The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Launches a Speaker Series Dedicated to Planning Equity

A partnership with Northeastern University, “Inspiring Design: Creating Beautiful, Just, and Resilient Places in America” draws on the award organization’s national network.

On Inauguration Day, President Biden reflected on the nation’s future: 

We look ahead in our uniquely American way…and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.

 A new Rudy Bruner Award partnership with Northeastern University’s Myra Kraft Open Classroom, “Inspiring Design: Creating Beautiful, Just, and Resilient Places in America,” explores how people and places across the country are responding to this charge and creating equitable and inclusive places for all.

Free and open to the public, the 14-week virtual classroom will tackle critical issues such as the arts and education, food and housing, infrastructure and innovation, parks and public spaces, and ways in which we can engage and empower our communities. The sessions will tap into RBA’s national network of 88 medalists, bringing in leading voices in architecture and urban design, planning and development, education and community engagement, and public policy and civic leadership, urban design, planning and development, education and community engagement, and public policy and civic leadership to share stories about innovative initiatives. Session recordings will be posted on the RBA website along with case studies and other compelling resources.

Dr. Karilyn Crockett, the City of Boston’s first Chief of Equity, and her book, People Before Highways. Courtesy Karilyn Crockett.

The speaker series launched on January 20 with Equity and the City, featuring a conversation with Dr. Karilyn Crockett. As the City of Boston’s first Chief of Equity, a new cabinet-level position created by Mayor Martin Walsh (President Biden’s nominee for Labor Secretary), she is charged with embedding equity and racial justice into all city planning and operations.

Activists and students gather at the Massachusetts State House in January 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “People Before Highways” protest, which gave birth to the “citizen planner” movement in Boston. Courtesy Bruner Foundation.

Dr. Crockett reflected on the role of design and planning in creating equitable places, drawing on her experience researching and writing People Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making, which chronicles the story of a grassroots movement that prevented the construction of highways through the heart of Boston. The movement gave birth to “citizen planners” who created a community-driven vision for a linear greenway with public transit linking neighborhoods with downtown and successfully lobbied for the reprogramming of federal highway funding to realize it as the Southwest Corridor Project (1989 RBA Silver Medalist).

Dr. Crockett believes that creating equity is about realizing the city’s beauty, economic opportunity, public health and inclusivity for all. She emphasizes the importance of asking “for whom?” when considering new development and engaging people and communities in planning processes. And, based on her experience in city government and teaching policy and history, she believes that we can learn much from past experience, using design as a way of thinking and developing a collaborative and collective vision for the cities and country we want to be.

Inspiration Kitchens in Chicago. Courtesy Steve Hall.
Crosstown Concourse. Courtesy Crosstown Arts.
Parisite Skatepark. Courtesy Jose Cotto.

This post was originally published by Metropolis as part of a series hosted in partnership with the Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy as a part of its 2021 Spring Myra Kraft Open Classroom, Inspiring Design: Creating Beautiful, Just, and Resilient Places in America explores the role of design in cities. The series is presented in partnership with the Association of Architecture Organizations and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

Anne-Marie Lubenau, FAIA, is the director of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence at the Bruner Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An architect, educator and writer, she is an advocate for engaging people in design of the built environment and increasing awareness of its impact on our lives. She contributes regularly to national and international publications and forums on design and urban development and is a member of the Boston Civic Design Commission, Harvard GSD Alumni Council, and the Association of Architecture Organizations board of directors. She holds a BArch from Carnegie Mellon and was a 2012 Harvard Loeb Fellow.