CivicLAB 2015


Fra Carnavale, The Ideal City, 1480-1484, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore


CivicLAB Session 4: Design Responses to Civil Unrest (May 12)

In lieu of a formal panel, we hosted an open and informal  discussion. The hope is to have attendees glean some of the concerns members of the community have shared with elected official, journalist and community advocates; particularly, how issues of the built-environment and infrastructure affect their daily life.

One of the positive aspects to emerge as a result of the civil unrest in Baltimore has been the number of forums, discussions and renewed activism by professionals working to improve our built environment.


Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson has been writing about architecture, design, and cities for nearly two decades. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Design Observer, and Metropolis, among others, and she is a contributing editor at Architect magazine. To read Elizabeth’s most recent article on Baltimore  or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter and learn more by visiting

Briony Hynson leads the Prince Georges Office’s programs, staff and fundraising, and undertakes Design Leadership initiatives at NDC’s Baltimore and Prince Georges offices. Previously, as the founding creative director of Honfleur Gallery, Briony employed varied approaches to build creative capacity via revitalization efforts in Washington DC’s Ward 8. Her recent work in Baltimore City, investigating public spaces that promote access to play within underserved areas, culminated in the Robert W Deutsch Foundation Social Design Fellowship in 2012-2013.

Elaine Asal, Designer/Architect, is currently working for Gensler, a global design, planning, and strategic consulting firm. Elaine is leading an office initiative to incorporate social responsibility and community-driven design into architecture and planning projects throughout Baltimore City. She helped launch gServe, a corporate social responsibility program for Gensler and currently serves on the firm-wide steering committee.

Delegate Corey McCray, District 45, Baltimore, a trained Electrician, business Owner of McCray Properties, LLC, Member of Local no. 24, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), financial secretar of the Baltimore United Democratic Club, and member  of the Bel-Air Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. and the Overlea Community Association.

Additional events and resources:

May 12 – McKeldin Plaza Design Discussion (Downtown Partnership of Baltimore) 3:00- 5:00pm; 10 N Charles St #100, Baltimore

May 17 – “Gentrification (k)NOT” — Free Film Screening & Discussion, 2:00 – 4:30pm; Enoch Pratt  Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore

May 19 – Highlighting Local Design Talent:  Award-Winning Architecture in Baltimore. 6:00 – 7:30pm;  Enoch Pratt  Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore

May 20 – Perspectives on Baltimore: The Role of Design and Planning to Strengthen our Communities. 5:00 – 8:00pm; The Engineer’s Club of Baltimore, 11 W. Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore.
Recent articles featuring Baltimore’s social-spatial dynamics:

Good fortune, dire poverty, and inequality in Baltimore: An American story: by  Alan Berube and Brad McDearman

The Arsenal of Exclusion: “Cities exist to bring people together, but cities can also keep people apart”  – Daniel D’Oca, Urban Planner, Interboro Partners.:

Baltimore Lessons From Baltimore: Segregation is Real, Aaron Betsky

CivicLAB Session 3: Sustainability, Smart Growth and Preservation (April 14)

Presenters: Klaus Philipsen, FAIA, Betty Bland Thomas, Michael Costa, Assoc. AIA

We will learn through best practice examples why sustainability needs to be achieved, both on the building level as well as the community and regional level. We will discuss how the skills of urban design and place-making can be employed to achieve sustainability, and how smart growth and historic preservation are elements in this quest. We will not focus on the extremely broad field of green design tools, but rather on how new “design thinking” can help us reach a full integration of the many fragments. We will discuss the various arenas in which sustainability, preservation and smart growth are significant, and how to become an active player instead of an observer.  We will learn how sustainability and preservation actually result in smart growth, and how these requirements are not added nuisances for architects but the very gateways to Design Excellence.

Betty Bland Thomas is the Chair of the South Baltimore Partnership and former Chair of the Sharp Leadenhall Planning Council. Currently Sharp Leadenhall is in the news for a 293 unit development planned by Caves Valley. Betty is also the current head of the Leadenhall Green Team.

Michael Costa, Assoc. AIA, is an architectural designer at Melville Thomas Architects. In addition to being an active member of AIABaltimore’s Urban Design Committee, Michael has been involved in a number of pro-bono design projects throughout this region.

CivicLAB Session 2: Community-Based Design Initiatives (March 24)

Presenters: Davin Hong, AIA, and Laura Wheaton, AIA, LEED AP

Davin Hong, AIA, LEED AP is Principal of Living Design Lab.  His presentation will focus on “Community Investment Zones” which represent a holistic neighborhood revitalization strategy targeted at Baltimore City Public Schools and adjacent communities.

Laura Wheaton, AIA, LEED AP, Program Manager of Neighborhood Design Center’s Baltimore office, will address pro bono work, non-profit community design centers, and the leadership roles architect and designers can take in community engagement and revitalization.  This presentation will illustrate ways recent graduates and emerging professional can get involved to make a difference with design.

