of discriminatory policies have sowed the seeds for the current imbalance, racist urban planning has played an enormous part. Redlining, which started in the early 20th century and often continues in some form today, is a term for the once-legal practice of denying investments and bank loans to predominantly Black neighborhoods—banks would outline such areas in red on maps. The practice discouraged investment in Black-owned homes and businesses, which lost value over generations, resulting in not only a racial wealth gap but spatial disparities, as well. Many predominantly Black neighborhoods have fewer grocery stores, are closer to polluting industries, and lack high-quality affordable homes. Even after the pandemic subsides, vulnerable populations will still be at risk from the next crisis and will potentially be in even a weaker state. One answer, Dowdell said, is for communities to invest in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods to decrease the wealth gap and increase resiliency. That kind of recovery will require a mix of policy, development, and design professionals working together, ideally with teams that reflect the communities they’re serving. “Diverse teams are really important,” Dowdell said. “Architecture should reflect the communities that they serve form a racial perspective.” Dowdell pointed to Chicago, where she lives, and where Mayor Lori Lightfoot has focused on the city’s racialized spatial inequality in her mission to eliminate endemic poverty within a generation. “If there’s a team that goes into certain communities, it would be great if there were certain people who were from that community or at least have some level of familiarity with the culture and of the community,” Dowdell said. “For example, if we’re looking at the South Side of Chicago [which is over 90 percent African American], and you don't have African-African team members, that’s a missed opportunity.” Building teams that reflect underserved neighborhoods could be more difficult after the pandemic, as the economic downturn may be harder on architects who come from those areas. “I do think that Black communities are going to have a harder time recovering,” Dowdell said. “It’s going to be a challenge for everyone, but I think that given the wealth gaps, architects of color will probably struggle to get back to where they were.” As jobs, internships, and salaries decline, even if only temporarily, as a result of the pandemic, those without a cushion of family money or who financially support loved ones could have to leave the profession for greener pastures. The racial wealth gap means that Black and other minority architects may flee in greater numbers, damaging diversity in a profession that is already overwhelmingly white. As of 2019, only 2 percent of NCARB certificate holders identify as Black or African American, and less than 1 percent identify as Latino. What can architects do? Dowdell touted NOMA’s national network as a way for architects of color to support each other and find opportunities, including the group’s new NOMA Foundation Fellowship, which offers a stipend and internship for architecture students. NOMA is launching a new weekly web series, “Stay All In for NOMA,” which will help members stay informed during the pandemic. Dowdell also suggested that architects get involved with local NOMA chapters to organize and advocate for city and state planning policies that invest in underserved neighborhoods. For those already working on projects advancing social justice, NOMA is partnering with the NAACP and the SEED Network advocacy group on the Design Awards for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI), which will recognize excellence in those categories. “No matter what,” Dowdell said, “an architect can do something.”  In other corona news from this week, AN covered new hospitals and healthcare spaces deployed for the pandemic, and the AIA’s new assessment tool for adapting existing buildings into coronavirus treatment sites. The crisis continues to demand innovative thinking, and in Florida, autonomous vehicles are delivering medical supplies. For the housebound, we also highlighted many exhibitions you can check out from home, including robot-assisted gallery tours, a French show exploring AI and architecture, virtual Frank Lloyd Wright tours, and a virtual exhibit on a balmy shore. We picked some books to catch up on, too. Enjoy, and be well!
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Critics speak out over the draft federal architecture mandate

