Helping create equitable cities through inclusive design.

303 Bond Street

Brooklyn, NY  11232

212 924 7000


Drop us a line: vai@vanalen.org

Press inquiries: press@vanalen.org

Our Mission

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 Beliefs

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


Deborah Marton

Executive Director

Stacey Anderson

Associate Director, Business Development and Special Initiatives

Diana Araujo

Senior Project Manager, Programs

Andrew Brown

Director of Programs

Annie Ferreira

Development Associate

Scott Kelly

Communications and Graphic Design Associate

Alisha Kim Levin

Director of Communications

Kate Overbeck

Director of Development

Ren Reese

Managing Director


Carla Swickerath

Partner, Studio Libeskind

Jared Della Valle

CEO & Founder, Alloy

Jenn Gustetic

Director of Early Stage Innovations and Partnerships, NASA

Michael Bednark

CEO, Bednark Studio Inc.

Robert Bernstein

Partner, Holland & Knight

Raudline Etienne

Founder & Managing Partner, Daraja Capital

Mark Gardner

Principal, Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects

Sarah Williams Goldhagen

Author & Architecture Critic

Casey Jones

Director of Civic Projects, Perkins&Will

Latoya Kamdang

Director of Operations, Moody Nolan

Mikyoung Kim

Principal, Mikyoung Kim Design

May Lee

Partner, The Seelig Group

Sandy Lee

Managing Director, Kinneret Group

Nnenna Lynch

Founder, Xylem Projects

Kia Weatherspoon

Founder, Determined by Design

Allison Freedman Weisberg

Founder & Executive Director, Recess

Byron Bell

Byron Bell Architects & Planners


Carl Bäckstrand

Partner & Vice President, White

Alfredo Caraballo

Partner, Allies and Morrison

Daniel Elsea

Director, Allies and Morrison

Steven Baumgartner

Director, Baumgartner Urban Systems Strategy

Jonas Edblad

Partner, Wingårdhs Arkitektkontor

Denzil Gallagher

Principal, BuroHappold Engineering

Tyler McIntyre

Partner, Design and Construction, Fairstead

Nat Oppenheimer

Executive Vice President/Principal, Silman

Chris Reed

Founding Director, Stoss Landscape Urbanism

Carol E. Rosenthal

Partner, Real Estate, Fried Frank

Benjamin G. Saxe

Executive Director, Studio Saxe

S. Bry Sarté

Founder, Sherwood Design Engineers

Susanna Sirefman

President, Dovetail Design Strategists

Gary Sorge

Vice President, Director of Landscape Architecture, Stantec

Kishore Varanasi

Director of Urban Design, CBT

Erik Verboon

Principal, Managing Director, Walter P Moore

Amy Whitesides

Director, Stoss Landscape Urbanism

Barbara Wilks

Principal and Founder, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Gert Wingårdh

Founder, Wingårdhs Arkitektkontor

Our History

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.

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