Van Alen Council

An invitation-only community of leading systems-thinkers spanning the design professions. Our global dialogue tackles the most pressing 21st century challenges, providing a platform for knowledge sharing about cities, regions, and landscapes.

For more info about the Council, contact:


Stacey Anderson,

Associate Director of Business Development and Special Initiatives

Who’s on the Council


Carl Bäckstrand

Partner & Vice President, White

Alfredo Caraballo

Partner, Allies and Morrison

Daniel Elsea

Director, Allies and Morrison

Mark Johnson

President, Civitas

Claire Weisz

Principal-in-Charge, WXY


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

S. Bry Sarté

Founder, Sherwood Design Engineers

Benjamin G. Saxe

Executive Director, Studio Saxe

Susanna Sirefman

President, Dovetail Design Strategists

Gary Sorge

Vice President, Director of Landscape Architecture, Stantec

Erik Verboon

Principal, Managing Director, Walter P Moore

Amy Whitesides

Director, Stoss Landscape Urbanism

Barbara Wilks

Principal and Founder, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Kishore Varanasi

Director of Urban Design, CBT

Gert Wingårdh

Founder, Wingårdhs Arkitektkontor


Council members are leaders in the fields of design, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, planning, land-use, and real estate development. They share a commitment to the principles of inclusive design, expanding their networks, and supporting Van Alen’s mission.

The Council community enjoys year-round visibility and engagement with Van Alen’s work and with one another, including invitations to two global expeditions a year, when safety permits. These trips explore cities’ complex underpinning and bring designers, decision-makers, and ordinary citizens together around ways design can foster more equitable urban futures.

The Council program yields an annual report that chronicles members’ experiences and takeaways, shedding light on key questions that would benefit from further exploration and design-driven intervention, to be shared with the profession and public at large.

Council members are ambassadors for Van Alen Institute and its signature interdisciplinary approach to tackling global challenges at multiple scales. Annual dues of $10,000 ($9,700 tax-deductible tax-deductible) provide critical support to Van Alen’s mission helping cities and communities become more socially and physically resilient through the power of design.


Access and network-building
Council members become part of a vital community of like-minded professionals spanning the globe. They gain unparalleled access to Van Alen’s extensive New York City-based network and to the highest levels of leadership across sectors in the host cities they visit.

Enrichment and impact
Council members explore, learn, and forge connections in ways that enrich their perspectives and practices and advance the mission of Van Alen. Common challenges come into clear focus and creative ideas emerge that can be shared with their peers and a wide public audience.

Thought leadership and visibility
Council members represent a globally unique initiative that is pushing the boundaries of the design disciplines and receive prominent year-round recognition, along with their firms, across various print and digital channels.

Annual membership benefits
Invitation to participate in two Council trips, one international (non-US) and one domestic (US) (trip costs assumed by member). Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, all programs and events will be held virtually. Council trips will resume when it is safe to travel. Highlights include:

  • Closed-door presentations and work sessions with the highest levels of local leadership across sectors
  • Behind-the-scene visits to the most culturally and architecturally significant sites
  • VIP networking events in exclusive spaces
  • Summary of trip outcomes shared with members and promoted through Van Alen’s social media and web platforms
  • Access to list of program participants, to facilitate further conversations and collaborations

Invitation to participate in Council conference calls that are focused on sharing institutional updates and shaping the future plans of the Council.

Invitation to a special evening in New York City, in the company of Van Alen’s Executive Director and Board of Trustees

Opportunity to host an event or meeting at Van Alen Institute’s new offices in Brooklyn (event costs assumed by member)

Individual and corporate recognition on the Van Alen website and related print materials, as well as at the Annual Gala and other signature events

Advance notice and complimentary admission to all Van Alen public programs, including discussions on our design competitions and research presentations

Opportunity to be featured in the “Council Spotlight” section of the Van Alen monthly newsletter

Opportunity to contribute to the annual Council report, focused on summarizing the group’s key insights and takeaways, to be shared through Van Alen’s channels, with host cities, and member firms


Council trips probe the most pressing issues shaping cities and align with prestigious international design events. At their global gatherings, the utility of design to improve lives comes into sharp focus, as the Council explores how macro-scale ecological, infrastructural, political, and social systems intersect with individual experience. Since 2014, the Council has visited more than 10 global cities, including London, Mumbai, and New York.

Recent Trip Recaps

Van Alen Council: Private Means to Public Ends (Part II)

Downtown Brooklyn and Sunset Park reflect the complex conditions underpinning Brooklyn’s evolution.

Van Alen Council: Private Means to Public Ends (Part I)

In London, developments in King’s Cross and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park aimed to spur private investment in underutilized land.

Van Alen Council: Future of Food Systems

Exploring Seattle’s seafood supply chain from ocean to table. By Brittany Hoedemaker


In March 2021, Van Alen released the Council’s inaugural publication, Designing the City We Want: Calls to Action in Response to COVID-19. This a compilation of research, completed projects, and proposals reflect lessons that have emerged from this crisis and the Council’s visions for a brighter, post-pandemic future. Each and every member of the Van Alen Council brings a humanist, global perspective that holds immense value for communities—and for Van Alen as an institution.