Everyone from critics to commentators to professional organizations came out swinging this week in reaction to President Trumps draft executive order to impose a neoclassical style (now publicly available) on all future federal architecture. AN reported yesterday that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released a statement strongly opposing a uniform style, and according to Contract, the organization had prior knowledge of the draft and expressed concerns over it during a mid-January meeting with James Sherk, a top policy aid in the White House In a statement published today by Contract, the AIA issued a letter to Trump after news broke about the leak, asking the president to “ensure that this order is not finalized or executed.” At the time of the aforementioned meeting, the AIA said it believed the draft was not moving forward. “We were shocked and disappointed to hear that it is still in circulation,” the organization wrote in the letter.  The AIA isn’t the only top-level advocacy group in the industry to speak up so far, but it is one of the main avenues for those interested to take action against the draft order, outside of cold-contacting the White House Below, AN broke down highlights from the AIA’s letter to Trump, alongside responses from other major players in the industry:  American Institute of Architects  “The draft we have seen also attempts to define ‘classical architectural style’ to mean architectural features derived from classical Greek and Roman architecture with some allowances for ‘traditional architectural style,’" wrote the AIA in its letter. "Given that the specific type of architecture preferred in the order can increase the cost of a project (to up to three times as much), we would hope the GSA, Congress and others would take pause. Since these costs would have to be borne by U.S. taxpayers, this is not an inconsequential concern… “President Trump, this draft order is antithetical to giving the ‘people’ a voice and would set an extremely harmful precedent. It thumbs its nose at societal needs, even those of your own legacy as a builder and promoter of contemporary architecture. Our society should celebrate the differences that develop across space and time.” The Architecture Lobby  (T-A-L) “Seizing on architectural styles is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes,” wrote The Architecture Lobby in a statement. “The particular appeal to classical architecture often uses the nostalgic appropriation of style by fictionalizing national heritage and manufacturing an ideal subject to marginalize and other while simultaneously claiming moral superiority. The Lobby wants to draw attention to the larger ideological implications this implies, implications that go beyond a conservative approach to style or limitations to freedom of expression. Neoclassicism in the US is directly related with the construction of whiteness. It was whiteness that was sought after in the many plantations houses that chose the style, justifying it as an emulation of ancient Greek ‘culture’ to separate themselves from the Indigenous peoples whose land was stolen ad the enslaved African people forced to build and work in them. Thomas Jefferson’s excitement with the work of the Beaux-Arts school in Paris was motivated by a desire to make America ‘European,’ and white... “Privileging historicist architecture is a common tool of the capitalist class in the United States as well. This tactic is used in planning codes and by homeowners associations to favor traditional aesthetics under the guise of human-centric design, but whose true purpose is to continue the legacy of red-lining by preventing the densification and diversification of neighborhoods. The ultimate goal is to inflate property values and maintain the racial and class segregation of our cities, to create an environment fo capital to continue the destruction of communities through gentrification.  The ‘Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again’ executive order is a reformulation of these local aesthetic strictures at a national level and a blatant attempt to leverage aesthetics in the service of white supremacy.” National Trust for Historic Preservation While the National Trust values—and protects—traditional and classical buildings throughout the country, to censor and stifle the full record of American architecture by requiring federal buildings to be designed, and even altered, to comply with a narrow list of styles determined by the federal government is inconsistent with the values of historic preservation,” wrote the National Trust in a statement. “The draft order would put at risk federal buildings across the country that represent our full American story, and would have a chilling effect on new design, including the design of federal projects in historic districts…We strongly oppose any effort to impose a narrow set of styles for future federal projects based on the architectural tastes of a few individuals that will diminish, now and for the future, our rich legacy of federal architecture.” Vishaan Chakrabarti, Founder of PAU Studio “Like the fundamentalists who desecrated Bamiyan and Palmyra, it is only the most insecure, arrogant and petty of leaders who attempt to remake the world in the delusions of their dominant image,” Chakrabarti said in a statement provided to AN. “Once again the Trump administration is making their hatred of our diversity clear, a hatred we must fight to defend the pluralist idea of America that most of us hold dear. Make no mistake, this is artistic censorship, and censorship is yet another step towards the fascism that clouds our land.” National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) “Diverse cultural influences on the creative expression of our collective built environment is vital to the strength of our society and paramount to our freedom as Americans,” wrote NOMA. “Given the historical significance of NOMA, rooted in the African-American experience, we are especially cognizant of the notion that for many of our members, such buildings in certain contexts stand as symbols and painful reminders of centuries of oppression and the harsh realities of racism. As architects, we are called to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. We have a duty to advocate for design that reflects the values of the people we serve: ALL of the people. The proposed Executive Order, if enacted, would signal the perceived superiority of a Eurocentric aesthetic. This notion is completely unacceptable and counterproductive to the kind of society that fosters justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Freedom of architectural expression is a right that should be upheld at the highest levels of government.”  The Architectural League of New York The Architectural League fundamentally opposes the imposition of a “preferred” style—whether classical or any other—by diktat as the enforced representation of the American people and their institutions,” wrote Paul Lewis, president of The Architectural League NY, and Rosalie Genevro, executive director. “Such a policy would be anathema to the idea of a free, diverse, and inclusive society. “Architecture that represents the American people must be created in response to specific sites and specific needs, responsive to local communities and conditions, drawing on the skills of the country’s most talented architects.” American Society of Landscape Architects  “The American Society of Landscape Architects has profound concerns about a proposed executive order that would impose uniform style mandates on federal building projects,” said Wendy Miller, president of ASLA. “Our nation’s design professionals are admired around the world for their creativity, innovation, and diversity of thought. Designers of the built environment should not be confined by arbitrary constraints that would limit federal building projects to a single style.  ASLA believes that the public interest is best served by a collaborative place-based process that continues to produce federal projects that reflect the unique needs and values of each community and its citizens.” Docomomo US “The draft executive order which states, “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style’ would roll back Federal architectural policy by nearly sixty years and set a dangerous precedent for how we value our nation’s architectural diversity and history," said Todd Grover, the vice-president of advocacy, at Docomomo US. “We, along with our colleagues at the American Institute of Architects (AIA), oppose this change in policy to promote any style of architecture over another for federal buildings across the country. This decision could create long-standing issues with new and also existing facilities that have achieved significance since the 1960s.”
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NOMA Conference 2019 prepared architects to engage with a more diverse future

