Acknowledging that we are caretakers and stewards of both the design process and the resulting built environment (a responsibility we take very seriously), we aim to act as conduits rather than gatekeepers, working hand-in-hand with our clients and their communities to shape brighter futures. Together, we design the world we hope for — understanding the interconnectedness of equity, social justice, wellness, sustainability, and economic empowerment—the lens through which we approach all of our work.
To help frame our efforts, we established a set of Guiding Principles, with input from a broad cross-section of our practice:
People First | People are at the core of what we do: our colleagues, collaborators, and clients. We believe a good idea can come from anywhere, and we encourage everyone to bring their authentic selves to our work. We believe that approaching everything on a person-to-person level builds a stronger outcome for our work and practice.
One Firm | We are stronger together. We are accountable to each other. We foster community through continually connecting, learning, and growing from the creativity and contributions of everyone in our practice.
Curiosity | We question — ourselves, each other, our clients, consultants, and collaborators. We’re in a continuous state of discovery. We’re passionate, creative, open-minded explorers, pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and we are interested in the world we inhabit.
Evolve | We believe change is constant and necessary for us to grow and learn. We question the status quo, and we adapt and innovate to discover new solutions that are greater than the sum of their parts.
Design the world we hope for | We believe in a more just, equitable, diverse, inclusive, and sustainable future. Every day we persistently and courageously foster a better future where everyone thrives.
Examples of the ways our Guiding Principles currently manifest in our practice and project work include:
Training and Assessment
For the last few years, we have been in the process of restructuring our business practices through the lens of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) with committees and leadership groups working to envision, execute, and measure long-term progress. These groups have been working to integrate lessons-learned from mandatory firm-wide EDI training and personal assessments in 2020–2021 to understand our blind spots and how to build capacity as individuals and as a practice. After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, we also launched a firm-wide Social Justice Reading Group, which meets twice a month to discuss various readings and topics that extend beyond design.
We foster long-term, trusting partnerships with diverse businesses and subconsultants and are constantly extending our network by conducting “meet and greet” presentations and making introductions to key project managers across our studios and with peer firms. We are committed to lifting up the whole profession, not just ourselves. We also understand when we need additional expertise to best serve vulnerable communities and populations, so we will often work with trusted partners as integral members of our design team to co-lead the process for these projects.
Giving Back to Our Communities and Each Other
We commit a percentage each year of our working hours to pro bono projects, which we know provides invaluable learning experience for our staff, and helps organizations serving our communities—like our recent work with the North Philly Peace Park. We have also recently updated all of our job descriptions (including those for MarComm, Admin, Accounting, HR, and IT) to help provide tailored professional development support and outline clear paths for advancement with 360 reviews to provide feedback along the way.
“I always say that architecture, for us, was a revolutionary ingredient. It was an ingredient that a community that was faced with various class, racial, gender, and economic barriers could have an ally. Architecture is an ally of the powerless to gain power. It has been an ally of those without voices to have a voice.”
— Tommy Joshua, Founder, North Philly Peace Park
As a firm with six studios, we are committed on a local and national level to building a more equitable and just profession. This work involves: Signing the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) Northwest Chapter Pledge and committing to building a mentorship program aimed at increasing the presence of underrepresented BIPOC professionals in leadership roles within the firm while providing multiple pathways for career development. We also donate in support of NOMA Pittsburgh’s local Project Pipeline Summer Camps and Workshops, sponsor emerging and licensed professionals to attend NOMA conferences and trainings, and participate in the Tri-State Project Pipeline summer camp (PhilaNOMA, NJNOMA, NYCOBANOMA).
In 2019, we participated in the AIA Seattle Intercultural Leadership Development Program for mutual accountability, and participated in the planning and development of a Racial Justice Leadership Program in 2021, focused on the NOMA NW Call to Action as well as local AIA chapter EDI Steering committees such as AIA Philadelphia.
We acknowledge that this work is never done, and we’re committed to making steady, sustainable progress within our firm and the wider industry to do our part in designing a more just, healthy, and inclusive world.