Social Sustainability is a process that promotes a physical environment that emphasizes wellbeing by understanding the needs and desires of a neighborhood. Although current definitions, descriptions, and tool kits emphasize wellbeing of residents in association to the present and the future, it often ignores social issues from the past that has created economically divested neighborhoods within the United States of America.Because economically divested neighborhoods have been mistreated by authority figures, those who have been marginalized do not trust entities who have done the marginalizing. Motivations behind this research includes using Social Sustainability as a method to include marginalized groups of people in the future of their neighborhoods. When these groups do not have a seat at the table, they are being told that they don’t have a future in whatever the context may be and in this case, they are being told that they don’t have a future in their own neighborhoods. Social Sustainability is a concept that is supposed to ensure that they are included within this process; it has the potential to unearth many social issues perpetuated by racism and classicism because the remnants of racism and classicism are seen within their physical environments. 

From engaging local populations within the 53206 zip-code, the definition of Socical Sustainability is described as “a radically inclusive civic engagement process that centers the voices of the existing population to create a neighborhood that continues to be a place where social values, relationships, and dignities are seen within their physical environment” (Clinton. 2020)
From engaging local populations within the 53206 zip-code, some guidelines include:

  • Gaining and maintaining trust through participant observation

  • Using localized engagment tactics to connect with different populations

  • Showcasing progress to create an organic means of checks and balances between existing populations and authority figures
From engaging local populations within the 53206 zip-code, spatial priortiies include:

  • Spaces that communicate the ethos in growing and selling your own produce

  • Spaces that promote local entrepreneurship.

  • Spaces that reflect trust, afro-futurism, and economic prosperity

The 53206 area code is located on the North Side of Milwaukee,WI. This zip-code is the financially poorest neighborhood in Milwaukee,WI. With an annual median income of $23,491, this zip-code predominantly houses a Black American population with 41.1% of its population under the poverty line. Historically, the homes and businesses around North Avenue and Fond du Lac have been demolished due to the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 and have never been used for the highway system. It has also experienced disinvestment and redlining. Because of these have been perpetuated through the American Federal Government, trust has been severed. 

Exploring Social Sustainability
“The voices of those who live within econmically divested neighborhoods must be centered; while it’s easy to claim ignorance in the face of macroaggression, what you’re really telling us when you don’t seek us out to contribute to the physical environnments of our neighborhoods is that we do not have a future within our own neighborhoods”(Clinton).
As a Stand-Alone Approach, each pillar of sustainability acts independent of one another 
As a Constraint, each pillar of sustainability acts against one another
As a Pre-Condition, Social Sustainability acts as the foundation 
As a Causal Mechanism, Social Sustainability causes Economic and Environmental Sustainability
As a Fully Integrated, Locally Rooted, Process Oriented Approach, each pillar of sustainability works together
Conducting In-Depth Interviews
“The first person has become the chosen mule for this task. I was there. I saw it happen. And because I saw it happen, you can believe it happened....first person accounts convey experience-and experience, authority” (Desmond. 334).
5 Main Questions
  • How do you define Social Sustainability?
  • How is that definition seen within this neighborhood?
  • What do you llike about this neighborhood and what are your concerns about this neighborhood?
  • How would you like to be engaged about your neighborhood?
  • If you could design a place that this neighborhood needs, what would it be, what would it look like and what would it feel like?
Creating Pop-Up Design Charrettes
“....they must re-inscribe their judgements through engagement efforts because you’re not seeing the neighborhood, you’re seeing the stereotypes you’ve created about the community” (Dr. Monique Liston).

The goal of conducting Pop-Up Charrettes was to bring engagement to their neighborhoods and host those engagements within local spaces that they knew they could trust.

The purpose of the engagment activities during Pop-Up Charrette 1 was to verify positive feelings, concerns, and social relationships and values collected from the In-Depth Interviews with youth from Neu-Life Community Development Center. Through their youth teaching program, I was able to help youth workers facilitate different engagement activities as a way for them to gain more teaching experience.

The goal of Pop-Up Charrette 2 was to connect these positive feelings, concerns, and social relationships and values to specific types of tangible architectural qualities. Due to COVID-19, I was not able to conduct this portion.

Facilitating Virtual Outreach
“We must reach them where they are so that we can move forward together” (Edwards).

Due to COVID-19, I was not able to conduct in-person design charrettes. In an effort to practice social distancing, I created an Instagram account and an onine survey. The goal of these tactics were to capture real-time data through Instagram and continue to connect these positive feelings, concerns, and social relationships and values to specific types of tangible architectural qualities.
Instagram Account:
Online Survey:
Fine-tuning Spatial Programming
The goal of this portion was to begin to spatialize the positive feelings, concerns, and social relationships and values to a building within the 53206 area.