It was the first time Malaz Elgemiabby had attended the annual conference of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). But it turned out to be like going back to her childhood in Sudan, being surrounded by architects, designers, and builders who looked like her, and who cared as deeply as she does about community participation in design. “In Sudan, architects are women,” Elgemiabby told AN. “So I used to build buildings when I was a kid. As women [in Sudan] your responsibility is to build the houses, to design, to assess the needs of the community.” Elgemiabby went to architecture school at London Metropolitan University, seeking out its program for its emphasis on community participation in design. She first went to work in the Middle East, where she also earned a master's degree in interdisciplinary design from the Qatar campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. She moved to Cleveland three years ago to work as an architect. After doing some projects that she’s quite proud of in the city, Elgemiabby launched her own firm, ELMALAZ, earlier this year in Cleveland. But it’s also been a bit lonely at times, being an architect on a mission to bring communities into the design process. “[In Cleveland] I’m one of the few who are advocating for this type of approach to architecture,” Elgemiabby said. “I come [to this year’s NOMA conference] and I find not only a lot of black and brown architects, but I also find people who are excited about the same mission. This was really great. It’s always nice to grow your tribe.” Growing that tribe, of course, has been NOMA’s goal all along, ever since twelve African American architects founded the organization during the 1971 AIA National Convention in Detroit. This year’s annual conference, in Brooklyn, attracted a record attendance of over a thousand participants for five days of programming, including service outings, seminars, keynote lectures, student design contests, and the usual networking and socializing. Overall, NOMA membership has grown 30 percent in 2019, under the leadership of NOMA president and HOK principal Kimberly Dowdell. The organization now has more than 1,400 members, organized under 30 professional chapters and 75 student chapters across the country. Under Dowdell, this year NOMA established a new tiered corporate membership program for large and small firms that wish to support the organization—and also gain access to discounted consulting from NOMA’s curated pool of experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dubbed the “President’s Circle,” founding members include AIA, NCARB, Enterprise Community Partners, Cuningham Group, Shepley Bulfinch, Gensler, HOK, and Perkins & Will. But growth and progress for NOMA still come in the context of the Sisyphean task of making architecture more representative of the communities it serves. Out of 115,000 or so architects licensed in the U.S., only an estimated 2,299 are black. That context was made even more somber this year with the loss of one of NOMA’s giants, Phil Freelon, who passed away in July. NOMA renamed its annual professional design awards in his honor. Zena Howard worked with Phil Freelon for well over a decade. So it was fitting that this year’s NOMA conference programming included her delivery of the J. Max Bond Lecture, organized annually by the New York Chapter of NOMA and the AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Howard’s talk focused on the notion of “Remembrance Design,” which emerged over the past few years through her work with Freelon and others. Now principal and managing director of the North Carolina office at Perkins+Will, Howard used some of her firm's recent projects to illustrate remembrance design in action. The examples varied in scale and scope from the 1.1-acre Sycamore Hill Gateway Plaza in Greenville, North Carolina, to a 30-acre design process covering Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, to a 1.3-mile “linear museum” along the Crenshaw Boulevard transit corridor in Los Angeles. All were historically black neighborhoods, typically scarred by racially-discriminatory redlining and later the era of urban renewal and the construction of the interstate highway system. In short, remembrance design is a way of using architectural discovery as a healing process to unearth, unpack and honor painful histories in neighborhoods that have traditionally been disinvested and neglected—or worse yet, bulldozed and paved over—by the worlds of architecture, urban planning, and real estate. “It’s about engaging people who have historically not been engaged,” Howard said. “First engaging with these communities, there’s a lot of hurt. I once thought to myself you have to go get a psychology degree or something. It’s difficult sometimes to hear. But over time, you realize that the pain a lot of people have, they have to release that, you sort of have to provide an outlet for it. A lot of it at first is just listening.” Howard spoke about how that deep listening process turns architecture into more than just a design process; it elevates architecture into a healing process. It can even make the architect’s job a little easier in the end. Once you move past the pain, Howard said, some participants from the community will actually feel inspired enough to start sketching themselves. “Even if you can’t get people really to talk about something, they can sketch something, they can draw,” Howard said. “It becomes therapeutic in a lot of ways. Once you get passed that threshold you really start moving fast towards design solutions that they’re a part of.” That depth of community engagement resonated with many NOMA members, from Elgemiabby to NOMA National Board Member and SOM senior urban designer Tiara Hughes, whose childhood neighborhood in St. Louis is now a baseball field. “I understand what [Howard] was referring to that there’s trauma and feelings and emotions that we have to deal with collectively as a group,” Hughes told AN. And it certainly resonated with Dowdell, who was partly inspired to become an architect by growing up among vacant homes and boarded-up commercial corridors in Detroit. “The kind of engagement that Zena [Howard] and her team has done or is doing, I think that’s probably standard practice for a lot of architects here [at the conference],” Dowdell said. Dowdell is hopeful that more and more of those kinds of projects will come up as the U.S. and especially its cities become more and more diverse. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts people of color will become a majority in the U.S. by 2043. Dowdell views NOMA’s work as preparing architecture for that future. “We all have to be more conscious of the fact that more and more clients will be people of color, more and more government officials—people with more power,” she said. Of course, in bringing good design to more diverse places that have historically been neglected or harmed by earlier periods of development, the conversation naturally turns to how good design can risk putting new pressure on market conditions, pushing up property taxes or rents and pushing out the very residents who participate in these design processes. Howard brought up the example of Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver, British Columbia, as one where the residents and elected officials are looking to a community land trust as a policy intervention to protect those residents the project had in mind as end-users. “The thing [Howard] also mentioned, rightly so, was the thing that design can’t solve: the political and economic conditions that need to be grappled with to effectively prevent gentrification and the negative effects of gentrification,” Dowdell said. “I think reinvestment is fine, but I think when it starts to displace people who have had a stake in that community for years, decades, generations, that’s going to be problematic.”
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NOMA President Kim Dowdell on the politics of Detroit and the architecture profession

