Where We Are
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) stands in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and all People of Color, as well as those who experience discrimination because of their religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, or financial status. We aspire to be anti-racist both within our offices and in the field. We recognize the Black Lives Matter protests in late spring 2020 as a historic bellwether that sparked action in the design community and at MVVA. We always work to counteract harmful thinking, both internally and among our clients and collaborators, and our projects are inherently democratic: they are designed for all people. Recognizing that supporting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion requires vigilance, MVVA regularly seeks outside advice and communicates with others in our discipline to exchange ideas and foster dialogue around these issues.
What We Are Doing
Landscape architecture shapes a significant part of our shared living environment and yet the profession’s diversity is very low: Black people constitute just 3% of its practitioners, Hispanic or Latino/Latina 6%, and Indigenous Communities 0.5%. MVVA addresses this disparity by hiring people whose backgrounds vary greatly. That being said, we understand that increasing the diversity of our staff is just a start. Within the firm,we strive to foster an atmosphere in which all voices can contribute. Our onboarding process assigns a mentor to new hires, engages them with seminars that help to build skills, and sets out the firm’s ethos clearly. Our project management sessions promote leadership, mentorship, collegiality, professional development, and training opportunities. In addition, with the intent of creating more representative future generations of designers, we facilitate exposure to the field by providing internships for high school students and those studying landscape architecture at the college level.
How We Are Giving Back
We encourage staff collaborations with local community groups by providing pro bono services for neighborhoods that lack access to appropriately programmed green spaces and high-quality design services. The MVVA employees who participate in these projects hold a wide range of positions within the firm, ensuring that the work is not only highly professional but also relevant to a diverse constituency. Examples include a collaboration between MVVA’s Brooklyn office and the Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, a Bronx nonprofit, facilitated by the Van Alen Institute and the Urban Forum on Neighborhoods Now. The joint effort helped to transform six community gardens into green places of refuge, service distribution, and community organizing. In the Cambridge office, the Community Outreach Group for Landscape Design brought together MVVA and Green Roots of Chelsea, Massachusetts to collaborate on creating a landscape vision for Mill Creek, a derelict property that local residents hoped would become a waterfront park. This enabled Green Roots and Chelsea to seek funding for the next steps. In addition to our pro bono work, MVVA also commits resources to strengthen underserved communities and to encourage emerging design professionals in school.