Will Wright is the Director of Government & Public Affairs for the AIA’s Los Angeles chapter. On Friday, May 6, the AIA LA’s “Design for Dignity: Changing the Housing Equation by Design” will convene a multi-disciplinary forum of architects, planners, affordable housing developers, non-profit leaders and other innovators to discuss and develop actionable steps for solving the city’s homelessness and housing crisis.
In regards to the name of the event, how are you defining “dignity”?
When one designs for ‘dignity’, one designs for an outcome that enlivens the human spirit, empowers a person’s ability to either regain, recover or re-discover a sense of self, and strengthens our connectivity to each other in such a way that respect, character and sentiment become intrinsic touchstones to our everyday lives. Dignity is health plus equity and delight. Dignity is a trusted foundation to rest upon no matter how challenging the storm. It’s a reminder that we’re are all in this together as humans with each other’s well-being deeply rooted as one.
What role do you think architecture can play in tackling larger, complex social issues, like homelessness?
Architecture’s role is as big or as small as the coat hook on the wall. But the role of architects — as a profession, their role is gigantic. As systems thinkers, as design thinkers, as professionals that can analyze all of the moving parts holistically and engage in an inclusive outreach process to better understand the nature of the challenge, architects are uniquely positioned to help stitch together the resources that will most humanely ameliorate the hardships of being homeless. Shelter is right up there with the other four prime human needs and architects understand the mechanics of what truly makes shelter a home.
What recent innovations and design solutions in the affordable housing and public realm are you most excited about and would like to see more of?
Innovations geared towards Net-zero energy outcomes (and greater emphasis on natural, passive systems) will help empower residents with lower energy bills and, at the same time, further restore one’s connection to the earth, a source of never-ending replenishment. Dignity isn’t high-tech; dignity is that sense of comfort and grace you find well-rested in the shade of a majestic oak; dignity is the sense of awe you discover waking up to the sound of the rain on the roof and realizing you’re warm and alive and hungry for another day.