Detroit is an entrepreneurial city. In its heyday, it was full of forward-thinkers who were breaking boundaries by building big business dedicated to innovation and manufacturing. That same spirit still exists in the Motor City today, though some have written off the gritty, Michigan enclave as a place of the past. Many dedicated Detroit natives are working hard to rebuild its legacy as a capital of American economic and cultural development. Kimberly Dowdell, in particular, is using her experience as an architect and a real estate developer, as well as her innate entrepreneurial drive, to change the face of urban housing in Detroit. Along with her team at Century Partners, an emerging firm in the city, she’s tackling long-standing social injustices through the lens of home ownership. She’s doing the same in her new role as president of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA) by advancing representation in the architecture industry and fighting for professional equity. AN spoke with Dowdell about her unique career path, what drives her to rebuild Detroit, and why addressing architecture’s internal issues can help build stronger cities. The Architect's Newspaper: You spent time on the East Coast working as an architect and developer, and then studied public administration as a graduate student at Harvard University. What drew you back to Detroit? Kimberly Dowdell: I grew up in Detroit in the early '90s when the city was in pretty bad shape. The buildings were ghosts of their former selves, which fascinated me, but economically, Detroit was devastated. Instead of moving back after graduating from Cornell with my bachelor’s in architecture, I decided to sample cities on the East Coast (Washington, D.C., and New York), rounding it all off in Cambridge for the Harvard program. Many people ask me why I studied government since I came from a design background, but I firmly believe buildings are intrinsically part of the public realm, so it’s our responsibility to learn everything we can about how policies can work to better the built environment. In 2015, I was recruited by the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department, where I worked closely with the Planning and Development Department, collaborating with a long-time mentor, Maurice Cox, Detroit’s Planning Director. That unique opportunity to contribute to Detroit’s resurgence ended my 14-year East Coast tour. AN: Since you’ve been in Detroit, you’ve transitioned into a more entrepreneurial role as a professional and within your current firm, Century Partners. How does your background in public service and design serve you in thinking about housing in Detroit? When I was younger, I didn’t like that Detroit looked bad, so I decided I was going to become an architect. I didn’t really see many people trying to solve the city’s big problems growing up, so I aimed to do it myself. A lot of what I’ve chosen to do in my career has been in response to things that I think are not ideal. As a kid, I actually wanted to be a doctor, which is funny now because I consider myself kind of like a doctor at the macro level. I get to help heal neighborhoods. Architects have to be knowledgeable of all the issues at hand in order to get a project done successfully. To be a developer, you also have to understand the bigger politics at play. With Century Partners, I’m able to use my design eye as I try to maintain the historic fabric of Detroit as much as possible through our projects. AN: What’s the biggest thing you’re working on at Century Partners? Detroit is well-known for its expanse of single-family homes. We’re currently looking at building out neighborhoods that are positioned to contribute to the multi-family housing fabric of the city. We’re currently fundraising to purchase commercial and multi-family buildings in Detroit’s core that will spur economic development, increase density, and create a 24/7 neighborhood. The other major project that we're working on right now is called the Fitz Forward Neighborhood Revitalization project, a city-backed, public-private partnership that will eventually revitalize over 300 parcels of land, including existing homes, open lots, and parkland, across the Fitzgerald neighborhood in central Detroit. AN: You spend a lot of time thinking about Detroit’s future and how to solve these big-picture problems. How is this mindset helpful as you start your new position leading NOMA? I’m three months into my presidency and the biggest thing I want to be really mindful of is fundraising for the organization. As a woman, I think there’s a general consensus that we don’t directly ask for money—as if fundraising is a taboo thing to do. But as president, I want to commit to doing that, which coincidently ties into my fundraising efforts with Century Partners for the commercial property and multi-family housing fund I mentioned. Money is always part of the bigger picture in architecture, but it’s a new challenge for me to think about it so directly.   AN: How could more money for your organization have an impact on architecture? I was recently possessed to say out loud in a podcast interview that if someone gave NOMA a million dollars, it could change the face of the profession. We’d have money to fuel our access-related programs like exposing K-5 students to architecture through classes and products, while middle and high school students could more deeply engage with our NOMA Project Pipeline summer camps. College students, especially aspiring architects of color, need help with studio supplies, technology, housing, transportation, and scholarships. As the first millennial president of NOMA, I’ve also begun considering how the architecture profession can alleviate the student debt crisis. Many of my colleagues have really high levels of student debt coupled with comparatively low professional salaries (consider lawyers and doctors) and limited flexibility and financial freedom. How can we as an organization motivate or incentivize people to pursue architecture knowing that compensation is a challenge and the student loan debt is higher than ever? We will miss out on some really talented people if things don’t change. This is also a diversity issue. Minorities in particular struggle with this given the wealth gap. NOMA is about getting people to believe in the power of diversity and the success of companies and organizations who support that vision. I want to make the case that investing in NOMA is investing in the future of a more diverse and equitable profession, which can help build more diverse and equitable cities. AN: So you think addressing the architecture’s internal inequalities would have a trickle-down effect on not only the way firms are set up, but how projects and cities get built? I absolutely think that there is a correlation between who is empowered to author the built environment and how that environment shapes the well-being of the community that it serves. In the words of Winston Churchill, "we shape our buildings and thereafter our buildings shape us." I believe that this statement holds true and I would add that the heightened diversity of our built environment stewards (developers, architects, builders, real estate brokers, etc.) will contribute to a more thoughtful and responsive set of buildings, spaces, and places that will equate to more sustainable cities. I believe in quadruple bottom line sustainability—incorporating financial, ecological, social and cultural priorities. While everyone in the development process has a particular purpose and role, I think that the more we see greater cohesion between those quadruple bottom line priorities, the better off our cities will be moving forward.
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What do architects want from a Green New Deal?

