Principal // Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architecture
Equity by Design
How can landscape architects promote equity in design? The presentation discusses the challenges and opportunities related to effectively engaging community members to make meaningful contributions to their neighborhoods. Through the lens of three projects, different strategies will be examined that illustrate communication tools to co-create a just urban fabric. The first case study addresses how landscape architects can reach beyond a client's intended engagement process to become more inclusive by seeking out voices that are typically excluded from standard outreach scenarios. The example uses a site that sits within a socially and physically vulnerable community and discusses how the engagement process helped translate fears into a place of pride and identity. The second case study offers insight into a project wherein local community organizations had a seat at the decision-making table from the outset. This publicly-funded project sets a new paradigm for expanding agency and decision-making power among residents in a socially vulnerable neighborhood of the South Bronx that has witnessed decades of disinvestment. From the master plan through a number of built projects, the community partners changed the dialogue and the outcomes to serve the needs of their neighbors. The third case study illustrates a pro-bono collaboration among local community organizations and designers to tackle immediate economic challenges associated with the pandemic as well as longer-term advocacy for change in an underinvested community. The process looks at how designers can begin to understand who really "owns" the public spaces and uses examples to build community resilience through shared activities.