Surdna Foundation Releases Community-Engaged Design Video

In Surdna’s newly released video, architects, designers and urban planners speak about the critical role of community-engaged design in creating just and equitable communities. Defined as a practice that positions historically marginalized people at the center of a decision-making processes about the built environment, the Surdna Foundation invests in the community-engaged design field in keeping with our commitment to social justice.

As the Trump Administration proposes a massive infrastructure overhaul, the professionals highlighted in this short video discuss the ethical responsibility of designers to reject development strategies that privilege cars over people, speed of construction over quality, and ultimately profit over social good.  Theresa Hwang, Executive Director of Department of Places, specifically asks designers “to think about how [they] can start dismantling methods of oppression that are physically manifested in where people live, work and play.”

Bryan C. Lee, Director of Place and Civic Design at the Arts Council of New Orleans, urges design professionals to understand the histories and legacies of trauma in many communities caused by federal policies of the mid-twentieth century, like the highway act and urban renewal programs, that often sacrificed land and social networks in communities of color in service of infrastructure investment.

“If we can’t learn from those lessons and do better then we’re replicating the same bad policies with the same bad outcomes” says Sue Mobley, Director of Public Programs at the Albert & Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design.

This video highlights how community-engaged design practice, unlike most mainstream design practice, acknowledges the persistence of structural racism, inequality and other forms of oppression, and embraces a people-focused practice that aims to build equitable communities. While “architecture and design can’t single handedly disrupt systems of inequality” Liz Ogbu urges that these professions have “a role to play in showing new solutions that can begin to break down these rather tall walls of oppression.”

Visit to learn more about Community-Engaged Design.