As the scale of climate change has accelerated and grown direr in recent months, upstart politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have made addressing the issue a central part of their political platforms. Talk of a Green New Deal (GND) has picked up since November's elections, reflecting a major shift in how Americans discuss climate change. But what is the Green New Deal and how might it impact architects?

The impetus behind the GND is simple: Because the threat of anthropogenic climate change is so fundamental, only a government-led, war-like industrial and economic mass mobilization effort can potentially transform American society quickly and thoroughly enough to avoid global catastrophe.

There are plans to unveil the first round of draft legislation at the federal level this week, but as of yet, no official set of policies has been agreed upon by legislators and activists. But various elements of a supposed GND have been touted for years (see here and here for thorough explainers).

Generally speaking, GND proponents have three specific and wide-ranging goals:

First, activists are calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the U.S. economy. That means eliminating all carbon emissions across every industry in the country, including in vital sectors like energy production, building design, construction, and transportation.

Second, this transition would include a federal jobs guarantee backed by the large-scale deployment of new public works projects. A job guarantee, which, generally speaking, would provide anyone who wanted work with some form of federal employment, would allow people currently working in carbon-intensive industries to leave their jobs for publicly-funded green-collar work. The guarantee, supporters argue, would create a vast, fairly-paid workforce that could get to work transforming American society right away.

Third, activists pushing the GND generally agree that the transition to a carbon-free economy must incorporate socially-just practices that rectify past practices that have exploited certain communities. Such reforms include finding ways to house people displaced by climate change, countering the long-term effects of redlining and the racial wealth gap, and making sure that unlike the original New Deal, the benefits and jobs created by any GND are enjoyed by people of color and other historically marginalized groups.

The initiative would go beyond simply greening the country's energy grid or incentivizing a shift to public transit and electric vehicles; the GND envisions a top-to-bottom reworking of the U.S. economy. Likely, the effort will involve densifying existing cities, building new ones from scratch, and perhaps most importantly, retrofitting and upgrading nearly all of the country’s existing building stock. Architects will be vital to the effort and are likely to benefit from a potential GND through new commissions and opportunities to provide input and expertise across a range of projects and scales.

In an effort to help spur discussion among architects on a potential plan, The Architect’s Newspaper asked designers from around the country to share their wish lists for what a potential GND might include. The responses span a range of issues that touch on the built environment, project financing, building codes, and environmental regulation, among other topics.

For some, creating incentives to reuse and retrofit existing buildings could be a key component of the deal. Karin Liljegren, principal at Omgivning in Los Angeles said, “I’d like to see how legislators can reassert the importance of the federal government’s Historic Tax Credit Program (HTC). The HTC incentivizes developers to rehabilitate iconic and viable old buildings, but it has recently been under threat after decades of stability. Enshrining these incentives in the legislation would send a massive signal to clients like ours.”

But, of course, focusing only on the most iconic historic structures would likely send many buildings to the trash heap. To address “less iconic structures or ones that require an approach that is more adaptive than restorative,” Liljegren suggested “a program of economic incentives that helps developers prioritize the broader reuse of existing buildings. Reusing a structure can certainly be more challenging than building new, but the payoffs are enormous—less embodied energy and waste is only the beginning. In terms of texture, form, and spirit, existing buildings enrich our identities and communities.”

For other architects, increasing the scope of public transportation options in parallel with boosting density is the way forward. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU in New York City, said, “A Green New Deal should include what I called the 'American Smart Infrastructure Act' in my 2013 book A Country of Cities. In that proposal, I call for the elimination of existing subsidies that encourage sprawl like highway funding, the mortgage interest deduction, and low gas taxes.” Chakrabarti argued for applying this new revenue toward building a national high-speed rail and urban mass transit network that can serve new investments in affordable transit-oriented multi-family housing and low-cost office space. The funding, however, “should only go to municipalities that discourage single-family housing density, like Minneapolis recently did,” Chakrabarti added.

Of course, the overarching network of regulatory policies, like environmental, structural, energy, and seismic codes, that shape the built environment could be improved, as well.

Anica Landreneau, director of sustainable design for HOK in Washington, D.C., pointed to the recently-adopted Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, which she helped craft, as a potential guide for creating a “self-improving threshold” that requires building owners to retrofit existing structures above a certain size according to rigorous energy performance standards. The plan, set to take effect in 2020, seeks to align the energy performance of existing buildings with the steadily-increasing performance metrics crafted for new structures, like LEED certification and Energy Star ratings. The plan will peg the performance standards for existing buildings to the median Energy Star score for all buildings of the same type in the District of Columbia. As the overall energy efficiency of buildings in the District improves over time, the thinking goes, periodic post-occupancy reviews will help create a self-improving target that will compel building owners to upgrade their structures to avoid fines.

In addition to improving incentive programs like the HTC, changes to the way projects are financed more broadly could also help bring to life many of the GND's transformative new projects.

Claire Weisz, principal at WXY in New York City suggested the government “require banks to invest a required minimum 40 percent of their loans in building construction and projects that have sustainable longer-term benefits and proven investments in training and hiring for green jobs.”

David Baker, principal of David Baker Architects in San Francisco, advocated for increased funding for affordable and urban housing projects overall. Baker said, “A major limiting factor on beginning to solve our affordable housing crisis—and the associated climate impacts—is simply money. We have many affordable projects ready to go but currently delayed by a lack of funding.”

Peggy Deamer of The Architecture Lobby wants to make sure that the rights of workers—and the right to work, in general—are not left out of the conversation amid talk of green infrastructure and shiny, new projects. Deamer said, “It is too monothematic to go after environmental solutions without the larger economic structure into which both the effort unfolds or the new carbon-free world functions. If the tech industry’s effort at automation leaves most of us without work or income, who wants to live in that green world?”

In conversations with architects, the issue of affordable urban housing came up often, especially in relation to the stated aims of the GND’s main backers, which include increasing social equity through the program. Because America’s urban areas contain 85 percent of the country’s population and are responsible for 80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, it is likely that the GND’s effects will be most profoundly felt in cities.

That’s important for architects concerned with racial and social equity in the field. With a rising cohort of diverse young designers—as well as many established firms helmed by women and people of color— it’s possible a potential GND could engender a surge of important projects helmed by diverse practitioners. That possibility, when coupled with the existing diversity of urban residents and potential clients, could transform how architecture is practiced across the country.

It’s a realm where Kimberly Dowdell, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), thinks her organization can have an impact. “Black architects have a unique opportunity to take the lead in shaping the future,” Dowdell said. “In under-resourced urban communities, which are often majority Black, there is a great need for a new approach to design and development that fully embraces the quadruple bottom line: social, cultural, environmental, and financial.” Dowdell added, “NOMA members have been doing this kind of work for generations. Now, with the Green New Deal, this experience is especially relevant.”

With a “quadruple bottom line” approach at the center of a potential GND, professional architecture organizations pushing for increased equity among their ranks, and demographic trends leading to greater diversity, the architectural profession is poised for significant change that could be accelerated by a GND.

As the potential changes begin to take form, inclusion will likely remain a top priority for designers. Dowdell explains: “In general, everyone needs to have a seat at the decision-making table as it relates to shaping our collective future on this planet. With such a high concentration of minorities in cities, it is absolutely critical that a truly diverse set of minds and voices are empowered to implement the best of the Green New Deal.”

