I can trace my personal connection to this concern with shaping our places to growing up in Chicago. There, I took for granted the public interest in the quality of the architecture and civic places that made up the city. In fact, it inspired me to become an architect. Outside of the architectural haven that is Chicago, economics alone too often drive what a building or place looks like. We need to pause to ask what a building or master plan says about our shared values as a community. We must recognize how buildings and places set a tone for the ones to be built or rebuilt around them. We must continue to question how they might impact our health and quality of life.
It is our obligation as architects to immerse ourselves in the community, engage the community, and reflect community values and aspirations in our work. The role of the architect as artist tends to draw the most attention, and that matters. Yet the healthy experience of our craft and how we engage the public in that process matters as well. Winston Churchill also said, “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”
So today, we’re taking public engagement and design to the people. Rather than just holding public meetings or creating a design in isolation, we’re going to where the public is: festivals, events, food truck nights, trails, shopping malls and more. We give community bike tours describing our concepts, and we’re receiving great feedback and input while we craft great active places to live, work and celebrate community life.
These citizens are helping to create the places in which they live. Architects of the future will shepherd this process more than ever before. If we continue to recognize value in this process, soon we will live in a metro Atlanta region that visually represents a place as good, as welcoming and as inspiring as it truly is: a hometown worthy of the international infrastructure and institutions we have so proudly nurtured and built over the past two centuries.
William de St. Aubin is the CEO of Sizemore Group, an Atlanta-based architecture and town planning firm.