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The Collaborative has always believed in building communities with strong futures. In 1991, a group of self described “anarchist architects” created the Collaborative to meet a critical need. Since then, the Collaborative has helped communities imagine their highest hopes for their neighborhoods.

The Collaborative was born out of a series of actions by architects seeking to serve their communities. Together they provided the template for who we are today. 

  • The Architects' Workshop, founded in the late 1960s, provided the model for our mission: planning and design support for community groups and other community-based nonprofit organizations in support of their efforts to strengthen their neighborhoods.
  • The Regional/Urban Design Action Team (R/UDAT) Philadelphia, a planning and design charrette sponsored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on the cusp of the 1990s, focused on rejuvenating the neighborhood surrounding Amtrak’s then-dilapidated North Philadelphia Station and brought attention to conditions in North Central Philadelphia and other neighborhoods in the city.
  • The  Young Architects' Forum Philadelphia (YAF), a project of AIA Philadelphia, became a vehicle for young professionals to become engaged in their communities.YAF gathered the pent-up desire of architects and all the design professions to do something.
  • Finally, AIA Philadelphia responded to this new energy and focus by giving the Collaborative a workspace and a modest startup stipend. Their assistance was a critical step to our becoming an independent nonprofit with diverse support from foundations, public agencies, corporations, and individuals. 

Philadelphia is not the same city as when we started. Many neighborhoods have seen significant reinvestment and revival. But others have not shared in that prosperity. The need for social impact design is stronger than ever. The Community Design Collaborative continues to engage people, promote equitable development, and strengthen neighborhoods through design.



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