UH hosts mayors to address urban design, sustainability challenges

To help find solutions to some of the most pressing urban design and development challenges faced by cities across the U.S. and Pacific, the University of Hawaiʻi’s Community Design Center (UHCDC), Institute for Sustainability and Resilience (ISR) at Mānoa, and UH Mānoa’s School of Architecture hosted a regional Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) for five mayors to convene with seven leading design and development professionals for a workshop, August 17–19.

Mayors from Bellevue, Washington; Bellingham, Washington; Dededo, Guam; Hawaiʻi County, Hawaiʻi Island; and Racine, Wisconsin, were welcomed to this workshop by Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and members of his staff. The group exchanged ideas and worked together to find solutions to challenges faced by each mayor’s city.

“Hosting this institute reflects the UHCDC and ISR’s commitment to knowledge—sharing that impacts the goals and visions of our civic leaders,” said Cathi Ho Schar, director of UHCDC and assistant professor in UH Mānoa’s School of Architecture.

As cities emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with a renewed focus on equity, safety and opportunity for all, this session provided actionable ideas for city leaders rising to meet this moment of change. The interchange among mayors, faculty and design professionals sparked lively debate, revealed new perspectives and generated creative solutions.

“Being a part of the MICD event emphasized how vital collaboration is to ensure the success of city projects,” said Emily Sobolewski Knight, a master of landscape architecture student and a coordinator for the event.

“It was deeply moving to observe the genuine aspiration held by mayors for their cities, and the layers of planning and design solutions that surfaced through these conversations,” said Jolie Wanger, a PhD student at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Social Sciences, also a coordinator of the institute.

Since 1986, MICD has helped transform communities through design by preparing more than 1,200 mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities.

“As a mayor, I want to do my very best to serve the community I represent,” said Mayor Cory Mason from Racine, Wisconsin. “How to do that with the built environment is so important, but I am no expert on any of those skills. You have given me the vernacular I need to better serve my constituents and build a better community.”

UHCDC, a multi-disciplinary teaching practice led by the School of Architecture, provides faculty, staff and students with a collaborative platform for research, planning, design and outreach that supports the public sector and public interest. ISR aims to help Hawaiʻi meet our local and global obligations to environmental sustainability, with an emphasis on promoting well-being from the lens of community resilience. MICD is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors.