Creating an Open Dialogue
As current events unfold, FF&P is further encouraging our office culture of maintaining an open dialogue with one another to better educate ourselves and each other. This strengthens our environment of safety and sense of belonging. Early on, one of our colleagues held a public forum on how we were processing recent world events and how we could better help each other as a team. We have continued this conversation by dedicating a segment of our weekly staff meetings for us to talk openly about issues in the built environment influenced by art, education, politics, and culture. Each week, we focus on a different topic encouraging everyone to share relevant photos, links, and videos – many that are historical in context with personal meaning to our designers.
During one of these sessions, we were reminded of Joseph Eichler who was synonymous for the mid-century modern style tract housing in California who fought for fair housing policies and integrated neighborhoods. His aim was to construct inclusive and diverse planned communities and he established a non-discrimination policy, offering homes for sale to anyone of any race or religion.
While researching the Silver Lake area, there was a history of exclusion preventing African-Americans from buying homes throughout the area. The Federal Housing Administration, created in 1934, subsidized builders who were creating entire subdivisions on the premise that they only be sold to whites. If a home builder so much as assisted a Black buyer in purchasing a house, they would lose funding for an entire tract. Furthermore, the FHA refused to unsure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods, which were outlined as “redlined” neighborhoods, a practice that has defined the built environment of countless American cities. As designers, we must think of what it means to create a more equitable built environment, and a step in the right direction happens in conversation and education.
As we learn from the past, we strive to build a better future to improve the well-being of everyone in every community. Members of our design team participate in SoCal NOMA’s annual project pipeline community outreach initiative– teaching kids in under-resourced areas about architecture and urban planning. We ask ourselves what else we can improve upon as architects and designers dedicated to bettering the field for future generations by coming together to create more vibrant, equitable and inclusive communities. We seek to do more by working together to help change current systems, continuing to volunteer and partake in improving the world around us. At the very least, promoting an open conversation about how we can design for a more equitable future is necessary and something we do every week.