Not Complicated - Just Green

Sept 22, 2023 - Desmond Johnson - Synergy of Architects, Developers, and Civic Leaders

September 22, 2023 Season 2 Episode 3
Not Complicated - Just Green
Sept 22, 2023 - Desmond Johnson - Synergy of Architects, Developers, and Civic Leaders
Show Notes Transcript

 Today, we are joined by Desmond Johnson, one of very few people who has the unique opportunity to participate as an architect, and as a developer, and he was appointed to Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission, where he’s assumed the role of chair and continues to guide the shifting landscape of America’s fourth largest city. 

He advocates for much-needed diversity in the profession, dismantling systemic barriers and leveraging his platform to reshape the built environment and the profession to reflect the perspectives of black and brown people.  

We discuss the potential synergy we can achieve through community collaboration, and the future that is possible when we all work together. Enjoy!

This podcast is presented by Creative Interface Architecture and Interiors.
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To learn more about the ideas of this podcast, visit

Find helpful articles, download your free Project Planning Packet, even schedule your free Ask The Expert consultation. Whether you're an experienced developer, you just have an idea for a project, or you're simply curious what architects do, visit , Making Greener Design Practically Impactful.

Architects and Developers Unite for Positive Change

In this insightful podcast episode of Not Complicated, Just Green, two industry experts, James and Desmond, one an architect and the other a developer, join forces to explore the intricate relationship between these two roles within the construction and design worlds. They delve into the importance of nurturing creativity in young minds, emphasizing the need for diverse representation in the field. The discussion highlights the symbiotic connection between good design and profitable ventures, stressing the value of projects that enrich local communities. They also fight against the stereotypes about architects and developers and push for a more balanced view of what they do. Tune in for an enlightening conversation on shaping the future of architecture and development. Listen to this podcast to learn more!

Talking Points:

  • Fostering Creativity: Igniting Young Minds
  • Diverse Representation: Architects for All
  • Profitability and Positive Impact Hand in Hand
  • Debunking Stereotypes: Architects vs. Developers
  • Shaping Communities: Design with Purpose
  • Community-Centric Development: Meeting Local Needs
  • Sustainable Design: A Win-Win Proposition
  • Architects Turned Developers: Bridging the Gap
  • Celebrating Excellence: Architects and Developers as Role Models

#Architecture #RealEstate #CommunityDevelopment #SustainableDesign #Architects #Developers #CreativeProfessionals #BuildingCommunities #DesignImpact #InclusiveDevelopment #Podcast #Inspiration #BuildingBetterCommunities #ArchitecturalInnovation #EconomicViability

[00:00:00] Guest 1: The physical landscape, the built environment is not static. It's dynamic. And I love that.
[00:00:10] James: This is not complicated, just green. And it's time for another installment of common sense for better construction, bridging the information gap to help you reach a brighter future in the bill.
Welcome friends. I'm your host, James. And I'm excited to bring you the third episode in our new series focused on the impact of development. As always on the Not Complicated, Just Green podcast, we're talking about the impact on the planet and the impact on the economy, which can determine the sustainability of a community.
All of this is going to have an impact on people, and that's what this is really all about. Last week, we spoke to Christine Hernandez about the fascinating arc of her career and development. She shared how the built environment has the potential to improve our lives, but she warned that not every development succeeds.
Developers like Christine, who make it a priority to listen to a community and collaborate with them to find [00:01:00] solutions, are making an important difference. Not only for the owners and users of the projects, but also for a healthy economy and a healthy environment. It's almost too easy and too obvious to be legit, but Christine's secret ingredient is being a good listener and a team player.
Get to know a neighborhood before you try to develop a project there. By simply respecting people, by learning their story, to better understand their needs, you can find a pathway to development that is a success. Let's put an end to the kinds of projects and developments that imposes itself on its surroundings.
Let's put to rest the antiquated practices and behaviors that have earned both developers and architects their reputations for being out of touch. Let's embrace the humility and openness necessary to foster real teamwork across the industry. I'm not suggesting that alongs or trust falls. I merely point out that there's tremendous potential loss when we don't capitalize on the strengths of the people around us.
