Architecture in the #MeToo moment

How are some of the top architecture firms in the country, in an industry with “a long history of celebrating the lone male genius, creating power structures that disadvantage women,” stacking up in the #MeToo era? Curbed surveyed the 20 top-earning firms in the country on their sexual harassment policies, reporting procedures, and efforts to create inclusive and equitable environments.” The statistics are staggering. A November Dezeen survey found that only three of the world’s 100 biggest firms are led by women and that 90 percent of their C-suite executives are men. As Eric Liu, founder of Citizen University, the civic engagement organization that trains organizers on both sides of the political spectrum says, power feeds itself and compounds. One can see how this is especially in a boys’ club and legacy firms. To address this, CannonDesign put in a formal policy to avoid potential issues around favoritism or conflicts of interest with nepotism and personal relationships in the handbook. To address and combat unconscious bias at all levels, Stantec updated its Diversity and Inclusion training to reflect the priority and conducted surveys to gauge its progress among employees. “Unconscious bias creates barriers to inclusion, performance, engagement, attraction and retention, promotions, and, ultimately, innovation,” says Stantec HR officer Emree Siaroff. SOM’s chief HR officer Suzanne Pennasilico agrees that the most important part of handling incidents in practice is listening. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, urban anthropologist Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman and Little Giant Creative co-founder Meegan Denenberg are working to bring more women’s voices to the forefront of urban planning and design. The two are planning a first Women-Led Cities gathering for Philly in March. Visit their website for more information on Women-Led Philly. 

The Philly list

Curbed Philadelphia compiled a non-exhaustive list the women-led architecture and landscape architecture firms in the city, finding 21 total in 2017. One firm, Salt, grounds their engagement process in listening to “the want, needs, and concerns of the community.” Salt’s empathy and effect, wrote the Sustainable Business Network’s Bradford Bucknum to PlanPhilly, has emphasized: “collaboration as a tool to lift people up and dissolve barriers created by unequal power dynamics surrounding community engagement.” Salt’s design of Lea Elementary School’s playground in West Philly won the GSI Award for Public Projects in 2016 and was again a finalist in 2017.

Blatstein back in NoLibs

Bart Blatstein is returning to the Northern Liberties neighborhood he transformed with the Piazza at Schmidts with plans for another large mixed-use development. The new project would transform a vacant lot at Second Street and Germantown Avenue into a complex of six connected buildings with 1,200 rental apartments and 45,000 square feet of retail, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jacob Adelman reports. Northern Liberties Neighbors Association president Matt Ruben praised the plan, which Blatstein presented Monday. Ruben, who is leading a charge to create a  business improvement district in the area, said that few locations remained “where so many new units can go in without unduly disrupting the neighborhood” while providing the need for the “array of healthy, diverse, neighborhood-centered businesses we want.” Meanwhile, Blatstein tells Adelman that he expects complete the project in phases over five years at the cost of more than $350 million, and to break ground at the end of March 2019.

Crazy/beautiful Philly

Frozen rivers and foggy landscapes of Philadelphia, yes please! In the latest installment of #PhillyMinute, collaborators Streets Dept and WeFilmPhilly share aerial footage of the “crazy/ beautiful/ eerie weather” we had this winter on the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. It is chilling to watch, in a very romantic way; it makes one appreciate the mosaic of ice chips from a bird’s eye view and grateful for spring.

And cool to visit, too

Philly makes another top ten list! Forbes has declared our city one of the coolest places to visit in 2018. Forbes highlights “the modern life Fishtown,” as well as nationally-renowned food destinations Royal Boucherie and Wm. Mulherin’s Sons. Also on Forbes’ notables list, the new Four Seasons at the Comcast Center, which the hotel gloriously self-describes as a “sleek yet sumptuous…60-storey landmark of innovation, envisioned by architect Lord Norman Foster.” If fancy British spellings don’t say global city, we don’t know what does.

Dockless chaos

Speaking of European, after a brief, “disappointing and extremely frustrating” run, France’s first dockless bike-sharing program has shut down operations across the country, citing “the mass destruction” of its fleet, NPR’s Camila Domonoske reports. While there are “between 16 million and 18 million shared bikes on China’s streets” according to NPR Steve Inskeep and Miranda Kennedy, and thousands that are locked and left safely unattended, “a lack of conscience among city dwellers [in France] took the company down.” Images of Gobee bike destruction were gleefully shared by “underaged individuals” on social media, the Hong Kong-based company wrote in its farewell, amounting to “more than a thousand bikes stolen or privatized, nearly 3,400 bikes broken nationwide, around 280 complaints filed to the French Municipal Police and close to 6,500 repairs.” The news should raise eyebrows in Philadelphia, which may see its own dockless bike-share. As Jim Saksa reported in January, the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems released a request for information for the next contract for after Indego expires in June 2019, and “it’s likely the deep-pocketed Chinese firms will be among those submitting proposals to the city.”


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