SoHE Centers, the City of Madison, and the Environmental Design Research Association – converging this month!

Voices of Place poster

A fun, exciting, and impactful day of collaboration among the School of Human Ecology Centers of Excellence, the City of Madison, and the Environmental Design Research Association (“EDRA”) is about to go down in Madison on May 31st!

This collaboration came about when EDRA announced that its Annual Conference would take place in 2017 in Madison. For 48 years, the Annual Conference has served as an international convening of collaborative, multidisciplinary designers and scholars, around advancing and disseminating research, teaching, and improving an understanding of the relationships among people, their built environments, and natural eco-systems. In addition, EDRA has named SoHE Design Studies Faculty member Dr. Jung-hye Shin as Conference Co-Chair.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Voices of Place”, invites socially motivated design professionals and researchers to come together with a shared belief in creating environments that matter to people and where people and their needs and input matter. Considering the School of Human Ecology tradition of approaching the human experience from a multidisciplinary perspective, the opportunity to coalesce our Centers of Excellence, their faculty affiliates and community partners around this event was too valuable to pass up.

The opportunity to consider designed spaces in our community with international professionals and scholars feels even more important when we consider growing awareness of important themes in our Madison community.

EDRA- Site 2, South Park St

Imagery @2017 Google. Map data @2017 Google.

As the EDRA Conference materials note, Madison has been named one of “top five livable cities” in the U.S. However, Madison is not equally “livable” for all members of the community, and suffers from dramatic outcome disparities between different community groups. Madison is also undergoing an evolution in development and economic dynamics. The recent influx of high-density housing and the loss of a key manufacturing facility within its city limits are both deeply intertwined with the designed environment and human ecology of the community.

Meaningful community engagement around neighborhood needs and city design and planning is greatly needed. Madison has various assets that can be leveraged for a new era of community-engaged planning — including: the University of Wisconsin-Madison; new City planning initiatives focused on engagement; and a robust local network of formal and informal organizations.

With the EDRA Annual Conference right here in town, the SoHE Centers of Excellence hope to pull together EDRA participants with community members and local professionals and scholars to spend a day focusing on how Madison might continue to innovate in its future planning.  On May 31st, we will host a one-day session which will engage a global network of design and planning scholars and local community members to exchange ideas about Madison’s next phase of planning and design,  taking into consideration the complexities and interdependence of notions of basic needs, “livability”, human thriving, culture, shared resources, common spaces, and basic infrastructure.  In this charrette-style workshop, attendees will hear from community members, local officials, and scholars about an array of contextual elements that impact Madison’s design future and “livability” for all.

EDRA- Site 1, Darbo Drive

Imagery @2017 Google. Map data @2017 Google.

Activities will include a visit to one of two Madison sites identified by the Madison City Planning Department for community-engaged planning and development in the near future.  One site is in Madison’s east side Darbo neighborhood and the other is on South Madison’s S. Park St — both are in areas of Madison where access to resources and quality of life is more challenging than in other parts of the community, and both sites are surrounded by meaningful community assets and include natural resources such as creek frontage.  After visiting sites, attendees will participate in multidisciplinary, round-table mini-charrette exercises where EDRA participants and community-engaged planning principals will work together to develop proposals for sites visited. Finally, participants will identify suggested priorities and constituencies to engage for next phases of planning and design.  This should be a fun and creative session!  The SoHE Centers’ contribution of energy and resources to this effort is a reflection of our intention to be a partner in making our community a place where all can thrive.

What we need now is you – and your expertise and experience as a member of this community! Your voice – whether you are community member, a design professional, a student, a scholar, or a combination of roles – can help us shape a better Madison. Join us on May 31st to help Madison create environments that matter to people and where people matter.  The event is free and breakfast and afternoon snacks are provided (lunch on your own).

If you’d like to attend the session, please email Mary Beth Collins at and include “EDRA” in the subject line!

Please also follow/join the Facebook Event at:

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