Recommended Watching

CivicLAB Session 1: Lobbying (February 24)




About CivicLAB

In 2012, AIABaltimore introduced CivicLAB (Leadership. Architecture. Baltimore), a series of participatory educational sessions that will help to mobilize AIA members interested in taking on or expanding leadership roles in their communities, their professional lives, and in academia.

As a result of participation in CivicLAB, AIA members will be prepared to help guide and implement public policies and community initiatives that ensure healthy, livable, sustainable, and high-quality built environments for future generations.  These sessions will introduce participating architects, interns, and allied professionals to opportunities for civic engagement across the full spectrum of their careers.  We invite the chapter’s emerging leaders to expand their role in critical issues facing our communities and the profession, and to communicate and demonstrate how architecture makes a difference.

The goals of CivicLAB are to promote opportunities and skills for civic engagement by architects and to build a network of leaders.  The program will explore core topics that affect our profession and the region within which we practice.  During monthly sessions, and hands-on research and fieldwork, participants will learn about approaches to advocacy from proven leaders who have guided communities to achieve results at local and national scales.

Participants will learn tools of engagement and the impact of architects in multiple areas of advocacy.  Group activities, assignments, research, and fieldwork will illustrate how we can make a positive change within our community.  AIABaltimore’s membership includes leaders who have been successful at leading initiatives through the AIA and other institutions, and who are valuable assets to CivicLAB.


The Importance of Training New Architect Leaders

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Thanks to the increasing awareness of environmental and social justice concerns, as well as a general realization that the built environment, indeed, plays a huge role in the well-being of both the planet and its people, architects are presented with a huge opportunity and responsibility.   As professionals who are trained to coordinate many disciplines and solve problems holistically through the integrated approach of design, we are uniquely positioned to address these concerns.  But even for us generalists, truly integrated design requires that we move out of our comfort zone and into areas which are adjacent and outside our fields of training.  Learning to engage community and achieve acceptance; to influence legislators and the regulatory framework; how our designs fit into the bigger picture; how to reform established methods and procedures for better outcomes —  these skills are not only essential for progress in our society, but are increasingly necessary for personal advancement in our industry.

AIABaltimore has stepped up to this challenge and offers a program that teaches these very skills to our young, promising emerging professionals.  This new and unique program, which is partly funded by a grant from The American Institute of Architects, relies upon local business leaders to nominate and sponsor promising young architects.  AIABaltimore is one of the leaders in the nation in its level of committee activism and involvement in a wide range of topics relevant to the profession.  We can only remain successful if we foster and support new talent. Please think of the talent you have discovered and nominate one or several people.  Please support them with your encouragement and tuition.  All sessions involve several architect leaders and are interactive.

CivicLAB Program Details

Application and Selection Process

Participation in CivicLAB will be limited to a maximum of 20 participants: AIABaltimore members recruited from the emerging professional demographic within the chapter (Associate AIA or AIA members within their first 10 years of licensure).  Participants will be selected on the basis of a nomination and statement of interest.  Criteria for acceptance to the program will include prior involvement in community organizations or expressed interest in increasing one’s involvement.  Each participant should be sponsored by a member firm, as evidenced by a signature below from a representative of the firm; however, scholarships will be available for members who are unemployed or employed by non-member firms. Applicants may self-nominate.


February 6:  application deadline

February 13, 2015:  selection and notification of candidates

Week of February 16 or 23, 2015:  Session on Legislative Advocacy and Grassroots lobbying

March 4-6, 2015:  AIA Grassroots Legislative and Leadership Conference (CivicLAB participants will be sponsored to attend Capitol Hill Visits on Thursday, March 5)

Sessions in late March, April, and May (dates to be announced)

Time Commitment

Four monthly sessions will be held on weekday evenings from February-May from 5pm – 7:30pm.  Applicants are expected to attend four meetings and a workshop session: dates and locations will be announced.  Additional outside preparation time for assignments, research, and fieldwork will be required to complement the monthly sessions, and to broaden and enrich participants’ experiences with interactive community engagement.

A light supper will be provided at monthly sessions.

Participants will also be encouraged to attend AIA National Grassroots Legislative and Leadership Conference to participate in the Legislative Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill as part of the Maryland delegation on Thursday, March 5.

Additional meetings and opportunities may be suggested after the program begins.

Tuition and Funding

Tuition is $100 per participant and covers food, administrative fees, and other miscellaneous meeting expenses.  Scholarships are available to participants for whom funding is a challenge. Tuition is due after applicants are selected for the program and prior to the first session in early March.

Further Information

If you have questions, please contact AIABaltimore Executive Director, Kathleen Lane, Assoc. AIA, at 410.625.2585 x101or


Completed applications and nominations are due by Friday, February 6, 2015.  Each applicant will be notified of selection results by February 13.

About AIABaltimore

We are third oldest chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and have over 1,100 members creating and advocating for great, sustainable design in Charm City!
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed