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Opportunities for Equity in Design

Leon Holloway

Over the past year, I’ve reflected deeply on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, particularly this line:

Even though things have changed since Dr. King gave this speech, we still have a long way to go to create a unified, equal society. Dr. King’s vision for the “beloved community is one compelling path.

As architects, we are civic stewards of the health, safety, and welfare of the public within our built environment. When we design and build equitable spaces for all, forourcommunities, we can minimize the systematic racism that exists in our nation. It isourAmerican creed for every one of us to strive for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Projects like Freedom West in San Francisco, California are providing historically minimized communities with avenues for continued homeownership and generational wealth building. Our concept plan honors the history of the housing cooperative’s triumphs and hardships as one of the country’s first equity-oriented developments of this scale for the African American community.

Design concept for Freedom West in San Francisco. Image by 91Ʋ.

Learn more about our design work with the Freedom West community.

Equity in Education Design

We’re also protecting the legacies of Historically Black Colleges and Universities with pro bono grant writing support. Five HBCU institutions have been awarded $270,000 of grants through the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative. These grants fund preservation planning developed in collaboration with the campus community including students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders.

Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR. Photo ⓒ 91Ʋ

In Austin, Texas, the recent passing of an historic $2.4 billion bond is proof that our communities are ready for an evolved, equity-based approach to long-range educational planning. Expanding the traditional lens of facility conditions, our approach layers GIS data to reveal which schools are also experiencing high concentrations of historically underserved students and high neighborhood vulnerability, to focus recommendations on the highest potential impact.

Celebrating the Community with Art

Minimizing systematic racism and fostering the beloved community can also be about celebration. Our design for the Arte Noir space in Seattle restores the Black creative community with a place that celebrates the gift of art. Collaborating with a Black-led client team of community leaders, the space was designed for artists to display their work and gather with neighbors and creators in a place intentionally built for them.

Now more than ever, designers must take advantage of our privilege by advocating for access to education, fair housing, public policies, and empowerment. We must always find the courage to speak out and take action against human indignities wherever we see them in our communities. I implore and advocate that we all take time to reflect on the sacrifices so many have made and vow to create a better future forall of usthrough our work and our service to our communities.

Coincidently, The King Center’s focus for this year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration is the beloved community.

If you’re interested in giving back, here are .

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91Ʋ Architect Leon Holloway
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