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

Gensler Design Exchange Podcast
2 min readMar 7, 2023

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As shapers of the physical world, architects and designers have direct impacts on the areas in which they design and build. These impacts result in outcomes that extend to social equity. In fact, Equitable Design is one of the 10 new meta trends outlined in Gensler’s 2023 Design Forecast.

It is no secret that the built environment has contributed to social, economic, health, environmental, and geographic inequalities that are still present today.

We know that up to 60% of health outcomes are determined solely by one’s ZIP code. — NCRC

Highly segregated white neighborhoods report the best life outcomes. Household income in these neighborhoods is nearly double incomes in segregated communities of color, and life expectancies are four years longer. The disparity in outcomes is a direct result of historically unjust policies and actions that have created barriers and obstacles for specific groups within American society. Business as usual in this arena will only perpetuate this problem.

In response to this, Gensler, The Neighborhood Design Center, and myriad community voices collaborated to create the Architect’s Role in Creating Equitable Communities, a new resource for the American Institute of Architects.

The Newark Community Museum of Social Justice, designed by Gensler, highlights Newark, NJ’s history of activism against racial injustice and provides a focus for community aspirations and hope for an equitable future.

The resource shares how architects can, in their practices, bring about racially just and equitable outcomes for all members of the communities they serve. These actions take place both within projects and beyond. Although there are numerous challenges in the design and development process that can hinder the depth of impact, providing designers frameworks for actionable tools, tactics, and strategies can help them understand the extent of their agency.

In this episode of the Gensler Design Exchange podcast, key contributors of this important resource join host Brandon Larcom to dive into why this is important, how it was created, and how architects and designers can use it.

Tune in to hear the full conversation. As always, thanks for listening!

Brandon Larcom
Product Development Leader, Senior Associate

Melissa Wackerle
Senior Director, Resilience & Climate Change
American Institute of Architects

Sophie Morley
Program Manager
The Neighborhood Design Center — Prince George’s County Office

Elaine Asal
Consulting Practice Area Leader, Senior Associate
Gensler — Baltimore Office

Genevieve Will, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Strategist, Senior Associate
Gensler — Los Angeles Office



Gensler Design Exchange Podcast

The Gensler Design Exchange creates a dialogue between design experts, creative trendsetters & thought leaders to discuss how we can shape the future of cities.