If you regard the other members of your team as adversaries, and you regard the people who are impacted by the [00:02:00] project as obstacles, you're losing more than an opportunity of profit, and you validate every angry citizen who stands against your proposals at a city council meeting or a zoning hearings.
But there are developers and architects who care deeply about people, about community, and about our planet, and still their projects are financially successful. Some of you listening to this podcast might find it hard to imagine But in fact, it's actually not uncommon to see members of the community who will come to planning meetings in support of the developments that are being proposed, where citizens voices are elevated by the opportunity to show up, stand up, and speak up for the things they believe in, and for the things they stand against.
One might imagine... This to be a source of frustration for a developer or an architect, but it's also a beautiful example of community empowerment when a citizen steps up and assumes the responsibility to have an influence on an elected and appointed officials. Today, we're joined by Desmond Johnson, one of very few people who have the unique opportunity to participate as an architect and as a developer.
And as an appointed official, Desmond was once the youngest architect [00:03:00] in Georgia, and among the youngest Black architects in the U. S. While he was part of the American Institute of Architects Practice Innovation Lab, Desmond helped develop the JAM Collective, whose resource sharing tools empower small firms to compete with larger ones, while annual profits fund impactful projects and initiatives. Recognized with AIA Georgia's Emerging Professional Award, the Stanley Love Stanley Architecture Award, Featured in Beyond the Built Environment's Say It Loud exhibit and appointed to Atlanta's Urban Design Commission, Desmond assumed the role of chair and continues to guide the shifting landscape of America's fourth largest city.
He advocates for much needed diversity in the profession, dismantling systemic barriers, and leveraging his platform to reshape the built environment and the profession to reflect the perspectives of black and brown people. Please enjoy the conversation. This podcast is presented by Creative Interface Architecture and Interiors.
Please visit 
[00:03:52] Guest 1: And I have always had a profound and a deep love of buildings, of cities, [00:04:00] of landscapes. I was always that kid. I didn't care about going to the... theme park as much as I cared about seeing the new place. As a kid, I wouldn't say I was an architectural critic by any measure, but there were things that I would describe as awe inspiring.
Being from Columbia, South Carolina, it's not a major metropolis, but I spent a lot of time growing up. in Charlotte, and Charlotte was the closest big city. The Bank of America Corporate Center design, I now know, designed by Cesar Pele, was always one of my favorite buildings growing up. I realized that the great thing about architecture as a career field, the impacts, what you do, outlives you.
Which means a lot to me. Things that I work on, long after I am gone from this earth, will hopefully still be here, and still impact generations who come after me. You're designing to a higher 
[00:04:51] James: purpose than just... Whoever needs to fill that building right now, and we'd be remiss not to anticipate the next hundred years.
[00:04:59] Guest 1: That's right. [00:05:00] When you're designing the building or when you're working on the project, you're designing for the end user today. You have no idea how the space will be adapted, or will be, how new life will be breathed into that building in 50 years. It could be a totally different in 50 years. And so it's not our job to, I think, anticipate it, but it's our job to celebrate that, if that is what the future generations deem appropriate.
And that's exciting to me. I'm gonna digress just a little bit. To one of my favorite projects that I've worked on here in Atlanta. It's Roosevelt Hall, which is on Atlanta's west side. On Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard near the campus of Clark, Atlanta. But it was part of the larger University Homes development.
And University Homes was the first publicly funded public housing, I should say, specifically for African Americans in the country, right here in Atlanta. The rest of University Homes was demolished and torn down some time ago, but [00:06:00] Roosevelt Hall continues to stand. And it's now the centerpiece for this new kind of mixed use development.
I just love the fact that one building is a remnant of the University Homes development from, decades ago. But what the building is now, it's a community center, there's an event space, there's a library. It serves a different purpose now, but I would say it still serves the community in a different way.
And I just, I love that project. 
[00:06:27] James: People who can come to it now, get a chance to appreciate what it was there for before. And so you don't have to be a resident in a building. for that building to mean something to you. Yep. And give you a reason to come to that building or come to that neighborhood years after maybe its initial use is no longer, it's no longer operating the way that it was originally designed.
[00:06:45] Guest 1: And that's, I think, one of the most fun things about what we get to do. It's not static. It's very dynamic. Lots of moving pieces, lots of moving parts. That's exciting. The physical landscape, the built environment is not static. It's dynamic. [00:07:00] And I love that. 
