Griffin founded the consultancy Urban Planning for the American City, which she complements with her pedagogical work at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
Since its emergence with the cultural turn in the 1970s and ’80s, spatial justice has become a rallying cry among activists, planners, and plugged-in architects. But as with many concepts with academic origins, its precepts often remain elusive and uninterrogated. Though some of this has changed with the advent of city- and place-making discourse, few are doing as much to lend articulation, nuance, and malleability to spatial justice as Toni Griffin. A Chicago native, Griffin practiced architecture at SOM for nearly a decade before leaving the city to work as a planner in Newark and Washington, D.C., among other municipalities. In 2009, she founded the consultancy Urban Planning for the American City, which she complements with her pedagogical work at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. There, she runs the Just City Lab, which, through research and a host of programs, aims to develop, disseminate, and evaluate tools for enhancing justice—and remediating chronic, systematized injustice—in America’s cities. But what form could justice take in the U.S. context, and how can architects and designers help? Metropolis spoke with Griffin about how focusing on inclusivity and embracing interdependence and complexity are parts of the answer.