Helping create equitable cities through inclusive design.
Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, communities are engaged in the conception and creation of their built environment, regardless of income or personal circumstances. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and ultimately, more just cities.
For 128 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, civic advocacy, community engagement, preservation, and public policy.
Our environments shape every aspect of our lives, though we do not yet fully understand how. We must develop a better understanding of how we are affected by them, and work hard to improve those environments for people everywhere.
Design is a crucial tool for tackling complex social, ecological, and cultural challenges. It is a tool for analysis, breaking down seemingly intractable problems into their constituent parts. Design can identify and define problems, and propose new solutions. It can communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively, allowing people to visualize a different future and the steps it will take to enable that change.
We believe that solving persistent and tough problems requires many skills, and that the best solutions come from a collaborative process among different fields. We work hard to connect these disparate groups, translate among communities and disciplines, and catalyze fresh thinking.
And just as we need the skills of many fields, we need a range of tools to address different kinds of problems. For us, these tools are competitions, research projects, and public programs. We believe that they have a symbiotic relationship, and that used together, these three tools will allow us to better understand the ways our environments affect us, and help us to develop projects that impact those environments for the better, both locally and globally.
This interdisciplinary approach must take hold in communities, in schools, among policymakers, and in professional practice. We believe that design professionals must reexamine their collective role in shaping the world we live in, and in how we can improve people’s everyday lives.
Ideas can change the world: We believe that individual projects can be catalytic, and though the processes and thinking they set in motion may take years or even decades to fully mature, these projects are an important part of our work.
Who We Are
Associate Director, Business Development and Special Initiatives
Senior Project Manager, Programs
Director of Programs
Communications and Graphic Design Associate
Director of Communications
Director of Development
Partner, Studio Libeskind
CEO & Founder, Alloy
Director of Early Stage Innovations and Partnerships, NASA
CEO, Bednark Studio Inc.
Partner, Holland & Knight
Founder & Managing Partner, Daraja Capital
Principal, Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects
Author & Architecture Critic
Director of Civic Projects, Perkins&Will
Director of Operations, Moody Nolan
Principal, Mikyoung Kim Design
Partner, The Seelig Group
Managing Director, Kinneret Group
Founder, Xylem Projects
Founder, Determined by Design
Founder & Executive Director, Recess
Byron Bell Architects & Planners
Partner & Vice President, White
Partner, Allies and Morrison
Director, Allies and Morrison
Director, Baumgartner Urban Systems Strategy
Partner, Wingårdhs Arkitektkontor
Principal, BuroHappold Engineering
Partner, Design and Construction, Fairstead
Executive Vice President/Principal, Silman
Founding Director, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Partner, Real Estate, Fried Frank
Executive Director, Studio Saxe
Founder, Sherwood Design Engineers
President, Dovetail Design Strategists
Vice President, Director of Landscape Architecture, Stantec
Director of Urban Design, CBT
Principal, Managing Director, Walter P Moore
Director, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Principal and Founder, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Founder, Wingårdhs Arkitektkontor
1894 – 1955
Society for Beaux-Arts Architecture
We started with a commitment to accessible design education, founded in the aesthetics of the Beaux-Arts era.
1956 – 1995
National Institute for Architectural Education
Over time, we expanded beyond a particular style, and came to understand the power of design professionals to do good in the world.
1996 – 2019
Van Alen Institute: Projects in Public Places
With a belief that design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives, we developed research, public programs, and design competitions.
2020 – present
Van Alen Institute, today
We help create equitable cities through inclusive design. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and more just cities.