Session 4: Social Responsibility and Community Leadership

Date: January 8, 2016
Location: National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Lindsey Falasca, RA, LEED AP | Hickok Cole Architects & Emily Wulf, AIA, LEED AP BD+C | ZGF Architects

Session 4 PDF


Lindsey Falasca and Emily Wulf organized Session 4, which was held at the National Building Museum in the Beverly Wilson Library.  The session focused on several small discussions regarding volunteerism, pro bono work in action, and advocacy.  The group also performed their own form of pro bono work through a space planning charrette.

During lunch, Janet Bloomberg discussed the importance of volunteering and the opportunities to volunteer through the Washington Architecture Foundation (WAF), including the Design in Action program, which she created.  Design in Action allows underprivileged high school students to engage DC area Architecture firms for a week and learn about the profession.


Following Ms. Bloomberg’s presentation, Stefan Schwarzkopf of Inscape Publico and Elin Zubrig from MiCasa discussed pro-bono work and their joint venture project “E-Casa.”  Both Inscape Publico and MiCasa are nonprofit entities.  Inscape Publico was conceptualized by the architects at Inscape Studio to provide other nonprofit organizations architectural schematic design services at only 20% the cost of typical design fees.  Providing this services allows these organizations to include necessary visual documentation for grant applications and fundraising for specific projects.

MiCasa is an affordable housing developer “committed to providing quality affordable housing to low and moderate households in the Washington DC area.”1  MiCasa and Inscape Publico are collaborating on a net-zero housing prototype to provide affordable high-performance housing to low-income families in Washington, DC.2  An undeveloped site in NE Washington, DC, has been targeted for the first series of E-Casa row houses.  The main challenge is to provide maximum energy efficiency while balancing reasonable housing construction costs.


Switching gears, the CKLDP students took their turn providing pro bono work to MiCasa in the form of a preliminary design charrette. Ms. Zubrig described their desire to move into a more collaborative space as the group was divided into four teams to create space plans/bubble diagrams based on a programming document and asking a few questions.  MiCasa hopes to revitalize their office search with the efforts provided by the CKLDP group.


After a short break, Mr. Schwarzkopf highlighted some specific traits necessary to engage in pro-bono work, including:  finding your passion; building your network; becoming engaged; and applying your skill set.  He also discussed in depth Inscape Publico’s inception and some of its work, including a project called “Repair the World,” which facilitates the Jewish community serving others and now has four locations in major cities.  He left the group with the idea of keeping social enterprise in mind and the following outlook: “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul” – Edward Abbey.

The next discussion emphasized the notion of advocacy with a lively presentation from Aimee Custis, Communications Manager at Coalition for a Smarter Growth.  Her presentation highlighted five points for advocating a cause:  identifying your goal; finding an audience; preparing an argument; getting your argument to the audience (method); and proper planning utilizing resources and time.  After Ms. Custis’ tutorial, the class divided into smaller groups to advocate a position using the techniques previously mentioned, with the assistance of the upcoming advocacy panelists: Aimee Custis, Sophia Lau, and Andrew Goldberg.


After the small group discussions, the other two panelists for the upcoming roundtable briefly spoke about their own advocacy roles.  Ms. Lau currently resides on the AIA DC Advocacy committee which focuses on national issues, local professional issues, and the local quality of life in the community.  Some of the events sponsored by this committee included dialogues with local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) and Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) officials.  Mr. Goldberg, the Managing Director of Government Relations and Outreach at AIA National, began his career in architecture but moved into advocacy after graduation.  He noted that as part of the repositioning of the AIA, the number one priority is advocacy for architecture.

At the end of another engaging session in the Christopher Kelly Leadership Development Program, students came away with a stronger understanding of the importance of providing services for those that help others.  For some, that may mean establishing your own form of pro bono work.  For others, finding ways to volunteer and to be an advocate for an important issue that impacts the community may be the way to go. Regardless of the approach, making a concerted effort to give back in some fashion is easier than most architects realize – usually just a phone call or email away.


Citing for references:

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