[00:07:00] James: From the perspective that you have now, architect, developer, civic leader, what are some red flags that tell you we either need to avoid this project, or if you're already involved in the project, we need to course correct?
[00:07:12] Guest 1: Any environmental concern is a big concern. So if it's a contaminated site, if it's a brownfield, you never know what you're going to get into. I won't say it's a red flag, but it's something to be aware of. Just proceed with caution. Proceed with an abundance of caution. Do your due diligence. Environmental engineers are worth every bit of what they charge and then some. Okay. Like we don't want to develop or design something that will then harm the occupants. That's not okay. I'll tie this in a bit with my role on the Atlanta Urban Design Commission is when a project comes before us where there has been little to no collaboration with the community.
Atlanta is a city of neighborhoods. And I think that's [00:08:00] what makes us special. The system of NPUs, the system of Historic Preservation Committees are amazing resources. We should look at those organizations as resources, not as impediments, not as hurdles to get over. 
[00:08:15] James: You're really trying to change the narrative here.
The stereotype and this inherent adversarial relationship, the NPUs have often been demonized. Historic preservation has often been the one we point the finger at as what's holding us back or what's preventing progress or what keeps us from doing what we need to do as building owners, as individuals.
That was never their intention. So just hold back progress into, it was always the intent to do it carefully, conscientious. 
[00:08:42] Guest 1: The people who make up those local neighborhood organizations and those, a lot of them are really well meaning people, not unlike you and I who just happen to live in that place.
As a commission member, it genuinely warms my heart when the neighborhood, when the local historic [00:09:00] preservation committee stands up in support of a development. That is the best thing ever. That's what you want to see. You want to see that collaboration. And what that tells us as the Urban Design Commission, and I speak for myself, not for my fellow commissioners, but that tells me that they've had dialogue before they...
presented the project to us. They've made concessions and they have a development that the neighborhood supports and is proud of. And I love that. I want to see more of that. It is a red flag for me when there has been no communication with. People who are directly impacted by the development.
Just share with them what you want to do, and then ask them for their recommendations on how it can be improved. You'll be surprised with what you hear. These are people who know the site, who know the area, who know the community, probably a lot better than we as developers do. 
[00:09:48] James: I think a lot of times we make the mistake of...
We do our due diligence on just what the zoning allows, what the building officials will sign off on. Then we go and present that to the local community and try and, I hate [00:10:00] to say, cram it down their throat. If we instead, before we've got the drawings, before we've got our pro forma finished up, if we had the conversation at that point in time, that might influence what we put into that project, what we design.
It makes the project altogether more successful, the people who are going to be experiencing this building, whether they're the tenants, the occupants, or just the neighbors, but an enhancement to their lives and an 
[00:10:22] Guest 1: improvement. And let me be clear, I'm not talking about people who are just immediately opposed to any development.
I'm not talking about the NIMBYs of the world. Cave people. 
[00:10:32] James: Citizens against virtually everything. 
[00:10:35] Guest 1: Not those. MB cave people will 
[00:10:37] James: be at every hearing. It seems they have a radar for 
[00:10:40] Guest 1: progress. You all provide entertainment, but nothing much more valuable than that. That is my truth. I'm perfectly happy with that 
[00:10:47] James: adversarial relationship.
Is that what you're saying? Is that what I'm hearing? It's a 
[00:10:50] Guest 1: stereotype for me. You can't live in a place like Midtown Atlanta and then be opposed to development. Come on. You are in the nucleus of the largest [00:11:00] And you are upset because there is a, come on, like you need to acknowledge your surroundings and your context.
9 times out of 10, what you hear from people who are opposed to a development is it's going to bring more traffic. Always about the traffic. And I understand in Atlanta, traffic is bad, we're all sensitive to it, but if anything, that highlights the need for more robust public transit. Atlanta has missed the mark on that in several ways.
It's not too late, but in order to combat this pandemic of traffic, if you will. We've got to be smarter. We have to develop in more thoughtful ways. We need to encourage walkability and create environments that are not hostile to pedestrians. We need to encourage heavy rail and mass transit because then the traffic argument becomes a moot point.
So just talking about This green infrastructure and sustainability, that's the elephant in the city of Atlanta. It's the lack of Lester Transit and how that has caused this terrible traffic that we know so well.
