12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Join us for Undesign the Redline: the Transformation of Race, Place, and Class in America, a lecture by April De Simone and Katie Swenson, moderated by Miriam Aschkenasy, Program Manager, Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability.
Undesign the Redline: the Transformation of Race, Place, and Class in America is an explorative and visioning framework for addressing systemic challenges. These challenges – inequalities in housing, education, income, criminal justice, and health – are far from separate issues. These challenges are rooted in a deep and entangled history of policies, practices and processes that remain unrevealed and misunderstood. As new forces begin to transform cities and towns, decisions about interconnected challenges are, therefore, often made ‘in the dark.’ Gone unanswered are fundamental questions about our communities: how did we get here, and what does that mean for where we are going? Undesign the Redline: the Transformation of Race, Place, and Class in America explores these reframed opportunities from a shared value perspective, and grounds discussions about race, wealth, opportunity and power in an honest context that is not about guilt and blame. This allows everyone to contribute their value to the design and development of projects, partnerships, and decisions that seek to transform communities and move beyond the challenging and often clouded situation of our entangled past.
April De Simone is a transdisciplinary design practitioner and strategist with over 20 years of experience cultivating initiatives centered on systemically addressing complex socio-spatial challenges. Her upbringing in the Bronx, New York, embedded a first-hand understanding of the long-term impact of policies and practices like Redlining, urban renewal, and the war on drugs on those who tow the front-lines. Continuing to advocate for innovation, she explores the role of design in activating equitable lived experiences within the built environment. In 2015, she co-founded designing the WE (dtW), a for-purpose research and transformative design company working in community-driven social, cultural, and economic development. The company creates and uses tools like the Undesign the Redline (UTR) experience to contextualize and explore the transformation of place, race, and class in America. UTR curates a past to present journey of our most pressing and interconnected social challenges while provoking thought, questions, and dialogue around the policies, practices, and investments that not only accentuate systemic disparities and inequalities but impede the full potential of democracy. Each engagement, activates a space where honest conversations around how race and socioeconomic factors reinforce systemic and structural inequity and how these inequities play out in the built environment. As a result of these engagements, diverse stakeholders from community organizers to government agencies delve into the themes of the exhibit and the role of design in shaping human experience. Ms. De Simone also co-founded various socially conscious platforms, including the New York Metro Chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance in 2010, Urban Starzz, a Bronx, New York-based the social enterprise in 2007. She sits on progressive boards, including that of the American Sustainable Business Council and continues to work closely on a local and national level with diverse stakeholders on issues of race, equity, and new economies. April received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Science with a Concentration in Political Science from New York University and was recognized in 2012 for the Bart Lawson Award for Public Service. A Dean Merit Scholar recipient, she received her Master of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies from Parsons in New York.
Katie Swenson is an architectural design leader, researcher, writer, educator. As VP Design & Sustainability at Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit that invests more than $8 billion annually in community development, Katie’s work explores how critical design practice can promote economic and social equity, environmental sustainability, and healthy communities. A member of the second class of Enterprise Rose Fellowship, Swenson was tapped to grow and lead the program in 2007, after completing her fellowship with the Piedmont Housing Alliance in Charlottesville, Va. Frustrated by the perpetual inequities and lack of commitment to the fundamental right of housing for all, Katie became a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 2019 to ask the question, “How can love be a tool for urban design?” Through classes at the GSD, the Kennedy School, Divinity School and college, she worked to understand how historic attitudes and philosophies of dehumanization shape the contemporary national policy platform. With April De Simone from designing the WE, she taught “Undesign the Redline: The Transformation of Race, Place and Class in America” to co-create a new approach to design curriculum. Co-author of Growing Urban Habits: Seeking a New Housing Development Model (2008), Katie will have two books coming out in 2020, a memoir In Bohemia, and a community development book Designing with Love, both by Schiffer Publishing.