An affordable housing project of $25 million to $100 million is often the largest single investment a low-income neighborhood will make in a long time. The quality of the design of that building has long-standing implications not just for residents and the building owner, but for the life of the neighborhood. All developers work with architects, some great, some good. The great ones challenge the developer to do more with their building. How can that building provide a wonderful home for its residents, but also do more? How can the design of the building and its services help enable the residents to be healthier, more engaged and productive? How can the design of the building promote sustainability, not only saving the owner in operating costs, but facilitating more sustainable behavior for both its residents and its neighbors? How can the building not only benefit the residents it houses, but also make a fundamental improvement in the neighborhood at large, either by making it more safe, providing it with amenities, or making it more beautiful?
Few developers work directly with landscape architects. But a great landscape architect prompts the developer to think on another level. A building is a part of a city; a home is a platform for living in that city. Having a home is a basic necessity for all people, but life doesn’t end at home. A landscape architect strives to understand how the infrastructure of cities (built, natural, technological) allows for the most productive and joyful experience of living in a city. Trace the life of a family, from home to school and work, to grocery shopping, playtime or exercise, to meeting friends or running errands. Life happens in the in-between. Is your commute 20 minutes or two hours? Is the food at the your grocery store fresh or packaged? Are your streets and park safe so that walking, play and neighborliness are a part of your daily life? Is nature a daily part of your life? Is beauty?
Landscape architects have a unique understanding of the relationship between infrastructural systems like water, transportation and information systems, and the day-to-day experience of individuals and communities. Landscape architects help compose and organize these systems in partnership with the distinct natural and built culture of a place. In our cities, which are increasingly dense and complex, in which our ‘wicked’ challenges of health, equal access and economic development require systemic responses, this connection between infrastructure, people and place has never been more important.
Over the past 15 years, the Enterprise Rose Fellowship has been recruiting talented architects who are committed to principles of social justice and eager to work in partnership with low-income communities. As a group, they have helped design and develop over 10,000 housing units and dozens of community buildings. Through design, they address topics as diverse as net-zero buildings, community engagement strategies, neighborhood-scale green infrastructure, resilient social and environmental systems and aging in place and in community. But as the practice of architecture seeks to face the greatest challenges of our time, it brings with it a mandate to embrace diversity, creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration.
The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship has become the premier leadership opportunity for socially minded architects in the U.S. We are now opening the program to landscape architects who share similar ambitions to use design to address complex social and environmental inequities. The Fellowship is a practice-based educational model for emerging architectural professionals to develop careers that unite design aspirations with civic commitment. We are excited to offer this opportunity for landscape architects, and welcome the new perspectives, tools and instincts they will bring to the community development field.
Learn more about the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship and apply for the February 2016 Boston-based fellowship here.
Katie Swenson is the vice president of design at Enterprise Community Partners, a national leader in sustainable design for low-income communities, and a speaker, author and green design expert.