Justice + Equity in Architecture

At Bora we advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion and have taken intentional, concerted steps to examine and acknowledge the ways in which we, as individuals and as a firm, have been a part of systemic injustice. The lack of diversity and inclusivity in the profession of architecture has given way to a built environment disconnected from the unique needs, values and experiences of its community members.

But we are determined to change this narrative.

Desiring to use our public platform to advocate for justice in the industry, we are committed to the following actions toward equity in all aspects of our practice:

Critical Race Theory and Design Justice

We acknowledge that good design must go beyond aesthetics, innovative programming, and environmental stewardship to champion spaces that respect and reflect the voices and lived experiences of their communities. The principles of Critical Race Theory and Design Justice provide us with equitable lenses through which we make our design decisions.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) centers the voices and experiences of communities who have historically been marginalized by policy makers and design professionals. Believing that space is not neutral, we look to CRT to inform our design approach, engaging stakeholders and communities in a highly participatory process up front to dismantle underlying power structures and systems promoting racial inequity. This allows us to hear firsthand the values and needs of the communities we serve, subsequently informing a design that is safe, welcoming, and authentic to their unique cultures and experiences.

Design Justice acknowledges that race, culture and architecture are inherently intertwined. We invite marginalized people to be an integral part of the design process, using their experiences to guide us into thoughtful, inclusive design decisions. We consider the building’s role in its neighborhood and societal contexts, upholding its spaces as opportunities to honor culture and heal communities. By prioritizing community impact over trying to push our own design agenda, we become facilitators of justice in the built environment.

Our Design of Just Spaces

As a firm we are always learning together, in constant dialogue as we measure our design decisions against the rubric of equity and social justice. We are employing this justice lens on current projects such as the PCC Portland Metropolitan Workforce Training Center (shown right), which has involved extensive outreach and workshops to honor the community and uphold equity on all scales. Our consultant team for this effort is 100% COBID-certified (firms that are minority-owned, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, or emerging small businesses), indicative of our desire to elevate others through partnership, mentorship and growth opportunities.

An Essential Part of Bora Culture

Along with providing CRT and Design Justice training for staff, Bora has an internal Equity Steering Group that champions dialogue, shared knowledge, and action. We believe in the power of platforms like these to spur the personal introspection and growth needed to fuel our external work of justice and equity in design. We foster a culture of allyship that upholds trust and respect, believing people’s narratives and offering repair work when needed.

Our desire is to use our position for good, advocating for marginalized communities, dismantling systemic racism, and tackling our own implicit biases. There is no end to the work, but we are wholly committed to using our skills and our profession to act toward healing, hope, and a stronger and more just society.

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