Currently, 2100 North West Avenue is slated for a project for a boutique hotel. This location is prime for a hotel because by car, many have quick access to Milwaukee’s Downtown and Milwaukee will be hosting the Democratic National Convention. Although this makes sense economically, I wondered about different spatial programs that not only reflect the existing population, but also contributed to the economic viability of this neighborhood.
Site Plane
The goal of this site plan is to start to connect programming  to specific spaces within the 53206 neighborhood.

Fondy’s Food Market is populated through the summer, but is not used during the colder season. Because there is an ethos for growing and selling one’s own food, this fresh food market will sell fresh foods  from urban farms along with fresh meat form local butcher shops withn Milwaukee, Wi.

This community kitchen has a direct link to Neu-Life Community Development Center ‘s youth cooking program called Farm Fork. This will provide opportunites for local cooks, chefs, and bakers to rent the space and prepare their foods. One may also host community cooking sessions.

The outdoor space is connected to Fondy’s Park. This space is meant to be an area for hard pavement play: roller skating, double-dutching, chalk-drawings and more. 
Plan Diagam 
This plan has promgramming that further connects to the identity of the surrounding community.

The Ubuntu Computer Lab/Co-Working Space is meant to incease local entrepreneurship. Local entrepreneurship will increase the economic viability of this area because the money made within this community will circulate this nieghborhood before leaving the community by addressing unemployment.

Alice’s Fresh Food Market will connect to Alice’s Garden. This market is meant to be a space where urban farmers may sell their produce year round though partnership with Fondy’s Food Market. There is also space to mingle efforts from the Milwaukee Food Market and Pete’s Food Market. These are located within Milwaukee. 

Farm Fork Community Kitchen connects to  Neu-Life Community Development Center‘s youth cooking program called Farm Fork. This will provide opportunites for local cooks, chefs, and bakers to rent the space and prepare their foods along with hosting community cooking sessions. The goal of this space is to increase social relationship through food and education.

Commercial Spaces will be rented by local small/big businesses within Milwaukee, Wi as a whole. These business will reflect those who live within this area. This not only increases representation, but will continue to increase the economic viability of the surrounding area.

Shingdig Cafe/Library will be a space where local students are able to do work. Whether it be homework, reading, writing, etc, thsi cafe will be a spot for students to do their work without distraction.  


Abendroth, Lisa M., and Bryan Bell. Public Interest Design Practice Guidebook : SEED Methodology, Case Studies, and Critical Issues New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Boyer, R.H.W., N.D. Peterson, P. Arora, and K. Caldwell. “Five Approaches to Social Sustainability and an Integrated Way Forward.” Sustainability (Switzerland) 8,no. 9 (September 6, 2016): 878.

Calvo, Mirian, and Annalinda De Rosa.” Designing fo Social Sustainability. A Reflection on the Role of the Physical Realm in Facilitating Commuity Co-Desing”. The Design Journal 20, no. sup1 (July 1, 2017)

Cranz, Galen, Lusi Morhayim, Georgia Lindsay, and Hans Sagan. “TEACHING SEMANTIC ETHNOGRAPHY TO ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS.” ArchNet-IJAR : International Journal of Architectural Research 8, no. 3 (November 1, 2014): 6–19

Cranz, Galen. Ethnography for Designers New York, NY: Routledge, 2016.

“Creating Successful Places: A Toolkit.” Social Life, the Berkeley Group.

Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures : Selected Essays New York: Basic Books, 1973.

Edmonds, Angelique. “Social Sustainability: The ‘How’ of Human experience. (Dossier).” Architecture Australia 102, no. 1 (January 1, 2013)

Edmonds, Angelique. “Resilience and Engagement: Some Thoughts on the Magnetic Impact of Small Change”. Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol. 5 No 1 June 2010

Jalaladdini, Siavash, and Derya Oktay. “Urban Public Spaces and Vitality: A Socio-Spatial Analysis in the Streets of Cypriot Towns.” Procedia - Social and  Behavioral Sciences 35, no. C (2012): 664–674.

Littig, Beate & Griessler, Erich. (2005). Social Sustainability: A Catchword Between Politcal Pragmatism and Social Theory”. International Journal of Sustainable Development. 8. 10.1504/IJSD.2005.007375.

Moberg, Matilda and Ida Widén. “Integrating Social Sustainability Within the Design of a Building-A Case Study of Five Projects at an Architectural Firm” (2016).

Palich, Natasha, and Angelique Edmonds. "Social Sustainability: Creating Places and Participatory Processes That Perform Well for People." Environment Design Guide, 2013, 1-13. Accessed May 5, 2020.

Spangenberg, Joachim. “Assesing Social Sustainability: Social Sustainability and its Multicriteria Assessment in a a Sustainability Scenario for Germany”. Innovation & Sustainable Development. 1. 318-348.10.1504/IJISD.2006.013734.  2006.

Woodcraft, Saffron. “DESIGN FOR SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY: A Framework For Creating Thriving New Communities.”London. Social Life. 2012.