MEET OUR COMMITTEE CHAIR: URBAN DESIGN

Committee Chair: Couper Gardiner, Founding Director, m.Arch Inc

What is your favorite recent project and why? 

The Citizen-Driven NEP Tot Lot and Substation Improvement continues to connect a small group who share values from distinct backgrounds in a Cincinnati neighborhood with great potential, helping strangers visualize their goals, and affect concrete positive lasting change. Price Hill Will staff had already had serious fun side-by-side with Chas Wiederhold, David Corns, and me separately, when they asked us to partner on the neighborhood business district’s top priority—over what has turned out to be five years. They see us as creatively trusted additions to their team of city and business friends.

Who inspires you and why? 

Anita Brentley has not stopped building on her already incredible talents since I first heard her in 2012 on a panel about parent empowerment as the key to success for young children. Then, she was a local activist representing Children’s Hospital and Avondale at the Children’s Defense Fund’s national conference in Cincinnati. Between then, earning a Ph.D. last year, and now, she continues to partner creatively. For example, she works with volunteer parents across town building bonds with their neighbors while advancing community health, getting people paid (including for gaining math and reading skills), and supporting parents in discovering individual and family goals and working toward them. Even though we may be with each other rarely, my experiencing her ideas in action, repeatedly, gives me the sense that her faithful energy persists. 

What does your committee do?

The Urban Design committee, through meetings, workshops, and public forums, provides opportunities for AIA Cincinnati members to share informed viewpoints on specific urban planning projects, while increasing the role of AIA Cincinnati architects in the public/private sector decision-making process. Committee planning and programs continue the exchange of practices and ideas for architecture beyond individual buildings and client interests, with active partnering relationships that impact expected changes.

What kind of AIA members would you like to have involved with your committee? 

Urban Design committee events attract a good cross-section of practicing planners, designers, and architects, as well as a variety of allied design professionals and area citizens who see urban design as furthering larger scale work. Historically, members from chapter committees on Advocacy, CRAN, and Emerging Professionals have also been UDCers. Consistent AIA and UDC members enjoy relaxing together, expressing what they know through study and experience, listening, feeling challenged in facing real changes, and debating alternatives.

How can AIA members get involved with your committee?

Face-to-face is best, through our monthly meetings, regularly at CCAD on the second Wednesday from 5:30-7:00 pm. Our open salon-style conversations, every other month or so, reflect the interests and priorities of whoever’s with us in planning, and members are often the best provocateurs for these. Salons often lead to follow-on work with a few people afterwards, and sometimes lasting friendships. Community design workshop roles, every other year or so, typically involve up to a dozen architects as volunteers, from event planning and research with constituents, to working with student assistants on reference and follow-on graphics, and day-of work with participant groups. The AIA Cincinnati website offers examples of past events, as well as email connection to the UDC conveners. Invitations to UDC events are also emailed to anyone who asks to be on the UDC e-list.

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