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AN talks to Gabrielle Bullock, director of global diversity at Perkins+Will

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), started in 1971 by a group of African American architects at that year’s American Institute of Architects conference in Detroit, Michigan, is holding its 44th Annual Conference in Los Angeles this week. The conference aims to bring together a diverse group of professionals with the aim of advancing the standing of minority architects throughout the field. It will run from Wednesday, October 12 to Saturday, October 15, 2016. In preparing for the conference, The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) interviewed Gabrielle Bullock, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, NOMA member, and director of global diversity for Perkins+Will, to discuss diversity issues within the architectural profession. The Architect’s Newspaper: What does the term “diversity” mean to a large, globally-based firm like Perkins+Will? Gabrielle Bullock: I’ll go straight to our Mission Statement, which I think succinctly captures the value we place on diversity: “We believe that inclusion spurs creativity and that innovation is born from an engaged culture of diverse people and ideas. In this global environment, we are committed to building an organization that reflects the diversity of the communities and clients we serve. Diversity: Different thoughts, ideas, and approaches that result from an individual’s cultural background, experience, physical capabilities, skills, ethnicity, education, race, religion, age, gender, lifestyle, and all other characteristics that make each person unique.” You are the Director of Global Diversity at Perkins+Will, can you please describe your position and how it came to be? In 2013, I proposed and designed an approach to creating a more diverse, inclusive, and engaged organization. As one of .2 percent female African-American licensed architects in the US (and usually the “only one in the room”) I was personally committed to championing the advancement of diversity and inclusion in Perkins+Will and the profession. As an architect working with a global firm working all over the world, it became clear that we should mirror the societies and clients we serve. We believe that a more diverse team (in all senses of the word) would provide more innovative, relevant and rich solutions to our work and culture, and ultimately make us more successful. I developed an outline of what my role and the program would focus on along with preliminary expected outcomes and goals. After my appointment as Director of Global Diversity, I took a deep dive into the firm, visiting each office and having honest and at times uncomfortable discussions we call “listening tours.” I asked the staff what they thought about diversity and inclusion, and got unique perspectives. In some offices, the consensus was that we needed to improve racial diversity, in others, concerns surrounded issues of gender and the inter-generational workforce. The yearlong process gave me an idea of the challenges Perkins + Will faces and how to address them uniquely. It was clear that we needed training. I engaged a Diversity and Inclusion (D+I) specialist, Global Diversity Collaborative, to deliver a half-day workshop to the leadership in each office. Through that process, each office determined what their specific challenges were and created their own strategic plan. We made this an accountable program and now continually assess progress according to our stated goals. The initiative is part of our culture and part of our evaluation process: We try to look at everything through a diversity lens. The board, CEO, and office leaders get a progress report from me every year. We now have something called a Diversity+Inclusion+Engagement Strategic Plan with qualitative and quantitative metrics focused on all aspects of our organization like office culture, cultural advocacy, talent retention and recruitment, leadership and commitment, and educational outreach. Fascinating. What are some of your specific responsibilities as Director of Global Diversity? As Director of Global Diversity, I am the strategic and organizational champion tasked with conceptualizing and driving the Diversity+Inclusion+Engagement Strategic Plan throughout the firm. My primary responsibilities include: leading the Diversity Council; communicating Perkins + Will’s strategy, mission and vision internally and externally; leading the development of diversity education and awareness strategies impacting workplace culture, recruitment, and retention, as well as marketing, pipeline outreach, and leadership; and developing metrics to monitor progress toward the fulfillment of the Diversity+Inclusion+Engagement Strategic Plan. For Perkins + Will, engagement is the key action point—the step that makes diversity and inclusion matter, because it points to an individual’s level of influence on a team or a project, not just their presence in the room. My work is not “just an initiative” or lip service from a large firm. For us, this is a call to action, not an exercise. We are loud, driven, and clear: We promote our mission, call for commitment and accountability, and see this work as being about advancing the culture at Perkins + Will, not about simply numbers—we are integrating the plan in all business practices across the firm. Diversity is purposeful and deliberate. What would you say are some of the bigger diversity-related challenges the architectural profession is facing in the long term? The most significant challenge is the lack of racial and ethnic diversity of the profession, specifically with African-American and Hispanic representation. The profession should mirror the communities and society it serves. With an increasingly diverse population in the US and globally, racial demographics are woefully underrepresented in the architecture profession, overall. Another challenge is gender equity and representation in the profession. Issues around work-life integration, pay equity, and career advancement are common issues in the profession at large. Increasing generational differences in the workforce are also a challenge. As architects, we will have to examine, adapt, and advance the way we work intergenerationally if we want to retain emerging professionals and attract future generations to the profession. How can a large, global firm like Perkins+Will become a diversity leader in architecture and beyond? Be bold and be brave! Be loud, clear, and driven! Also, commit to diversity as a core value and not just the right thing to do. With any corporate value or goal, there are strategies and accountability. As an example: The architecture industry embraced sustainability as an imperative to survival. Now sustainability is in the DNA of our profession, and if you aren’t doing it, you are irrelevant. Making diversity a core value should be the same. At Perkins+Will, because our advocacy goes beyond our own firm to the profession as a whole, we are involved with leading and participating in