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.

  • 1.  Justice Planning and Advocacy

    Posted 12-13-2019 10:33 AM
    I'm still invigorated from the AAJ, eager to build on the collaborative momentum that carried through the whole conference. So my question, speaking as an architect in government, with a love of advocacy, is how do we expand the common threads that arose from the conference into elements that the AIA should be advocating for at the Federal Level. I know that this happens from time to time, often driven by the urgency of a specific circumstance. What I'm asking you about is broader - how do we translate the ideas of architects being key partners into initiatives around community-based diversion, pre- and post-release social services, crisis intervention needs among ex-offenders, and restorative justice? How to we change the narrative, the expectations, from architects being the folks you call after the decisions have been made, to being a key person "in the room where it happens" when the political/governmental apparatus is making decisions about reshaping our cities? Architects, I've found, have not historically seen ourselves as essential stakeholders, policy drivers - though that is changing. Younger architects in particular have been coalescing as strong and informed voices on climate change - how do we induce a cultural shift such that we see ourselves as equally essential when a community is having a conversation about justice and equity, for one example? Please post your thoughts and examples.

    Eric Davis AIA
    Deputy Director, Capital Planning
    Cook County Government
    Oak Park IL

  • 2.  RE: Justice Planning and Advocacy

    Posted 12-17-2019 05:16 PM
    Thanks Eric for throwing the challenge flag.  The conference was certainly an impetus to broaden the definition of justice planning and design beyond the justice system, with shift to social justice and caring for those most in need.  Certainly the justice system is a place where the needy are concentrated, and our work can be hugely important in addressing their needs.

    You ask about ways that our influence can be brought to bear in the political and policy arena where decisions are made that shape the context for our work, and our society.  We are witnessing today evidence of the power of narrative to change the accepted wisdom in the shift from Mass Incarceration/War on Drugs to investment in human potential, and a smarter, kinder, greener justice system that heals and restores.

    There are many tacks to take in supporting this enormous shift,  but I'm persuaded that a worthwhile place to begin is to deepen and refine the construct that defines the perspective that the Sustainable Justice group within the AAJ developed a decade ago, the Green Guide to Justice.  The principles stated in the Guide are a valuable starting point for a conversation with public officials, linking sustainability with social justice.  Green Buildings for a Green justice system, with social justice at its foundation.

    One outcome of our Sustainable Justice workshop at the conference in San Diego, is that we will update the Guide to reflect the changes that have occurred over the past decade, editing the document to make it useful and relevant for members.  I've agreed to help organize this effort, and am calling for volunteers to join in the project to renew this framework for practice in justice planning and design that elevates the expectations of our clients and satisfies the urgent need for justice facilities that are worthy of the people we serve.  To all of our members, please reach out to me if you would like to contribute to this project,as we are just now forming the working group who will deliver this renewed document.

    Frank Greene FAIA
    Director of Design
    Greene Justice Architecture
    Katonah NY

  • 3.  RE: Justice Planning and Advocacy

    Posted 12-18-2019 06:53 PM
    I think it's important to weave advocacy into architectural practice and education. Many architects do not see that they are subject to/benefactors of injustice or inequity, whereas the ripples caused by climate change are much easier to chart. I believe this is especially true for young "legacy" architects who were probably not subject to experiences faced regularly by justice-involved youth- that perceived distance from conflict creates a very real lack of understanding and action. "Boomer" AEC professionals have an opportunity to encourage younger designers in ways they may not have been, not just by pointing fingers outwardly but by finding internal opportunities for progress.

    For example, the University of Washington's College of Built Environments is implementing an overhaul of its programs that scrutinizes pedagogy, college culture, curricula, enrollment, etc. against values of equity, inclusion, transparency, and collaboration. The plan has been in development for years and is a collaboration between college staff, instructors, students, and local design professionals. This is a living experiment with the objective of generating real, measurable progress toward creating a more just atmosphere for learning and practicing in AEC fields. By treating students as thought-leaders and agents of change, they are more likely to carry this behavior on beyond school.

    Another example comes from my own firm. I am fortunate enough that my office leaders encourage me to advocate for my values, and trust me to represent the office's values at public planning meetings, networking events, at conferences, or online. Regardless of age or experience, passion and dedication to progress have united us and show our peers and clients that we take equity and justice seriously. They are also not afraid to scrutinize internal operations, proactively address inequity and understand that we all contribute daily to an environment of justice.

    Emilia Cabeza de Baca Assoc. AIA
    Seattle WA