Harvard’s “Black in Design” Conference: Addressing Social Injustice with Design

There is a very high need in Southern Africa for black professional graduates to bring a balance of cultures and approaches to the field, but it seems that there is a lack of interest on the part of students to enter a discipline that pays its interns and employees so poorly, and has so few opportunities for scholarships and bursary support.


Black in Design / Harvard Graduate School of Design’s African American Student Union Black in Design / Harvard Graduate School of Design’s African American Student Union

This year’s ASLA graduating student survey shows that for the third continuous year only 1 percent of graduates are African American or Native American. So Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD)’s first Black in Design (BiD) conference, which sold old, is a particularly timely event. The student organizers argued that addressing social injustice through design starts with two steps: revealing “the histories of under-represented groups in design,” and acknowledging that designers have a responsibility to “repair our broken built environment.” Four hundred designers, including landscape architects, architects, and planners, met to discuss these ideas in panels focused on changing design education and how we design buildings, neighborhoods, cities, and regions. Sara Zewde, a 2014 National Olmsted Scholar and designer at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, and Dr. Sonja Dümpelmann, associate professor of landscape architecture at GSD and…

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