Social Equity and Ethics in Design of Sustainable Built Environments

Authored by: Geraldine Forbes Isais , Laura L. Harjo

The Routledge Companion for Architecture Design and Practice

Print publication date:  November  2015
Online publication date:  November  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138023154
eBook ISBN: 9781315775869
Adobe ISBN: 9781317688754


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Social equity is a term fraught with value and meaning that can strike anxiety in the hearts of many developers and designers. In this chapter we consider the ways that enacting social equity can function as a win-win venture for all parties. We also introduce social equity and contemporary conversations, related aspects of power, agency and capital. We then proceed with ideas of co-creation as a design approach to social equity and introduce case studies from Los Angeles and New Mexico. Each respective case study illustrates the conditions within which a win-win venture can happen and, conversely, an inadvertent win-lose case can occur. One Los Angeles example focuses on the “LA Live” development in the University Park/downtown area of Los Angeles. It demonstrates examples of equity carried out in an intentional way through community benefit agreements with a set of actors that might have otherwise engaged in an oppositional trajectory of LA Live’s development. While equity does not have to emerge from an oppositional scenario, inequity can emerge quietly and unintentionally. The second case study, the Tribal Services Center at Isleta Pueblo, is an example of precisely that, the unintended consequences of designing places within a community space with insufficient understanding of the subtle cultural symbols of the community. This then demonstrates how designers and developers can misinterpret a differentiated program requirement and a community symbol. This symbol, visible on the landscape, becomes a misinterpretation of a community value.

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