Black Lives Matter: A Developing Framework for MVVA



MVVA is in solidarity with the Black community in standing against systemic racism and police brutality. As we write this in June 2020, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks are especially on our minds, but we have not forgotten that for every person whose story has been told, there are far too many whose names we don’t know.

The Black Lives Matter protests, which have already made a worldwide impact, both compel and inspire us to find new ways to be actively anti-racist. We realize we have been unintentionally complicit with a culture we don’t agree with and recognize that we have an obligation within our firm, in the profession of landscape architecture, in the practice of design, and in the communities where we live and work, to make positive changes.

MVVA wants to do more as a firm and as landscape architects and designers to fully shoulder our own responsibility in fighting injustice against Black people. We commit ourselves to focusing our efforts on identifying more ways to be actively anti-racist, both inside and outside of our firm. We recognize that sustainability, core to MVVA’s ethos, needs to start with environmental, economic, and social justice. We will continue to look for ways to address inequities in the health, safety, welfare, and livelihood of Black communities through our own work and to look for ways to empower others to do so when the challenges are beyond the power of landscape architecture. We share our thoughts below, which describe the immediate actions MVVA will be taking and the beginnings of our long-term plans. This effort is a work in progress; we have much to learn and do, and we look forward to sharing updates in the future.

Immediate Actions:




Long-Term Plans:




We Need More Black People in Landscape Architecture



The field of landscape architecture, which shapes a significant part of everyone’s environment, needs and would benefit from more Black practitioners. At the root of the problem is the fact that there are numerous obstacles that prevent Black people from knowing about, pursuing, and practicing our profession. MVVA is formulating how we can play a leadership role in creating more inroads for Black people to discover landscape architecture in all its forms, to push the boundaries of its creative and scientific roots, to bring new perspectives to the shaping of the world, and to find a work environment that is engaging, respectful, and supportive.

MVVA also acknowledges that we do not have enough Black staff in our office, and in leadership positions. Addressing this must include adopting new hiring practices that will allow us to do a better job of recruiting Black designers as well as establishing new mechanisms for ensuring equity in mentorship, professional development, and training opportunities. We look forward to being able to report back on our progress on these initiatives.

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Long-Term Plans:





We Need More Black Voices in the Shaping of Public Space



Landscapes belong to everyone. They should demonstrate the desires and values of their communities as well as feel welcoming and safe. Almost every park and public space we build involves extensive conversations with the impacted communities. There are numerous initiatives that MVVA, our clients, our peers, and community advocates have already been working on to expand the influence of Black communities in the shaping of public space, but we recognize that more work is needed. We are committed to looking at our own community engagement practices to discover new ways to advocate for inclusion, health, safety, and wellness, so that they better serve the open space and recreational needs of the Black community. We are committed to learning from others who have already been giving these questions sustained thought and who have successfully implemented these ideas over many years. We will share our research and efforts.

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Long-Term Plans:




We Can Give Back



MVVA will commit financial resources to fighting racism, by establishing a giving program to support non-profits that help strengthen Black communities and design professionals. We will look into a range of different ways that MVVA can support staff volunteer efforts with local community groups, especially providing pro-bono services for projects that affect Black lives. As with our commitment to supporting education and other types of professional development, we need time to define our plan, and we want to make sure that our staff helps us shape these policies. We look forward to being able to report back on our progress.

Immediate actions:




Long-Term Plans: