Civic Architecture

Successful civic architecture is design for the people. It requires understanding human tendencies, cultural framework specific to the place, historical significance, and embodiment of the dreams of the collective community being served. Through meetings, open forums, presentations, and research, Reiss Design Studio is able to extract important data and capture feedback that informs design. Through civic architecture, a community has the opportunity to create and leave a legacy for future generations. 

Civic architecture is a process. Due to the number of stakeholders, an evolution occurs in the development of a project. Often, a design iteration will bring to light a topic that until then was unmentioned, allowing that design element to be refined. These refinements create a final product that is rich in purpose, layered in meaning, and meets the most needs of the stakeholders. The involvement of stakeholders in the design process creates ownership and a sense of pride of place–in fact, the actual design process must embody the intent of the final physical product: inclusion of the whole, a place at the table for all. 

While the "sky" may be the limit to the conceptual design opportunities and conceptual supporting arguments for them, there are a number of constraints that must be accounted for:

  • budget - civic projects are funded in large part by the people, so stewardship of those resources is critical
  • health, safety, and welfare - while this is a tenet of architecture of any type, it is especially critical in areas of mass gatherings and spaces humans use to interact (building codes provide a framework)
  • accessibility - creating a barrier-free experience that accepts peaceful use by everyone
  • hierarchy - establish controllability and assignment of spaces to allow for a continuum of public-private areas
  • engineering - physical limitations to materials and systems establish design boundaries
  • incongruent stakeholder needs - elements that are contrary to the other can create hostilities, but through discussion and understanding, often these can be overcome and a win-win is attainable

Reiss Design Studio is well-versed in managing complex stakeholder projects and providing creative design solutions by embracing constraints. Open communication, documentation, and sharing of knowledge creates an environment of teamwork. Reiss Design Studio enjoys the challenge of coordinating a project team and appreciates the amazing potential as well. 

Civic architecture has possibly the greatest responsibility of any architectural type outside of basic shelter. It is the creation of meeting places–a framework for human interaction.
— Shana Reiss