Academy of Architecture for Justice

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The Academy of Architecture for Justice (AAJ) promotes and fosters the exchange of information and knowledge between members, professional organizations, and the public for high-quality planning, design, and delivery of justice architecture.

2015 AIA AAJ November Conference - Post Conference Thoughts

By Brooke M. Martin posted 12-31-2015 12:00 PM




Hello to all AIA and AIA AAJ members out there! Hello to all community stakeholders!


What a great conference! I just wanted to write to say thank you to the AIA AAJ! Thanks for choosing me as a 2015 Knowledge Scholar and welcoming me with open arms. Thank you for coming together to set up powerful, impactful, and meaningful sessions. I am still sitting here full of gratitude as my mind continues to absorb everything that was shared. I am truly excited about what the future holds and that this group is choosing to part of the solution and not part of the problem. This topic of Community/Criminal Justice is near and dear to my heart. I have friends, family, and even myself that have been affected by the system. I have gained so many critical connections through this conference that will really round out my thesis of Architecture’s Social Impact with a focus on the design of Community Justice Centers. 

I was honored to have been 1 of 5 chosen 2015 AIA Knowledge Scholars in the nation for the AIA AAJ conference November 18-21. As professionals and scholars we had the opportunity to not only experience this type of architecture through study, design, building tours, case study examples, and stories shared at the conference but the obligation to stand up and challenge the status quo by partnering with stakeholders (owners, experts, designers, representatives, community groups, etc.) to work on what that vision of change looks like. Through partnership, education, solution, design, and reform we can reduce crime, incarceration, rebuild and protect occupants' mental and physical health. Our work and vision has and will impact communities, families, and the future of our country - what an exciting conference to be at!

To put it simply, it was an amazing time with a great group of people. All of the attendees', speakers', and AIA AAJ's preparation, participation, travel, and hard work was worth it. Can you hear the leaves rustling? People are rising up all over the US to stand for reform, change is coming. We will be part of ushering it in.


Did you know?

"600 law makers and criminal justice leaders gathered to agree on one thing: Now is the time for Criminal Justice Reform"

DreamCorps teamed up with influential politicians including Newt Gingrich to develop the Bipartisan Summit about this reform.


Did you know?

The monumental impact of the #cut50 initiative is to reduce the incarceration rate by 50% in the next 10 years? This should grab your attention.


Did you know?

Shaka Senghor, DreamCorps Director of Strategy and Innovation, spoke at the Friday Breakfast Plenary to share his story of redemption.

Senghor is a writer, mentor and motivational speaker whose story of redemption has inspired a nation. He is founder of the Atonement Project, a recipient of the 2012 Black Male Engagement (BMe) Leadership Award, a 2013 MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, a Fellow in the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network, and teaches the Atonement Project at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In March 2014, Shaka shared his love for writing discovered while serving nineteen years in prison on the world-renowned TED stage and in just four months his talk reached more than 1,000,000 views. Shaka’s memoir Writing My Wrongs collection of essays and poems Live in Peace: A Youth Guide to Turning Hurt into Hope (Drop a Gem Publishing, 2013 and 2012) tells about his abusive childhood and his life in the streets and in prison.


What I learned in the Visioning sessions:

     - everyone can really come together in unity with respect to our own ideas, passions, and expertise.

      - there is a large group seeking change and to make the appropriate change happen (better design, less incarceration, mental health awareness) we MUST come together as a Think Tank. We can no longer design without ALL stakeholders input b/c they are in the trenches every day and see what works and what doesn’t.

      - we MUST show our clients the benefits of working with stakeholder input to get the design the community can support, use, and be proud of.

      - We MUST not lose momentum…we can’t pick up next year where we left off this year…it must continue throughout the year in order to see change. We must take this knowledge back to our communities and start conversations.

      - We must educate the Stakeholder on holistic approaches and practice what we preach.

      - We must base design on the user/community/stakeholder rather than designing to get awards from other Architects. A successful design is not measured by its beauty but by the positive impact it has in society. As much as a space should be beautiful, let’s not lose sight of our mission which is the best interest in an occupant’s mental/physical health, designing to the each community's culture not our exterior vision, producing positive change in behavior, education, restoration, less incarceration, less financial burden for society.


Vision Session Audience Feedback - what an awesome, positive experience!!!

     - Vested interest was created by allowing the audience to express their own experience, expertise, concerns.

     - Attendees’ responses: they were impacted in a good and powerful way – it opened many eyes to see what is new, successful, innovative within the US, it opened many eyes to see JUSTICE is about the COMMUNITY and the INDIVIDUAL, that we need to think RESTORATION, not PUNISHMENT.

     - The sessions created more unity. Many expressed an excitement and shock that this was happening b/c they had never seen it before. Some said it would change how they do business, design, project meetings, community meetings, whom they would partner with, etc. to make sure the right people are brought in.


I just can’t contain my excitement! In 2016, I will join the AIA AAJ Sustainable Committee doing my part to continue challenging the status quo and help shape what future of Justice Architecture looks like within communities.


You should definitely make plans to attend next year's conference in November, it will be worth it!


A huge thanks to all the speakers that allowed me to interview them. You can read blogs about their sessions here:


  1. Blog #1 “Upcoming AAJ Plenary Session: Social Innovators and Unprecedented Bipartisan Partnerships Bring Real Change”:
  2. Blog #2 “Upcoming AAJ Roundtable Session: Social Responsibility Through Planning and Design”:    
  3. Blog#3 “Upcoming AAJ Corrections Session: Imagining a New Potential for Juvenile Facilities”:
  4. Introduction to Scholar Blog:



In the last 7 years at Dewberry, I have worked on a wide variety of projects ranging from K-12 to Higher Ed, museums to criminal justice, and mass-transit to airport terminals. Most recently, I worked on the Dulles Silver Line Metro Project, Phase 2 in Washington DC. I was part of Criminal Justice Projects such as the Rockford (IL) Federal Courthouse, Baltimore (MD) Youth Detention Center, and Calaveras County (CA) Adult Detention Center and Sherriff Administration - projects that span various communities and regions of the country.

I am currently going back to school for my Master of Architecture at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale while continuing to work full-time. I am focusing my thesis on architecture’s social impact, not just function or art and form – true solutions impact society for the better. Criminal Justice architecture has a huge social impact on its users/occupants, environment, locations, and society’s view and opinion. It is very important to challenge the status quo in architectural design and function, as well as, within the justice system. This experience benefits me with further insight and connections for my thesis research studies.

Carefully marrying Criminal Justice Architecture with Urban Planning cannot solve all criminal justice issues on their own, but if researched and designed carefully, they can provide the best foundation for seeing and implementing change. Architecture has a huge influence over urban/rural environments, paths of travel, connections and disconnects to its environment/users/occupants, building functions, users’ and occupants’ mental/physical health and productivity, as well as, environmental sustainability. All of these influence our social fabric – the very framework in which we live and act and relate.

What if prisons were designed in such a way that better supported families meeting and having family time? Helped re-habilitate offenders mentally and physically through the built environment? Were places of hope rather than despair? As technology, innovation, and knowledge increase – criminal justice architecture should continually reevaluate process and design to provide successful outcomes, less cost, and less return offenders. 

Stay tuned for blog releases throughout the 2016 year as I continue to press into justice, community, and social research.

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