Part of our 2021 Black History Month series “9 Designers Reflect on the Past, Present & Future of Black History in Architecture”
Nolan Lienhart, a principal and urban planner with ZGF for 15 years in our Portland office, speaks about the power of urban planning to design more equitable communities.
The historical relationship between cities and the Black community is a complicated one. While the Black community has contributed instrumentally to the growth, identity, and vitality of urban places, those places have not always supported and benefited communities of color in return. As a hub for Black families and Black businesses to flourish, as a place to uphold safety and wellbeing, support wealth creation, or further education, cities have fallen short. The result has been instability and displacement in places where African American people couldn’t stay and grow or establish centers of belonging like they were promised.
My role as a Black planner and urban designer is to help evolve this narrative. I bring to the table my lived experience and perspective as a Black man, my knowledge of the past and an understanding of how urban design can do better. We have a responsibility to weave together traditional strategies of the past with new, intentionally anti-racist approaches for a more equitable future. I am grateful to work on projects that provide such opportunities, including the Broadway Corridor in Portland, Oregon, where stakeholders are committed to promoting social equity, reducing disparities, and maximizing the community benefit for all. My work on this project and others includes orienting and organizing funding and investment in the right places, elevating historically underserved and underrepresented voices in decision-making processes, and implementing solutions that uplift Black and other marginalized communities. This is an inspiring and hopeful time to be practicing urban design.
Read more stories from this series here.