[00:11:57] James: I agree with you 100%. I think that's [00:12:00] just a shared issue. I think it maybe is a Georgia thing.
Maybe it's a Southeast thing. Maybe it's a United States thing. I work in Atlanta. I also work in other cities and I work in some small towns. It's uncanny that the same argument is used to try and push back. It's going to be too much traffic is used in some of these more rural areas where that's true.
The traffic is an issue, not because of necessarily volume. Whenever we want to build something, we can only be so good at our job without being dependent on other people being good at their job. A lot of time the pushback and the reluctance is formulated by people who are just frustrated because they sat in traffic.
[00:12:37] Guest 1: No that's a good point. And it's all relative, right? It's change. And some people don't like change. That's also part of why I live in Atlanta. I chose to plant roots here. It is a growing and developing city. I want to be a part of that. I want to be encouraged by that. I want to drive through midtown and see the cranes.
I want to see what's happening. I want to. Park somewhere and then walk several blocks and at [00:13:00] the same time preserve and preserve what's there the rich history that is here I wish atlanta had saved more of its of its buildings and we would have been been in better shape today So much of what we design and development and construction is It's socioeconomic driven.
I think that's interesting because I find sociology and economics very interesting. It's even socio political as well. And I wonder how much of it should be. Like, I wonder if you can divorce. design and development from socioeconomics, from sociopolitics, and I wonder how that would make our cities different.
Those things are so intertwined. Talking about redlining, talking about zoning, we know certainly in this city and much of the south, a lot of the zoning ordinances were crafted in such a way that, they are nefarious. They were intended to advantage certain areas and to harm others. And we need to, as a [00:14:00] generation now, confront that in how we modify zoning ordinances, how we modify the codes.
At the very least, we shouldn't be harming areas purposefully the way that we have done in the past. It's not a byproduct. These neighborhoods weren't harmed by chance. No, it was by design. And that's a problem. 
[00:14:17] James: So as we consider these things and we try to course correct, and we try to not only learn the lessons, but impart those lessons on other people, what is the vision that you're chasing?
[00:14:26] Guest 1: I think I envision certainly the future of development and design as being less siloed and more integrated. This is going to sound really terrible to say out loud. I think we need more me's. We need more people who bridge the gap between architecture and development. Some people who 
[00:14:45] James: reach across the odds.
Sure. Some of those people who are not vandalizing all of the other people in the conversation because they don't believe in what I believe in. 
[00:14:53] Guest 1: Take the political analogy, need more moderates. Yeah. There you go. People who aren't going to their their separate [00:15:00] corners, their echo chambers need more moderates.
The developers have an immense amount of power when it comes to creating visions. But they can't do it without an architect. But the architects don't always have the political capital, the... The literal capital to realize their own projects. But if that can change over time, we're in a better place.
That's what I would like to happen. And then, surprised to no one would like to see more of those people look like me, more of those people be people of color, be younger, be excited about cities and not just transforming places, but building upon legacies that already exist. That's the fun thing in our city.
Atlanta is the gift. It's beautiful. Let's call it a great steak, right? We don't want to throw the steak away and get a different meal, but you try to find something that you can pair it with. You try to find the appropriate wine, the appropriate side to complement what's already there, the slate that you have inherited.
And I think that is what is exciting. And what I love about [00:16:00] Atlanta specifically and the citizens of Atlanta, we are a discerning bunch. And we know a dog whistle when we hear it. So when it comes to renderings for new developments that show no people of color in the renderings, that doesn't fly in Atlanta.
Because that's a dog whistle that says that if you don't look like the people in the renderings, you are not welcome here. You can call it an unconscious bias. I don't think it's that. I think it's nefarious. I think it is intentional and we are selling a, when we do that, and I use we in the broader sense, we are selling a vision to financiers, to other people that this is the vision for the new Atlanta and that's not okay.
So all of that to say is my vision is one where there are more architect developers, there are more architect developers of color, and there are more people who are not just willing to. but excited to build upon the existing landscape instead of trying to bulldoze, both literally [00:17:00] and figuratively, and start over.
There is a lot that, that you can do, I think, just to begin to to sharpen your ear. So that you can then have a voice. 
