To the architect Max Bond, social equity was a core value and so was design integrity. And the new J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City, named for the architect who died in 2009, will actively spread the word through collaborative research projects, design advocacy, leadership development, and education programs at its new home within the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York.
Launched on May 1, the Bond Center, said its founding director Toni Griffin, will aim to be “a leader in thinking on how design can become more central to the policies aimed at making American cities more just and inclusive places to live.”
The center is a reinvigorated recast of the City College Architecture Center (CCAC) that operated in the 1980s and ’90s primarily as a pro bono architecture and planning service for the Harlem community. The Bond Center will focus more on faculty and collaborative research, drawing on disciplines across the CUNY system and beyond, as well as initiate urban projects engaging with policy reform that could become models for other cities, and especially Harlem itself. An active conference, publication, and events program is also on the agenda.
The timing is propitious as activist architecture is having a strong moment, and Griffin, an architect and urban planner, comes well equipped to head the venture, having served over the past three decades as a founder of the Detroit Works Project, a deputy director of planning in Washington, D.C., a director of community development and planning for the city of Newark, and a planning vice president with the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation.
The Bond Center has already brought together landscape design graduates to submit an entry to the visioning Parks for People competition organized by the National Park Service and Van Alen Institute. Another advanced study project is aimed at developing a template with which communities can measure the effectiveness of design policies in their neighborhoods.
Noting that his old friend Max Bond was a director of one of the country’s first community design centers, the Architects Renewal Committee of Harlem (ARCH), founded in 1964, New York–based architect James Polshek said he is looking forward to the Bond Center’s debut: “I hope it will inspire architects, who may still be confined in believing in the capital A for the Art of architecture, that architecture also comes with an obligation to solve problems and break down barriers.”