What Is the Architect’s Role in Creating Equitable Communities?

March 07, 2023|26 Minutes
Newark Community Museum of Social Justice
The Newark Community Museum of Social Justice highlights Newark, N.J.’s history of activism against racial injustice and provides a focus for community aspirations and hope for an equitable future.

Inequitable practices in development and design have long contributed to social and economic disparities embedded in our communities — and architecture has played a role in both perpetuating and remedying these inequities.

On this podcast episode, representatives from the American Institute of Architects, Gensler, and the Neighborhood Design Center, discuss the creation of a new resource, The Architect’s Role in Creating Equitable Communities, which outlines how practitioners can advance equity through their process and projects. Informed by collaborative workshops and input from practitioners across diverse experience levels and firm sizes, the resource seeks to address barriers to equitable design and identifies actionable strategies.

The podcast discussion explains the historic contexts shaping inequity in our communities and offers practical applications for using The Architect’s Role in Creating Equitable Communities guide. From foundational understanding to project selection and community engagement techniques, the guests outline a framework equipping architects with tools that can be employed across roles and diverse practices. Whether within firms or through local advocacy, all stakeholders have a part to play in breaking down disparities and ensuring inclusive design benefits everyone.

Top 5 Takeaways

  1. While some architecture has historically perpetuated inequities in the built environment, architects also have the unique opportunity to remedy the issue.
  2. The new resource provides universal guidance on equitable practices that can be used by any architect or firm.
  3. Understanding historic and contemporary issues, like redlining and gentrification, is key.
  4. Architects’ roles extend beyond buildings to local advocacy and policy involvement.
  5. Small actions can advance equity while acknowledging progress takes collective effort.
Elaine Asal
Elaine is a strategy director and regional practice area leader for Gensler’s Southeast region. She works across the private, public, and non-profit sectors with a focus on equitable development, inclusive engagement, visioning, and strategic planning. Elaine is based in Baltimore. Contact her at .
Genevieve Will
Genevieve is a Strategy Director who has worked across a variety of sectors including graphic design, commercial real estate valuation, landscape architecture, and urban planning. Her multi-disciplinary background facilitates her success in real estate analytics, change management, and user experience. Genevieve is active in ULI’s Women’s Leadership Initiative. She is based in Los Angeles. Contact her at .
Melissa Wackerle
Melissa is the Senior Director of Resilience & Climate Change at the American Institute of Architects with 20 years of experience in the design and construction industry. Her experience ranges from green building certification management to enterprise and community consulting, Carbon Disclosure Project reporting, energy and water efficiency recommendations, and green construction practices.
Sophie Morley
Sophie is a Program Manager at the Neighborhood Design Center in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She co-authored an AIA publication exploring the agency of architects to create equitable change through design.
Brandon Larcom
Brandon is a global leader of Gensler’s Product Development practice. As Co-Director of Product Development, he specializes in business development, identifying future design industry trends, and licensing for global product rollouts. Brandon currently hosts and co-produces the Gensler Design Exchange podcast, facilitating a dialogue between design experts, creative trendsetters, and thought leaders to discuss how Gensler is enhancing the human experience through the world of design. Contact him at .