national initiatives that aim to address equity and diversity in the profession. As an appointed member of the the AIA Equity in Architecture Commission and Implementation Team, I am helping to develop a framework for a well-conceived and thoughtful action plan, and making recommendations for advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession. The intent is to create greater urgency within the profession and the Architecture Engineering and Construction community about the tremendous need to have a better representation of in the architecture field. Leadership starts at the top of the organization: Our CEO, Board of Directors, office leaders are all committed to advancing the firm’s Diversity+Inclusion+Engagement goals. By getting involved, taking a leadership role and actively advocating for change, any large firm can become a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the architecture profession and beyond. I am frequently asked to speak on the issue of the value of diversity for groups and organizations like Greenbuild, IIDA, ASID, National Organization of Minority Architects, and AE Advisors as well as for publications like Metropolis, Architectural Record, and Boutique Design. I also get invited to share insight with local architectural and engineering firms: All of this is part of being a leader. The Directory of African American Architects recently surpassed the 2,000 member mark. African Americans make up about 12 percent of the population in the U.S. but only about two percent of registered architects are African-American, with African American women consisting of .02 percent of the overall total, as well. What do you see as some of the ways to change that underrepresentation? Here are a Few Strategies:
  • Strengthen the talent pipeline by increasing outreach, awareness, and exposure to young African-American children. Often, architecture is not presented as a viable career path to the underrepresented youth. We can do this by mentoring and K-12 outreach.
  • Reshape recruitment teams to represent a cross-section of genders, ages, and races in order to attract the more diverse candidates we want.
  • Partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to proactively recruit and mentor students. We are in the planning stages of creating such a program.
  • Examine community college and university transfer requirements to attract community college students to accredited programs.
  • Engage in the purposeful and deliberate recruitment by firms and colleges for diverse students. If schools and firms don’t demonstrate their interest and value in a diverse community on their website and recruitment collateral, many candidates will not apply because they “don’t see themselves represented.”
  • Publically highlight the merits and importance of a more diverse profession to create more relevant architecture to improve the “image” problem the profession has of being a “rich person's profession."
Can you provide some general diversity statistics for Perkins+Will? How does the firm stack up against other firms and the profession overall? I do not have demographic statistics on other firms. However, below are statistics compared to the AIA. Perkins+Will Demographic Statistics:
  • Gender Diversity 2015: 45 percent Female, 55 percent Male (Female: up 1 percent from 2014)
  • Racial Diversity 2015: 26 percent Non-White, 74 percent White (Non-White: up 3 percent from 2014)
Perkins+Will Leadership Demographics:
  • Principals 2015: 25 percent female
  • Associate Principals 2015: 32 percent female
  • Associates/Senior Associates: 38 percent and 44 percent female respectively
Since implementing our Diversity+Inclusion+Engagement Strategic Plan, we have increased gender and racial diversity, though modestly so. We recognize this is a journey and not a sprint, so it’s the long view that’s important for us. The diversity of our leadership ranks has steadily improved over the last three years as we deliberately focus on gender, racial, and generational makeup of our Leadership Institute and emerging professionals programs. At the individual office level, have changes increases in diversity among the staff broadened the firm's client pool correspondingly? Is there a relationship between the what the office looks like and what sorts of projects get taken on? As we’ve increased [the] diversity of our staff there has not necessarily been a direct correlation to the types of clients we have. However, with a more diverse and engaged talent pool that embodies varied cultural and community connections, there is a cultural awareness and insight brought to the design and team, and in some cases, a stronger cultural connection to the client. This connection between our work, our people, and the communities we serve absolutely makes for a strong and culturally relevant design solution. In addition, I would say the more broad our talent pool, the more broad our client and project opportunities. There have been cases where a more diverse team that reflects the diversity of the client has been a competitive advantage. Conversely, there have been situations in the past where our team was not diverse enough, did not reflect the diversity of the client, and was at a disadvantage. Can you please speak to some of the work you have done with HBCUs in an effort to increase African-American interest in architecture at the grade school and college levels? In its final planning stage, the Perkins+Will/HBCU Partnership Program’s goal is to strengthen the academic pipeline of underrepresented groups. With that in mind, Perkins+Will and the deans of the HBCU architecture schools collaborated to create a program that would provide mentoring, counseling and support to HBCU students in a comprehensive manner. Exposure and Awareness is the first step in broadening access and opportunities for the students by providing hands-on information and insight into what Perkins+Will and other large design firms are looking for in candidates: The three components of the program include:
  • Career Fairs: A local team of Perkins+Will staff participates in an annual regional career fair of the HBCU’s by geographic location, pairing the HBCU and P+W office closest to the school.
  • Annual Office Visit: Perkins+Will will host HBCU students for a half day office visit including office tour, project presentations, and resume/portfolio review.
  • Lecture Series: Working with HBCU leadership, Perkins+Will will develop a lecture series to be curated around relevant architectural practice and design. The lectures will be delivered on each HBCU campus on a rotating basis and virtually across the others. Through a lecture series we can harness the vast wealth of knowledge and expertise within Perkins+Will and other firms.
Our Atlanta office piloted the Career Fair and Office Visit with Tuskegee University this past spring with tremendous success. We have seen the positive impact we have on students’ career development simply by investing our time and knowledge. We were fortunate enough to have hired a Tuskegee graduate as a result of these activities.