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Urban Equity: The Latest Architecture and News

What is Design Justice?

Asentamiento de Kya Sands en Johannesburgo, Sudáfrica. Photo © Johnny Miller Fotografía
Asentamiento de Kya Sands en Johannesburgo, Sudáfrica. Photo © Johnny Miller Fotografía

Design Justice is a branch of architecture and design focused on redesigning cities, products, services and environments with historic reparations in mind.

The term emerged about 7 years ago when debates and dialogues about inclusion and diversity in spaces started to get stronger, creating movements that fought for the rights of people who had their roots and choices denied in society.

Design Ethics: Rethinking Practice in 2021

Ethical practice spans all parts of architecture. From intersectionality and labor to the climate crisis, a designer must work with a range of conditions and contexts that inform the built environment and the process of its creation. Across cultures, policies and climates, architecture is as much functional and aesthetic as it is political, social, economic, and ecological. By addressing the ethics of practice, designers can reimagine the discipline's impact and who it serves. 

© Stijn Bollaert© Adli Wahid© CO Adaptive Architecture© Anne Fougeron+ 13

What is Equity in Architecture and Design?

The definition of equity in dictionaries is the quality of giving equal treatment to everyone while still acknowledging the differences between individuals. In this sense, equity means fairness in the way we act toward each person but keeping in mind his or her specific characteristics and needs. From a medical perspective, equity implies that everyone needs care and attention but not necessarily the same. It is also worth mentioning that the terms equity and equality are often used interchangeably but they mean different things, mainly because equality is based on the principle of universal rights, in which all individuals are subject to the same rules, without exception.

Rights to the City and Urban Conflicts in Latin America: What Can Be Done?

María Cristina Cravino, the head of numerous research projects and publications on informal settlements and the politics of public habitation, draws from her background in anthropology to become one of the most prominent voices in the discussion about rights to the city and modern urban conflicts. 

To get her perspective, we sat down with Cravino to discuss her observations and understanding of the issue--especially in the context of quarantine and lockdowns--as well as her reflections on the role of academia in exploring the problem and finding solutions. 

Are Our Cities Built for the Youth?

Cities we live in today have been built on principles designed decades ago, with prospects of ensuring that they are habitable by everyone. Throughout history, cities have been catalysts of economic growth, serving as focal points for businesses and migration. However, in the last decade, particularly during the last couple of years, the world has  witnessed drastic reconfigurations in the way societies work, live, and commute.

Today’s urban fabric highlights two demographic patterns: rapid urbanization and large youth populations. Cities, although growing in scale, have in fact become younger, with nearly four billion of the world’s population under the age of 30 living in urban areas, and by 2030, UN-Habitat expects 60% of urban populations to be under the age of 18. So when it comes to urban planning and the future of cities, it is evident that the youth should be part of the conversation.

Courtesy of UN-Habitat, Global Public Space ProgrammeCourtesy of UN-Habitat, Global Public Space ProgrammeCourtesy of UN-Habitat, Global Public Space ProgrammeCourtesy of UN Habitat+ 14

Addressing the Intersecting Challenges of Climate Crisis, Housing, and Social Equity

Recent sessions of the RBA/Northeastern University Myra Kraft Open Classroom Inspiring Design: Creating Beautiful, Just, and Inspiring Places in America series featured speakers from Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City. They described how inclusive design can help build social infrastructure and capital, enabling communities to tackle big challenges such as climate change, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and homelessness. Their comments reinforced the value of visionary leadership, engaging and empowering people, and design thinking—all key themes from previous sessions on Planning Equity, Engaging Communities via Food and Education, and Building Equity with Housing and Parks.

MoMA Launches Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

The Museum of Modern Art has launched Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, the fourth installment of the Issues in Contemporary Architecture series. Investigating the intersections of architecture, Blackness and anti–Black racism in the American context, the exhibition and accompanying publication examine contemporary architecture in the context of how systemic racism has fostered violent histories of discrimination and injustice in the United States.

Film still of R:R. 2020. Image Courtesy of V. Mitch McEwenReconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America. Image Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, Robert GerhardtReconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America. Image Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, Robert GerhardtFabricating Networks: Transmissions and Receptions from Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Image Courtesy of Felecia Davis+ 7

Building Empathy: Zarith Pineda on Human-Centered Design and New Territories

Human-centered design places people at the center of our cities. Using this philosophy to rethink traditional approaches to planning, the architectural and urban designer Zarith Pineda founded Territorial Empathy. Pineda's research lab specializes in mitigating urban conflict through architectural interventions. Over the last few years, her team has been working to create a deeper understanding of equity and empathy.

Courtesy of Territorial EmpathyCourtesy of Territorial EmpathyCourtesy of Territorial EmpathyCourtesy of Territorial Empathy+ 14

Architecture Has Limits to Achieve Urban Equity. What Should We Do?

Accessibility and mobility. When perceived through the architectural lens, these terms often evoke a range capped by two extremes. On the one end, the flexibility of circulation systems; the universality of egress networks; and the technicalities of minimums and maximums. On the other end, a project’s capacity to support broad ranges of socioeconomic narratives; its malleability in the face of rapid fluctuations of program and function; and its reactivity in maintaining a productive role amidst the ebbs and flows of societal dynamics. 

Planning For (In)Justice: Toni Griffin’s Mission to Foster Equitable Cities

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.