Watch: Conversations on Social Justice and Design
The College of Environmental Design and the Department of Architecture hosted a day-long symposium in April 2022 titled Conversations on Social Justice and Design, to honor Professor Emeritus Raymond Lifchez. The symposium featured a spectacular list of speakers who have been instrumental leaders in shaping contemporary practices addressing social justice, particularly in universal design.
Speakers included Darren Walker, Maddy Burke-Vigeland, Jeffrey Mansfield, Elaine Ostroff, Valerie Fletcher, Victor Pineda, and Susan Schwelk with a keynote talk by Christopher Downey, our inaugural Lifchez Professor of Practice in Social Justice.
Watch the Symposium
Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, a $13 billion international social justice philanthropy. He is a member of Governor Cuomo’s Reimagining New York Commission and co-chair of NYC Census 2020. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. Before joining Ford, Darren was vice president at Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing global and domestic programs. In the 1990s, he was COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s largest community development organization.
Maddy Burke-Vigeland has led successful collaborations with high-profile clients and peer design firms across a broad portfolio of projects, including the Ford Foundation, MoMA, Vagelos Graduate and Medical Education Center at Columbia University, and the International Center of Photography. Maddy has worked with many cultural and educational institutions, including the New York Public Library, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Cornell University, and the New Museum. She serves as Chair of the Dean’s Council of the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning. Maddy holds a Bachelor's of Architecture from Pratt Institute and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Jeffrey Mansfield is a principal at MASS Design Group and the director of its Deaf Space and Disability Justice Design Lab. As a culturally Deaf practitioner, Jeffrey’s work leverages architecture and the design process to uplift the lived and intersectional experiences and the cultural memory of the Deaf and Disability communities. Jeffrey is also a co-author of The Architecture of Health, a 2020 Ford-Mellon Disability Futures fellow, and a 2017 Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress. He is currently working on The Architecture of Deafness and The Deaf Space Archive.
Elaine Ostroff, Honorary AIA is a long-time champion for civil rights and accessibility for people with disabilities. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, Elaine holds a B.S. degree from Brandeis University, a Masters in Education from Harvard, the Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services in Design Education from the Royal College of Art, and an honorary Doctor of Arts from Middlebury College. She has elevated the worldwide practice of Universal Design through publications, conferences, fellowships and collaboration, while inspiring local change in Westport and Natick, Massachusetts. Elaine co-founded the Institute for Human Centered Design in Boston.
Valerie Fletcher has been Executive Director since 1998 of the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD). Fletcher writes, lectures and works internationally. She oversees IHCD’s consultation, design, and education services and created the IHCD User/Expert Lab. Current research focus is generating data to inform designing for people with functional limitation in the BIPoC and low-income communities. Fletcher earned a master’s degree in ethics and public policy from Harvard University. She is on the Board of the International Association for Universal Design (IAUD) and a Trustee of the Boston Architectural College. The Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art named her Inclusive Design Champion 2022.
Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda is a human rights expert, scholar, investor, and philanthropist. His work focuses on inclusive and accessible smart cities. A two-time presidential appointee on the US Access Board, a senior Fellow at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government in Dubai, and the Chairman of The Victor Pineda Foundation / World ENABLED. His foundation supports global non-profits and campaigns promoting the rights of people with disabilities and older persons. Dr. Pineda's research and humanitarian work advance urban resilience, inclusion, and sustainability both at home and abroad.
Susan Schweik has been an English professor at UC Berkeley since 1984. Her last book was The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public. She is currently completing a book titled Unfixed: How the Women of Glenwood Asylum Overturned Ideas about IQ, & Why You Don't Know About Their Work. With Frederick Collignon, she was co-coordinator of the Ed Roberts Fellowships in Disability Studies post-doctoral program at Berkeley (run out of the Institute for Urban and Regional Development). A recipient of Berkeley's Chancellor's Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence and U.C.'s Presidential Chair in Undergraduate Education, both shared with Fred Collignon, she has been involved with the development of disability studies at Berkeley for over 25 years, an effort that has involved close work with Ray Lifchez. Her third person pronouns are she/her.
Chris Downey, AIA is an architect with over 30 years of professional practice - continuing without sight since 2008. Leveraging this altered perspective as a unique value, he has become an international thought-leader and practitioner of inclusive-universal design focusing on projects serving people that are blind or low vision and more broadly within the disability community. This expertise is engaged further within the lens of social justice and design equity in projects including cultural centers, multi-family housing, tech offices and transit centers. Chris has been featured in numerous media stories including “60 Minutes”, has exhibited internationally including the Victoria & Albert Museum and speaks globally with a TED talk that has been viewed well over a million times. While serving this spring as the inaugural recipient of the Raymond Lifchez Visiting professor of Practice in Social Justice, Chris continues his professional work, serves as chair of the California commission on disability Access, remains active as the immediate past chair of the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and trains daily with a competitive crew team on the Oakland Estuary.