[00:17:10] James: If you do have a voice, and you're willing to show up, stand up, and speak up, you can oftentimes be as powerful as the people who are 
[00:17:19] Guest 1: elected or appointed. And I think the important piece there is to be thoughtful in what you say.
It's not always who talks the loudest, or who speaks the most, but it's who can speak most effectively. That's what we want overall. We want people who are effective because in order to influence change, you can't be annoying. You have to be effective. We want to see change. We want to see, I think, development and development processes that are more reflective, again, of the population.
That we serve. And that only happens when those populations get engaged into the process. And I want to be a resource to anyone who wants to learn more about the process, who wants to get involved, to be that conduit, to be the person [00:18:00] to make the connection. 'cause a lot of people have made that connection for me.
And that's a big part of why I'm sitting here. And so if I can be that for some other person, that's what I have a responsibility to do. I wanna 
[00:18:11] James: take a moment and tell you, this podcast is presented by creative interface architecture and interiors. 
To learn more about the ideas of 
this podcast, 
please visit creativeinterface.
design. Find helpful articles, 
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[00:18:37] Guest 1: My, my upbringing is one of privilege in a different way. I've been very blessed and fortunate to have had family that I've had, who really instilled in me this idea that you can do anything. You can go anywhere. You deserve a seat at any table. As a person of color, that's not always the [00:19:00] case.
I grew up with this audacity that I deserve a seat at the table. I love that. 
[00:19:05] James: I got the same lessons taught to me. When I told people I wanted to be an architect, a little white boy who could draw, they were like, oh yeah, naturally. Please go be an architect. We've been waiting for you. Yeah. Whereas with you, as a little black boy, said I want to be an architect, I'm glad that you had those parents who had the audacity, in your words, to say, yeah, go be an architect.
Yeah. I don't imagine that it was always as well received by everybody and you weren't always welcomed and accepted the same.
[00:19:29] Guest 1: I don't think it's because there's malice. I think it's because there's implicit bias. Because it's unfamiliar. We talk about representation being important and exposure being important.
I didn't know a single black architect growing up. I didn't see any on TV. I didn't know any in my local community. I didn't know any at my church. Like that just wasn't something that I was exposed to. I think others have that same experience. You associate what with what you think is possible.
So I'm glad that didn't stop me. And it's part of my, what drives me today [00:20:00] as I continue to grow in my career. I want to be that example for someone else. that I was looking for as a child.
[00:20:07] James: I wonder how many times have you been the first black architect that somebody's met? How many times have you been the first black developer that somebody's met?
And will we get to a point, you and I, in our lifetime, where it isn't so severe? 
[00:20:19] Guest 1: Yeah. Let's really go there because I think the data is alarming when it comes to the representation, specifically within the field of architecture, because That's a really easy field to track because there is a registration and a licensure process.
You can clearly see what the demographics, how they're changing or not changing, and they're not changing quickly enough, in my opinion. Black architects are still under two percent of all licensed architects across the country, under two percent. And then if you look at Black female architects, it's a fraction of that.
It's 0. 2 percent total. It's underwhelming, but I think that we are slowly making strides. I don't think that in [00:21:00] my lifetime, or in our lifetimes, we won't be as representative of the profession as we are of the population at large. And I think until we get to that point, there is work to be done. And the work is incremental.
I say that not to be pessimistic, but just to make it clear that there is work to be done and that's not just a catchy slogan. There is actual work to be done and I'm happy to do more of the work to push that 
[00:21:24] James: forward. The statistics about who is enrolling in these programs at the university, we see a big step in the right direction.
But then that's not where the biases and the roadblocks and at least speed bumps end. I feel bad putting it on you to tell me all of the solutions. And I value the guidance and advice. What can the industry do? What can I do that can move this? 
[00:21:44] Guest 1: You are exactly right. It starts with the educational component, but not at the college level, not at the high school level, not at the middle school level.
I think it starts really at your primary educational level. My wife is a pre K teacher. [00:22:00] She often tells me stories about her students and the funny anecdotes, what they bring from their homes. And she recently had a career day. And of course, we're all excited to see the firemen and the police officers.
And those are the fun careers that you see as a child. Uniforms and heroes. Absolutely. And no, I take nothing away from that. Because I... I could not do that. But I think we should also begin to let children know that there's such a thing as design and not even architecture, just design really watering into their playful side, their creative sides, them playing with Legos, them wanting to create.
