Gabriela Marks

Architecture is more than the product of the technological tools we use or the sum of our imagination and expertise. At its best, architecture is a lasting physical manifestation of our highest ideals and most cherished values.

While the world we live in today is the most socially aware and connected in human history, too many people still experience the daily indignities created by social injustice in all its variations. Our legacy and long-term relevance depend on our ability to help close the divides of class, gender, and race through the power of design. To that end, I believe that architecture and architects have an essential role in advancing social justice by focusing on design justice.

It is my opinion that the only way we will achieve those ends is by including the voices, experiences, and cultural perspectives of a diverse cross section of people.

As Henry David Thoreau observed, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” What we “see,” to a considerable degree, is shaped by our experiences and how society sees us and relates to us throughout our lives. Therefore, in my view, advancing social justice through design justice and increasing the diversity and inclusion of the profession are inextricably linked. Diversity helps a team, a community, and even a nation “see” problems more holistically and find lasting solutions that satisfy the needs and encourage the achievements of everyone.

For architecture and architects to thrive in an ever-more-complex and diverse world, the creativity, contribution, and leadership of everyone will be essential, without regard to gender, race, or socioeconomic background.

Why? As the trend toward greater urbanization continues, the expertise of architects could and should be central to finding equitable and just solutions. Today, more than 50 percent of people worldwide live in cities. By the end of the century, some estimates put that number at close to 90 percent.

As the urbanization trend continues, humanity will be even more dependent on the built environment. That could fundamentally change the role of the architect in society.

Architects could be at the forefront of creating a more equitable and more just built world—and by extension society—no matter the nation, but only if we have the innovation, ingenuity, and leadership of everyone who shares our vision.

The choices we make today will determine if architects can be trusted partners who will deliver solutions that help solve society’s most urgent challenges and promote social justice, or if the profession is an artifact of a bygone era, relegated to the sidelines of social advancement and achievement.

Ultimately, we are more than designers and builders—we are facilitators. We are at our most effective when we remember that everyone deserves to be heard. As we are called on to lead efforts to meet the challenges of fighting climate change and increasing sustainability, economic equity, and opportunity for all, the profession of architecture must reflect the demographic diversity of society.

To achieve our fundamental goal of driving positive change through the power of design, we have to empower those who have been too long ignored. We have to create spaces that allow everyone to become their best selves through the power of design.