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Design Matters- March 2021

Celebrating Our History In Women's History Month

There is a famous quote that says “Women are the real architects of society” attributed to Harriet Beecher Stowe (but sometimes Cher). It always reminds me of the field of Community Design, because of the long history of female pioneers working within and alongside communities for change. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we wanted to take this moment to highlight some of the fierce females who have influenced and inspired us at the Collaborative! 

Our team has shown incredible female leadership over the past 30 years, with every Executive Director being a woman! We have been so transformed by the initiative and direction received from these incredible women.  Our former Executive Director Beth Miller just finished the prestigious Loeb Fellowship focused on the subject of Public interest design; we recommend you check out her final presentation (you may see some familiar projects!). In 1991 when the Collaborative was first created, twelve of the twenty founders were women. We will honor these pioneers in June at Leverage 2021 for their role in our foundation. We are especially grateful that Alice Berman, Robin Kohles, and Sally Harrison have remained so engaged for the past 30 years! Additionally, we have some great female representation on our Board of Directors, comprising 40% of our current board and advisory council make up!  We are thankful for the leadership, support and professionalism of Sybille, Carol, Rebecca, Christine, Megan, Lea, Jenn, Maria, Kimberly, Alice, Cheryl, Lisa, Susan, Cecelia, Tavis, Eva, Rose, Sally, Rev. Robin, Barbara, Nora, Beth, Laura, Pheobe, Susan, Kira, Daniela, & Pamela. 

When the Collaborative hired employees, the first three were women! Susan Frankel, Jan Strauss and Lauren Leatherbarrow led the charge for long history of strong women who have been instrumental in the day-to-day operations of the organization. Today we are an all-women team working hard every day to transform neighborhoods through design. We appreciate the efforts of Danielle, Elyssa, Heidi, Kim, Robin, and Tya to deliver services to our volunteers, clients, and partners. 

As we look at the field, we know design and construction is one that has not always been friendly to women. There are many women locally who dedicate their time and energy to changing that reality. As Philadelphians we are extremely proud of some of our local women for their leadership and efforts. We recently learned that one of our volunteers, Billie Faircloth has been elevated to Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA). Congratulations to Billie on this honor! If you are interested in getting more involved in advocacy for women in design, look no further than the Women In Architecture subcommittee of AIA Philadelphia. Under the leadership of Jazz Graves and Efrie Escott the organization has continued its efforts to highlight, elevate, and support our local female professionals virtually.  

 We have had the honor of considering some amazing opportunities recently that would expand our project types in new and exciting ways. We have had the honor to work with some other amazing female practitioners for these proposals that we think you should know. It was great collaborating with Karen Blanchard, AIA (Sitio), Sarah Yeung (Sojourner Consulting), Molly Kaufman & Mindy Fullilove (University of Orange), Liz Ogbu (Studio O), Jae Shin (HECTOR), Gina Ford and team (Agency), and Pascale Sablan (Adjaye Associates).  We are hopeful for continued partnership and inspired by all the work you ladies put into the world! 

To learn more about how women have impacted the field of design, we recommend you check out the ARCHITEXX and the Now What? resources online. It tells the history architects and designers working to further the causes of the civil rights, women’s, and LGBTQ movements since 1968, also sharing a lot of information about the organization’s that inspired and preceded the Community Design Collaborative!  We encourage fellow women in the field to participate in the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit, either at the next in-person convening or through the virtual education series on the AIA website. For more data on women in the field, look to the ACSA report “Where are the women?” and the 2018 survey by Equity by Design [EQxD].  Want to learn more about often overlooked women on fantastic projects, a great research for self-edification is Beyond the Built- consider submitting for an upcoming exhibit! We are excited that Beyond the Built recently won the 2021 Architectural League Prize (we are excited to feature its founder in our inaugural Equity Talk this month).  Another great resource from a strong female voice around community engaged work are the books by Katie Swenson, a phenom in this work!  If you want a great reference book of projects, check out Design With Love: At Home in America, but if engaging memoirs are more your speed, check out In Bohemia which features aspects of Katie’s work and life.   

To all the women in our network, thank you for your strength and creativity in design!  We look forward to continuing our celebration of the ladies and featuring more of you in future Design Matters! 

The Community Design Collaborative Team 

PHA Bartam's Site

Philadelphia Housing Authority - 56th Street Gateway: Conceptual Design for a Community  Gathering Space
The Collaborative Volunteer Team provided a conceptual plan that transformed a highly visible vacant lot at the intersection of 56th Street, Lindbergh and Elmwood Avenues into an attractive neighborhood gathering place including a potential mural in partnership with MuralArts.

John Coltrane House in Strawberry Mansion

Strawberry Mansion CDC - John Coltrane Museum and Cultural Arts Center: Site Feasibility Study 
Collaborative Volunteers considered the rehabilitation of the Coltrane House and the expansion of its footprint. A focus on stabilization and repair, and the planning and design of a new complex were a priority.  

PACDC Pilot Program 

This week, the Collaborative partnered with the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations on their pilot Corridor Manager On-Boarding Program (OBP).  As a featured trainer, Robin Kohles delivered a 2-hour training to introduce new commercial corridor managers to Collaborative projects and the design process. 

Visit here for more information on Commercial Corridors and PACDC’s platform.  


Looking for another concrete step to advance equity in access to design services for nonprofits and small neighborhood-based businesses? Sponsor Leverage, the Collaborative’s annual fundraiser.  

We have refreshed the virtual event’s sponsor benefits with:   

  • More online tickets 

  • Visibility as hosts of networking sessions 

Maximize your company’s visibility by signing well before the May 14th deadline. 

Get The Details

VOLUNTEER PROFILE: Elizabeth "Betsy" Way 
Collaborative Volunteer Betsy Way

Betsy Way is a 20 year Collaborative volunteer.  We find her ardent dedication and contribution of her voice in community informed design inspiring. In honor of Women's History month we elevate her her story and impact on the City through her work with the Collaborative. 

This week, we talked with Betsy about her why and where she sees women's impact in the Design/AEC fields. Read that interview Here

Collaborative Volunteer Samantha Petty

Samantha Petty is a long- time Collaborative volunteer. She is a vivaciously smart woman with an inquisitive passion for how a space reflects the values of its community.  And, how a community's design can be a change agent for good.

In honor of Women's History month, we talked with Samantha about the experience she has had and why it is important, her love of Philadelphia and the women she has gotten to meet. Read that interview Here. 

EQUITY TALK: Preserving Presence - March 22nd  

Centering equity, The Collaborative will host four talks across 2021 focusing on the intersection of race, design, and development.  

Equity Talks: Preserving Presence kicks off our series with a panel discussion focused on the importance of centering Blackness and identity in the revitalization and conceptualization of Black communities. Through the lessons learned and lived experiences of our panelists and their selected significant projects, learn more about the importance of representation and cultural competence within design and development. Register for Preserving Presence Here.

Our Panel, moderated by Tya Winn, includes: 

  • Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Fund 

  • Reverend Mark Tyler, Mother Bethel A.M.E. 

  • Germane Barnes- architectural designer and artist, Studio Barnes 

  • Pascale Sablan, FAIA – 2021 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award winner and founder of Beyond the Built 

  • Emmanuel Kelly, FAIA - Founding Principal, Kelly Maiello Architects 

Listen to these talks, given by our Equity Talks panelists:

SAVE THE DATE!  Equity Talk #2- April 19th  



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