I think that's where it starts, the desire to create. I think we should really stimulate those interests. NOMA does a great program, I'm sure you're familiar with it called Project Pipeline, where you go into elementary and middle schools and you begin to talk about architecture and design.
But I think we have to begin to show everyone including children of color, there [00:23:00] are viable career paths. Stemming from design. And then I think the world opens up. Because keep in mind, those of us who are designing spaces, designing buildings, there is a lot of power and responsibility that comes with that.
And those of us who are designing need to be representative of the populations that we are designing for. For 
[00:23:19] James: in a previous life, I was an art education, the number of high school students who came to me the first day of class and told me their limitation, but I'm not a creative person. They didn't address themselves one day, look at their own work and say, Oh, you're really bad at this.
I'd ask them, where does that limitation come from? Did it come from your own experience? You tried and tried and then got coaching and you continued practicing and you really poured yourself into it and still failed. Or you tried this one time, maybe one of the first people that saw it, wasn't really the best person to share that with.
So you just wrote yourself off and said, I'm not a creative person. Suppressed it, saved themselves from another experience of shame. How many amazing architects, engineers, developers, contractors, people who [00:24:00] could really have made a positive impact on this world. How many of them gave up because somebody said, no, that's not for you in the O.
L., better find me a cubicle. 
[00:24:06] Guest 1: Yeah. There's a whole, there, there's a lot of wonderful things about what we get to do. And I think the creative piece is the best part of it. I can think of a lot of friends of mine who are not in our field or not in a creative field whatsoever. And so their day job is their day job.
They have to find a different a creative outlet on the side, cooking or painting, right? It's the thing on the side. They're, nine to five just pays the bills. But then their creative outlet on the side is what fuels their, what keeps them going every single day. And with us, with creation in general, like those two things can be one in the same.
Like our day job, it is the fun thing. And I think that's. Massive selling point for we do I mean I consider careers in like finance because I a finance nerd in some ways You do all this [00:25:00] work. You end up with a spreadsheet or a number. I don't know It's just it's not the same. It's hard to share that with it's hard.
I'm excited. It's hard for you to be excited about it Also, Yeah being paid to be creative is awesome. 
[00:25:11] James: Definitely. The way that we can impact those environment impacts the natural environment. I think we're probably preaching to the choir. If they're bothering to listen to a podcast, not complicated, just green.
And they're probably already in tune to that kind of stuff. But what oftentimes gets left out is. Can these things be profitable? Can these things be beneficial to people? 
[00:25:28] Guest 1: I'm a firm believer in maybe there's my own interests, like I said, in, in finance. All things need to be economically viable.
Can't spend more than you have. And generally speaking, when it comes to a project, a building it needs to be financeable. But I think, so often, there's this misnomer that it's either For the community and that equals pro bono, or it's profitable and that means it is destroying a community.
It's too expensive for people to afford to be a part of, gentrification. It's for the [00:26:00] others. We're seeing that's not the case. I think we are spoiled in Atlanta because yes, Atlanta is obviously a city that is growing and that is gentrifying in its own ways. But in this city, I can say for sure, there's much more of a cultural sensitivity to how we are growing.
I do believe that I'm not saying it's perfect, but yeah there are other places where no one cares. No one cares. In Atlanta, people care. And I think that's largely to do with Atlanta's own demographic makeup. I'm not a believer that if you build it, people will come. That's not the way successful, thoughtful development works.
You have to build for a population or for a community that's already existing. That wants the thing. I think the space that we're in right now in Constellation is a great example of that successful development. Beautiful, beautifully designed. I'm sure the financing works, but I think it also filled a void for this [00:27:00] community.
In an area that does not want to experience cultural displacement or population displacement. But 
[00:27:07] James: it is experiencing it. So this building didn't just Oh yeah, this is a no brainer. We'll just turn this into that and everybody will be happy. This building had to go against the tide. 
[00:27:16] Guest 1: I think it is, it's an anomaly, but it's not something that can't be replicated.
It should not be the exception moving forward. It should be the rule. Our developments, our designs need to fill a void that exists in a hyper local community instead of Wiping out the local community, creating something that is new and no one asked for, and then hoping that a new population comes and makes that development successful.
And that model certainly harms communities more than it helps them. I also think that a large part of how deals get financed have to do with how the deals are presented to financing groups. If you can sell it in a way that a financer can believe in and can buy in, then I think [00:28:00] you're golden. If you don't believe it, then you're not going to get financing for a project for development.
And then lastly, I think there is inherent value in good design, period. I think people want to live in beautiful houses, beautiful apartments and condos. They want to work in beautiful buildings. They want to eat at beautiful restaurants. There is value in good design. And so we shouldn't say that certain populations or certain pockets of the city are not deserving of good design.
[00:28:31] James: Right? What this building did was find out what was missing and what this community was in need of, and instead of saying, let's take this building out of our way so that we can give the community what it needs, but rather save the building. It means something to this community, even if the people walking by don't all know what the history of this building and the importance that has been in our culture, in our country.
There's some inherent value not throwing this into a landfill and building something in its place. to serve a community, but instead to serve a community with what assets they already have. 
[00:28:59] Guest 1: That's right. And [00:29:00] one thing that I think is important to say out loud is that I think generally speaking, those of us who work in the architecture design development construction space love to celebrate like great architects and great architecture and love to talk down on poor architects and poor architecture.
And I support that. Let's call them out. Yeah. But let's also celebrate those that do a great job. I think we should be equally as discerning with developers. I think what happens is, it's, all developers are bad. All developers destroy communities, and that's not the case. I think we should do the exact same thing with developers that we do with architects.
We should shame those who do a poor job, but then we should also highlight those that do a great job. That way, other developers can look at those developers that do a great job as the model to replicate. 
[00:29:49] James: There's a adversarial relationship oftentimes between architects and developers, because, they were a spreadsheet driven decision making process.
Bottom line is the only thing that they could [00:30:00] see. There's some truth to that, same as there is also truth to their stereotype that architects are... All about the pretty stuff and not about the practical stuff and want to create something on paper that you have no idea how to build. I know that there are architects who prove that true.
But now you're in a unique position that you've been trained as an architect and now you work for a development company. So there's, there are those examples where that gap has been bridged. And that you have the opportunity of seeing sympathetically both sides of this equation, are these stereotypes in this adversarial relationship as common as we see or is that we promote.
When we're trying to make the other person a villain. 
[00:30:37] Guest 1: The adversary relationship I think is even more common than I think it's perceived to be. Really? There is this kind of, and I think it's a healthy tension between architects and developers. And there should be. is an architect who will always identify as an architect, who will always pay my money to renew my license in the state of Georgia.
I [00:31:00] advocate for architects, and sometimes in the work that I do with with Middle Street partners, if we're working with An architect, an outside architect, I am expecting them to advocate for the design. I am expecting them to bring forth that healthy tension. I don't want you to roll over and just, and be bottom line driven. You as the design professional should advocate for the design just as strongly as anyone. So I prefer the tension. It allows us to be more thoughtful about what we do. It's necessary. It's a healthy tension, I think. And so I welcome it. 
[00:31:36] James: Is that the advice you'd give for good collaboration? Is to speak up and to play your part?
And not just give in and cave? 
[00:31:43] Guest 1: Absolutely. I think collaboration, the beautiful thing about collaboration, what we do is highly collaborative. But collaboration only works when each of the collaborating parties actually brings their ideas to the table. No one is just a warm body. We have these [00:32:00] meetings, we have design coordination meetings, we have OEC meetings.
No one is just a seat filler. If we're having... A meeting with an architect, an interior designer, a landscape architect, and a civil engineer. I want them each to advocate for what they want, what they think is best for the project. I want landscape to talk about why land, the landscape areas need to be the best, and we need to spend more money on the landscape.
I want the interior designer to do the same for the interior spaces. I want the architect to do the same for the skin. I want them all to advocate for enhancing the areas that they are championing. And yes, advocate for your expertise. That is what I want, and I think that is what other developers will respect.
[00:32:47] James: On the flip side of that... What are some common missteps when it comes to synergy that can come between them and the person, the contractors and the civically? 
[00:32:55] Guest 1: Yep. Step one is to lose the ego, right? Be confident, [00:33:00] assured, have a level of assertiveness, but don't be egotistical. Architects already get a bad rap for being.
I think step two is avoid saying what you like for personal reasons. Instead, you should talk about why what you are recommending is the best move for the project, for the community, for the development. Don't say, we should do this because my favorite color is blue. No. We should talk about how the color blue was XYZ with the previous building that was there and whatever.
There should be a reason behind every decision that goes beyond, Oh, because I like it. That's the second thing. Then the third thing is I think take the time to explain and explain in ways that the audience will receive. If they are a visual learner, then maybe we need renderings. Maybe we need drawings and sketches.
I think communicating it in a way that the receiver can receive will make you that much more [00:34:00] effective. 
[00:34:00] James: Yeah, you have to be cognizant of who your audience is, where they're coming from, how can I present this idea to them in a way that I'm speaking their language, and appreciating both their opinions and their limitations, so I can't expect everybody to visualize the way that an architect can visualize.
[00:34:16] Guest 1: I talked about my wife being a teacher, but my mom's a teacher, my sister's a teacher. One of my favorite sayings is, if a student doesn't learn the way you teach, you should teach the way they learn. And I think that applies in so many realms outside of a classroom. My mom was a special ed teacher. That's what my wife used to do.
[00:34:34] James: There was this push pull of no child left behind. So how do we manage that in a classroom with so much diversity between student to student? And so a lot of teachers really wanted that. I'm going to teach the way I teach and some kids are going to fall behind and that's just the way that it is. If you had a kid choking in your class, would you tell that kid, I can't give you the Heimlich because then I'd have to give it to everybody else in the classroom and I don't have time to give you the Heimlich.
No. If that's the way that you see things, [00:35:00] you shouldn't be a teacher. If that kid needs the Heimlich, if that kid needs some extra time on the lesson, maybe some other resources or some modifications, then that's what that kid needs. And it's not your responsibility to just test that kid, but to get that ready, that kid ready for the test.
[00:35:14] Guest 1: No, that's, that is awesome because what you said just made me think about there's a difference between equal and fair, right? Yeah. If someone needs. something that someone else doesn't need. It can be fair to give the person or the persons who need the thing what they need and not give it to the person who doesn't need the thing.
Equality and fairness are related but not the same. And when it comes to development, when it comes to communities, one thing I've written about is the importance of there being equal access to resources in the city, in any city, but equal access. Now that I'm thinking about it, it may not be the right term.
Maybe it's fair access. 
[00:35:54] James: Yeah, definitely. There are relatively equal voting rights. That doesn't mean that everybody can go down and vote on the day of [00:36:00] the election. It isn't fair. That's right. You can make equality in a written rule. Can you make it fair? 
[00:36:05] Guest 1: My mind is spinning right now because in any given moment, a certain Populous, a certain person, could need something that's additional to what other people have and that's something that they need just puts them at an even playing field to their neighbor.
It's not extra. It could just be exposure. I didn't know any architects, but there are populations out there who do. They just grew up knowing architects.
[00:36:35] James: Desmond has stepped up to take an important leadership role in the Atlanta community. And he helps foster the activity and the energy of a city that's constantly taking steps to preserve and learn from its past, while ambitiously looking into the future. It may seem almost too easy and too obvious to be legit.
For our communities to sustain themselves, for any society to be sustainable, we must work together. And our projects must be a reflection of the dignity of its people. This [00:37:00] interview was recorded at Constellations in Auburn Avenue in the 5th District Studio, named to honor the civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, located in the building where he rented his first office space back in 1963, when he rose to international prominence as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
We will continue to highlight this building in future episodes as an excellent example of a building of historical significance being adapted for a new use instead of tearing it down. It's also a great example of a developer making a connection with a neighborhood to learn what was needed and missing before deciding what to develop.
But you'll have to wait for that, because next week we're joined by developer John Moores, who leads a design focused real estate investment and management firm that's making headlines and positive impact across Atlanta. You won't want to miss it. This podcast is presented by Creative Interface Architecture and Interiors.
Please visit creativeinterface. design. Find helpful articles, download your free project planning packet, or schedule your complimentary ask the expert phone consultation. Whether you have an idea for a project, you're an experienced developer, or you're just curious about what architects do, [00:38:00] visit creativeinterface. design. Making eco positive buildings practical and impactful. This podcast is presented by Creative Interface Architecture and Interiors. Please visit creativeinterface. design.