• Engaging Grief and Healing in Design
    Christine Gaspar & Liz Ogbu

“View of students participating in a ‘Power, Privilege, Positionality’ workshop led by Christine Gaspar and Liz Ogbu,” 2022. Digital photograph. Photo: Jose Cotto

Engaging Grief and Healing in Design is a research initiative that explores the role of design processes in addressing the deep need for grieving and healing in community engaged design practices. Harm and grief overlap in the histories of our built environment and animate the challenges we face today—from long-standing racial wounds, to generational poverty, to the climate emergency. Design curricula typically do not include specific training to take on this complex work, even as challenges in the field call for practitioners to do so. This research synthesizes critical information from psychology, sociology, and cultural traditions that have been shown to be essential to individual and collective healing and make it accessible within a design and praxis framework. This project builds on previous research on grief rituals and practices to further investigate and develop tools that can be incorporated into design practices to catalyze community healing and support.

Christine Gaspar is a community engaged designer with twenty years of experience and deep belief that design can be a powerful tool, particularly when used to support community-led visions for change. From 2009–22, she was executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), a nonprofit that uses the power of design to increase meaningful civic engagement in partnership with marginalized communities. Before that, she was assistant director of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, Mississippi, providing architecture and planning services to marginalized communities recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Gaspar has taught courses on design, civic engagement, and community planning at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), Parsons, and Pratt Institute. She is a founding member and board cochair of the Design Futures Forum, and holds master’s degrees in architecture and in planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Brown University.

A designer, urbanist, and spatial justice activist, Liz Ogbu is a global expert on engaging and transforming unjust urban environments. From designing shelters for immigrant day laborers in the United States, to a water and health social enterprise for low-income Kenyans, Ogbu has a long history of working with communities to leverage design to catalyze community healing and foster environments that support people’s capacity to thrive. She is founder of Studio O, a design consultancy that works at the intersection of racial and spatial justice. Ogbu has previously held several academic appointments, including the 2023 Harry Shure Visiting Professor of Practice in Architecture at the University of Virginia. Ogbu’s projects have been featured in museum exhibitions and publications globally. Her honors include Global Fellow, TED Speaker, Aspen Ideas Scholar, Droga Architect in Residence (Australia), LISC Rubinger Fellow, and Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Resident. She earned architecture degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University.