Latest Social Design Inc. News
Mar 3, 2021
Deanna Van Buren. Image courtesy of Designing Justice + Designing Space For Deanna Van Buren, designing towards justice and equity is more than a trend; it's a lifelong calling to dismantle a system that perpetuates oppression and suppression for Black and Brown communities. Back in October 2019, Archinect chatted with Van Buren to learn more about her firm Designing Justice + Designing Space (DJDS) , and what it means to "design spaces for peacemaking, inside and out. " Many may be familiar with her remarkable work involving decarceration and "justice architecture" by unbuilding racism. Van Buren makes it very clear that while many may call her a "justice architect," her mission works towards ending mass incarceration by developing infrastructure that "counters the traditional adversarial and punitive architecture of justice—courthouses, prisons, and jails." When we spoke with Van Buren in 2019 she shared , "We started a new practice together because we felt that traditional architecture and real estate development firms were not practicing in alignment with our values, were not engaging communities in the work, and were not practicing with social impact in mind. They were also extremely white male-dominated and not resonant with the work culture we were interested in being a part of. " Image still taken from TEDWomen talk "What a world without prisons would look like" (2017) In November 2017, Van Buren presented at TEDWomen with her talk " What a world without prisons would look like? " Having watched this particular talk for the second time, I am reminded why her work alongside DSDJ continues to set an example for the need to demolish mass incarceration through design. The following segment shown below helped me understand Van Buren is more than an architect; she is an abolitionist seeking to dismantle a system that not only harms Black and Brown communities but keeps them buried. Excerpt from Van Buren's TEDWomen talk: "A lot of people call me a 'justice architect.' But I don't design prisons. I don't design jails. I don't design detention centers, and I don't even design courthouses. All the same, I get a call every week, saying 'ok, but you design better prisons right? You know those pretty ones they're building in Europe' and I always pause. I invite them and invite you today to imagine a world without prisons. What does that justice feel and look like?" As the Co-Founder, Executive Director, and Design Director of Designing Justice + Designing Space (DJDS) , Van Buren has helped lead the Oakland-based architecture and real estate development non-profit to echo what it means to design for equity. Since the firm started in 2013, it has continued to challenge and strengthen discourse around restorative justice practices. In a recent interview with CBS News ' Donna M. Owens, Van Buren shares, "We’re abolitionists. So we don’t build prettier prisons or jails [...] “It doesn’t really matter if you make them better looking,” Van Buren said. “You are still incarcerating the same Black and brown people over and over again. So our belief is that we have to divest from that system and invest in the communities that are most impacted with the resources they need.“ Featured on Archinect: Designing Justice + Designing Spaces on "unbuilding racism" DJDS's Center of Equity in Atlanta. Image courtesy of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces. With March being National Women's Month, highlighting Van Buren's work not only showcases her influential contributions to the design community because she is a Black female architect. Her position as an architect reminds us that the design community can do better. Her work motivates the industry to dismantle oppressive design values and strengthen what it means to design for all.