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    Conceptual Design for Sheridan Street Housing

    ISO: Emerging Professionals to Help Rebuild Their Communities

    By Shervan Sebastian, Manager, Federal Relations

    Community Design Centers may be one of architecture’s best kept secrets.

    Playing an instrumental role in furthering community development for decades, these centers function as a conduit between architects, non-profit local developers and neighborhoods in need of design services that would otherwise be unavailable.

    They may also play an important role in the future of emerging professionals.

    Collaborations like the Sheridan Street Project in Philadelphia and the Poquoson Museum Marsh Walk in Poquoson, Virginia, are prime examples of design centers where architecture students and recent graduates play an active role in developing concepts and improving communities. These design center programs are providing architecture students and post graduates with an opportunity to contribute their abilities while learning how to execute on a range of projects.

    Elizabeth Gilboy, Director of the Virginia Tech Community Design Center spoke to the AIA about how the center is structured. “The purpose of a community design center is to provide design and planning assistance to underserved communities utilizing a participatory process. Design includes architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and sometimes graphic design. For university-based design centers, the purpose also includes providing an applied educational experience related to the students’ future professions.”

    This is exactly the type of development opportunities the National Design Services Act supports. Architecture students graduate with an average of $40,000 in debt, one of the highest balances of any profession. This bill pairs these design centers and the chance for emerging professionals to play a civic role in the direction of their communities in exchange for assistance with student loan balances.

    Take a look at the NDSA and NDSA FAQ page and contact your Member of Congress to let them know there is great legislation that can help us continue to build for the future, and look out for more information from the AIA on how community design centers are helping neighborhoods build and rebuild.

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This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to


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