ARC 327R.15 / ARC 386M.16

We live in unprecedented times, one that is rapidly changing an architect’s relationship with the communities in which we work. The ravages of the pandemic have caused us to rethink how we design public spaces. At the same time, the shortcomings of our profession have been laid bare—it’s elitism, the high-end economic niche we typically work within and the woefully small percentage of people of color play in the design profession. Much of it is a self-reflection of the profession that is, like many others, caught up in the groundswell of voices from across the world demanding racial equity and environmental justice, while questioning the engine that drives our culture—capitalism. Over the last quarter-century, a small but growing movement within our profession and academia has been working to achieve a more inclusive and democratic approach to the way architects work with clients and communities. Numerous monikers are used to describe it, community-driven design, human-centered design, socially responsible design, social equity design, and public interest design. Whatever it’s called, the triple bottom line that ties this movement together is achieving social, economic, and ecological change within the communities in which designers work.

This seminar will focus on these three pillars of that movement and how their ethical implications. At the same time, we want to think about the unique epoch in which we live—what is increasingly being called the Anthropocene. What are its ethical implications that demand a whole new scale and temporal way of responding? We’ll examine, how designers can benefit from timely issues like the Green New Deal, and the growing environmental equity movement. We’ll investigate how the things we use and make—focusing on architect-designed buildings and communities—have contributed, whether intentional or not, to issues of inequity while helping reshape the very atmospheric and geologic formation of our planet, that which now defines the Anthropocene. Design ethics within the design profession and academia is changing. The role of architects is rapidly shifting too. Much of it is brought about by a need to adjust or suffer the consequences of obsolescence. To consider this shift, we’ll first focus on how designers can become more effective through public interest design methodologies, discovering helpful tools to be used that will achieve social economic, and ecological change for communities in which designers work.

The second part of our seminar will step back and examine the lives of individuals and communities on the Gulf Coast—Houston, Galveston, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Biloxi, and Pensacola—that have disproportionally suffered from social and environmental inequity. We’ll explore how those communities overcame many of those injustices, mostly through the hard work of individuals and local non-profits setting out to make their communities more equitable. What role could designers have played in this that would’ve benefitted those affected? The seminar is intended to empower students—our future community designers—by equipping them with social-equity design approaches that identify and employ ways in which they can make well-designed, resilient, and equitable communities that promote dignity for all. Group discussions, readings, and student-led presentations are planned that will explore more democratic ways designers can consider when working with the public. There will also be a series of research-based videos and film assignments that address contemporary these issues of racial justice and ecological change.




Fall 2023