Collaborative design offers one opportunity to address longstanding inequities in the built environment. The work of the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, the community design center of the Tulane School of Architecture in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, serves as a case study to better understand the process and possibilities of this practice. Founded fifteen years ago, the Center believes each of us should have the opportunity to shape the places we live, work, and play. At the heart of the Center’s work is a commitment to iteration, responsiveness and action. Unique in its structure for a university- based design center, the Center is teaching the next generation of architects through classes as well as serving as a collaborator and convener for partner driven efforts to support new visions for New Orleans and the surrounding region. Critical reflection on the Center’s process, values, and dual roles offer an opportunity to engage with questions of power dynamics, equity and decolonization.
architecture; power dynamics; collaboration
About the Authors
Jose Cotto is originally from Great Brook Valley, a housing project in Worcester, Massachusetts. He has architecture degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tulane University. He serves as the Collaborative Design Project Manager at the Small Center and maintains a freelance photography practice.
Nick Jenisch is originally from New Hampshire. A certified planner, he serves at the Small Center’s Project Manager. He has experience in teaching, project management, and planning, and conducts research on affordable housing and the impact of policy on urbanization.
Emilie Taylor Welty self identifies as a maker of things big (buildings) and small (Mardi Gras costumes). Originally from Lafayette, Louisiana, she is an Architect, a Professor of Practice at Tulane’s School of Architecture and leads many of the Small Center’s design build projects.
Rashidah Williams is a New Orleans Native and proud Black woman. Graduate of the illustrious Howard University, the mecca of Black excellence and intelligence. Her research centers around Black activism, liberation from oppressive white supremacy structures, and the richness of pre-Katrina New Orleans. She serves as Assistant Director of the Small Center.
Ann Yoachim is originally from rural Pennsylvania. She is a first-generation college student and holds a BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science from Dickinson College and an MPH from Tulane University. Her research, teaching and practice fall at the intersections of people, environment and health. She is a Professor of Practice and serves as Director of the Small Center.