Narrative Box 3

Synthesis

Architects are synthesizers by nature and by training; it is our job to ask, listen, observe and respond in ways that take myriad and often competing variables into account; we are obsessed with elegance and economy — how can we resolve this messy set of variables in a unified fashion? How do we make something as beautiful as it is useful as it is welcoming? How can we make this place work for as many people as possible with the least number of moves?

We start by simply saying it out loud on new projects: we prioritize belonging as a design goal. Why? Because inclusion has too much value to ignore. Like sustainability, it has become, for Jones, a non-negotiable element of design. We are convinced that if we are not working toward improving DEI in our industry, we are contributing to the problem. And it is a problem.

Historically, architects have discounted many voices, namely those belonging to people who are not white or male but also people with low incomes, or less than a college education.

Fortunately, that’s changing. For the profession to be a better reflection of the world we live in is both right and necessary. When more people of diverse backgrounds — including cognitive diversity as this study shows —  have a voice in architecture, more effective and enduring design is the result. (More food for thought on design and inclusion here and a book list here.)

To achieve more inclusive design, we are challenging our approach to user engagement, recommendations to clients, and hiring and recruitment; we are identifying and dismantling exclusionary processes. And here’s the best part: We never know what may come out of these processes, but it’s certainly never going to make a project worse. It’s only going to get better.

Inclusive design is less about checklists and standards than an expansion on what architects already do — engage stakeholders, get information from them, and implement accordingly. We’re learning as we go. That said, since formalizing our inclusive design efforts in January 2023, we have a few insights to offer.

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