With the upcoming ACSA community development workshop being held in East Liberty this year, we thought it would be a good idea to sit down with Anne-Marie Lubenau, Director of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence and a volunteer working on behalf of the AIA Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community to organize the workshop.

We talk about what’s planned for the event in East Liberty, how the workshop and corresponding conference are working to foster design and architecture that serves disadvantaged communities, and more.


Which areas of East Liberty will you be focusing on during the tour and will you be talking about certain aspects of the neighborhood’s history and/or revitalization?

We’re planning an approximately two-hour long walking tour that will begin at the East Liberty busway stop. It will highlight the history and development of East Liberty, including its early years as a vibrant commercial hub, 1960s urban renewal, and more recent community-led planning initiatives and development. The tour will highlight projects including infrastructure, transit, transit-oriented development, commercial/retail, and residential (affordable, supportive, and market-rate). Local guides will discuss the role of community engagement and planning as well as public, private, and philanthropic leadership and investment in the community’s renaissance. They will also address the opportunities and challenges associated with the process as well as growing concerns about displacement and equity. The tour will finish at the Kingsley Association where there will be lunch and a moderated panel with presentations by educators working in Buffalo, Detroit, and Pittsburgh who will share specific studio exercises and approaches they use to bring questions of community into the classroom.

The tour is part of a workshop that begins Wednesday evening with a panel discussion at AIA Pittsburgh, moderated by National AIA President Bill Bates. The panel will include Christine Mondor, principal of evolve EA and Pittsburgh Planning Commission Chair, and Ted Landsmark, director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University and Boston Planning and Development Authority board member. The discussion will explore the opportunities and challenges of working at the intersection of education and practice in changing cities of Pittsburgh and Boston.

The discussion will explore the opportunities and challenges of working at the intersection of education and practice in changing cities of Pittsburgh and Boston.

Who will be attending the workshop? Is it open to all?

The workshop is part of the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) 107th Annual Meeting which is being hosted by Carnegie Mellon. Our goal is to attract people attending the conference who are teaching at architecture schools across the country as well as local design and development practitioners. Architects can earn up to 6.5 CEUs (continuing education credits).

The opening event, the Wednesday evening panel discussion, will take place from 6:00 to 7:30 pm at the Westin Convention Center hotel. A reception will follow at AIA Pittsburgh. Both are free and open to the public (no registration required). Those interested in attending the Thursday tour and panel discussion must register (there is a fee) by contacting the ACSA office at 202-785-2324.

We appreciate that the workshop is focusing on “how housing design education and architectural practice can best serve disadvantaged communities”. Is this a topic that ACSA has been focusing on in recent years or is it new to this year’s event?

The workshop is organized and sponsored by the AIA Housing and Community Development Network which is very interested in this topic. The national network tracks housing issues and develops relationships with industry stakeholders to encourage and promote safe, attractive, accessible, and affordable housing for all. Our workshop planning team has learned a lot over the past four years that we’ve organized and hosted these workshops. We’ve heard from participants that the number of architectural education programs that focus on housing has declined; that those who teach housing and community development struggle to find peer networks and forums to share and gain recognition for their work; and there is a desire for creating a community and platform for sharing information and resources.

Architectural practice is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary and there is growing interest among students and professionals in work that has a social impact. While dialogue about this is bubbling up at ACSA meetings, it’s not yet widespread. Pittsburgh has a remarkable community of architectural practitioners who work in this realm—in academic, public, private, and nonprofit settings—and have made a tremendous impact on the city. Without them I don’t think East Liberty or Pittsburgh would be the places they are today.

What do you hope people can take away and learn from East Liberty and the work of ELDI?

Transformative change takes time and patient capital. It requires visionary leadership, collaborative partnerships, and meaningful community engagement. Enduring places (both old and new) are grounded in and integrate the community’s own unique history, culture, and physical context. And good design and planning matter.

Anything else you’d like to share about the meeting, tour or workshop?

As a CMU graduate and former Pittsburgher who was involved in East Liberty through my work at the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh and East End Growth Fund, I’m excited to share the story of the community’s transformation with a national audience. I’m also eager to engage and connect the local community to other people doing similar work in other cities and to conversations about urban challenges, like concerns about growing socio-economic disparity, facing communities across America.


How to attend:

Anyone can attend the workshop. The opening event, the Wednesday evening panel discussion and reception at AIA Pittsburgh (downtown), is free and open to the public.

Those interested in attending the Thursday tour and panel discussion must register (there is a fee) for the Housing Workshop. Individuals interested in registering for the workshop should contact the ACSA office at 202-785-2324.