At Van Alen Institute, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives.
We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow.
Building on more than a century of experience, we develop cross disciplinary research, provocative public programs and inventive design competitions.
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.