At ARO, we believe we all have a fundamental responsibility to be active and participatory citizens. Asserting our values and principle-driven design, we were one of the first signatories of U.S. Architects Declare, and studio members are encouraged to take initiative on social and environmental issues within the office.
ARO is an ILFI Just organization. A voluntary disclosure tool and measurement framework for social justice issues and policies, the JUST program Is a call to action. Our label codifies our values and policies, provides a toolkit for self-accountability, and allows us to rigorously evaluate and improve upon our ongoing actions.
ARO’s holistic framework of sustainability includes:
- a Materials Working Group that is refining the firm’s design process and sourcing
- A Zero-Wasteteam that overhauled the office waste streams to divert 90% of waste from landfills
- AROers are active members of the U.S. Architects Declare Social and Environmental Justice group.
We integrate this research on projects to ensure that we create healthy spaces and to reinforce design as a tool for teaching and a benchmark for environmental responsibility.
Building on these working groups, a Social Equity group formed in 2020 to identify and pursue ongoing and accountable action – beyond our words – to dismantle systemic issues within our profession and design process. Our framework reflects internal and external actions to increase representation, strengthen the culture of the office, expand design engagement, and empower youth to support an equitable pipeline and access to the architectural profession.
We seek to address every aspect of our office including strengthening our culture, structure, personnel, policies and programs, design process, design practice, mission, and communication.
Strengthen ARO’S Office Culture: by expanding existing transparency within the office; by continuing to participate in Anti-Bias sessions and Design Justice trainings
Increase Representation: further Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color representation within our office and on our design teams, and better reflect the racial demographics of New York City
Expand Our Design Engagement Process: beyond client stakeholders to work with the larger communities and neighborhoods we and our projects serve
Empower Employees: by expanding and formalizing mentorship within our office
Empower Youth: by committing more staff mentorship of NYC high school and college students through ACE Mentoring, Architectural League Mentorships, and other local university mentorship programs
Collaboration: by working with more teams and clients who share these values and are also taking action towards equity
The Social Equity Group encourages office-wide dialogue and is an open-door working group at ARO, sharing in-progress and completed actions quarterly to the office.
Recent highlights include:
- A multi-step internal, identity-hidden review process for hiring to reduce inherent bias in reviewing potential candidates
- An annual ARO donation match to social organizations of employees’ choice
- An annual Day of Action volunteering our in-person and remote time and labor with GrowNYC and Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy so far
- Codifying representation of our staffing and consultant teams on projects
We will continue to share our journey towards becoming a more liberatory practice and have found the following resources particularly helpful:
- Design Justice Index
- Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist, Multicultural Institution
- Jaime-Jin Lewis
We earnestly embrace the work and commitment necessary to address our intersectional climate and social issues, and to manifest a more equitable profession and society.