Today we celebrated the official launch of the Five Keys Mobile Classroom.  It was a big day for us as it is technically the first built project for Designing Justice + Designing Spaces. This article in Fast Company Magazine also talks a little bit more about the process and the product from the design side. We are happy with the outcome in large part due to the incredible work of our fabricators and co-designers Oakology and Envelope Engineers. They put so much love into it and it shows. We are so grateful for their dedication on the project. It would have been impossible with out them.


20170629_Five Keys 183.CR25-17_DesigningJustice_5Keys-810

On Monday we had our finalist interview with Artplace America Creative Place making Fund. We rode around the Bayview Hunters Pt San Francisco in the bus and pulled up next to an ice cream truck. A lot of kids were there and they came running up to the bus with excitement. It was our first test of its impact. We were pleased with the attention as it’s not easy to lure kids away from an ice cream truck.  They checked out the inside and definitely went to get ice cream after realizing it was not a “party bus” but one for learning. Oh well…




20170629_Five Keys 337.CR2

Now we move on to the next one… Stay tuned for the Women’s Resource Bus. We need to keep this thing moving.


Deanna and Kyle

The Pop-up Resource Village makes the finals.


1-Pop-up Resource Village

(June 6, 2017) Today, ArtPlace America announced that Designing Justice + Designing Spaces proposal to develop The Pop-up Resource Village is one of 70 finalists for the 2017 National Creative Placemaking Fund (NCPF).  ArtPlace selected these 70 proposals from 987 applications, making DJ+DS’s project one of just 7% of the projects across the country to make this cut.

“These seventy finalists are extraordinary examples of the ways that artists, arts organizations, and communities are thinking about working together,” said ArtPlace Director of National Grantmaking F. Javier Torres.  “We look forward to learning more about all of them, as we visit with them this summer.”

ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund is a highly competitive national program, receiving 987 applications this year. Investing money in communities across the country in which artists, arts organizations, and arts and culture activity help drive community development change across 10 sectors of community planning and development: agriculture and food; economic development; education and youth; environment and energy; health; housing; immigration; public safety; transportation; or workforce development.


Five Keys Mobile Classroom: The First Village Anchor

Our project-The Pop-up Resource Village- will focus on the public safety sector by activating underutilized land with mobile resources that “pop-up” on a regular basis to create a village of civic resources for under-resourced communities.Through the creation and aggregation of new and existing mobile structures the village seeks to eliminate the economic and social isolation many communities face by bringing education, health, retail, recreation and other community identified assets directly to them. In eliminating these barriers, the Pop-Up Resource Village seeks to improve social cohesion and increase in public safety using the power of creative placemaking.

Pop-Up Resource Village WEBSITE SLIDES

This project is supported by a robust network of community partners and we want to thank our core group for their continued support and leadership on this project:

  • Five Keys Schools and Programs
  • Hunters Point Family
  • Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
  • 3rd Street Youth Clinic

Please check out the complete list of the 2017 finalists for ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund may be found here.  We are proud that this project is among these amazing 70 finalists.



For more info Contact our awesome project manager….or me(:

Gretchen Mokry

Designing Justice + Designing Spaces

What we are becoming

The second half of last year was a bit crazed after I came out of my residency in Captive Florida (more on that later) and I wasn’t able to breath and share all that happened. Myself and my partner Kyle Rawlins found ourselves in a state of “becoming” Designing Justice + Designing Spaces and all that social entrepreneurship entails.  We are certainly blessed as I have only great news to report. Here are a few hi-lites:


Kyle, Me, Shelley and Meghana after hearing we had won a big grant!


I can’t believe that in this short year and last 6 months funding came in from various sources allowing us to create a design and help our program partners acquire a site for the countries first Restorative Justice Restorative Economics Center.


Ella Baker Centers’ new headquarters

Funding from the Surdna Foundation allowed us to engage the east Oakland Community in a potential second phase to this project that is still underway.( We are always looking for volunteers so come on out. Its fun-I promise)


Speaking and working with residents of Fruitvale Oakland

We also recently received funding to implement the full manifestation of the Pop-up Resource Village starting this year. Please look out for an announcement soon for the launch of the Five Keys Mobile- Self Determination Project classroom, which is nearly, complete. We will literally “roll it out” later this month. It will be one of the village anchors.


Five Keys Mobile Classroom

Least year we were funded by the Autodesk Foundation to digitize our toolkit for working with incarcerated populations at the intersection of restorative justice and design. They are also supporting the creation of a digital tool to help cities plan for decarceration- The Restorative Justice City. These IP products will take time to develop but are key to expanding out work.


EDOVO self guided curriculum  in use.


In the meantime, I am trying to share more with everyone in small doses and hope that you all can come join me in NYC next week  for my first Nation Public Radio appearance- Race and Justice Within Criminal Justice on WYNC Tuesday the 10th  at Greenspace in NYC.


Visitors viewing our student’s work of spaces for restorative justice.

Last year our Designing Justice + Designing Spaces toolkit and  amazing work by our students at San Quentin were selected as part of the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Exhibit- “By the People: Designing a Better America.” Next Thursday -the 12th of January-  I will be giving a lecture at the museum  for Design Night. For those of you in NYC I hope you can join us there. They will have food and drinks so let that be an incentive.

My first award!

aiasf-award-ceremony-5 I wanted to share that I was honored last year by the San Francisco AIA with a Social Impact Award. It was my first award for this work! Thank you AIA SF! You all are truly leaders in our profession.

Finally I have to say that in the wake of the presidential election I have no answers other than right action must be taken in the agency of love and peace. What is yet to come will be difficult and painful. I plan to stay in community with you and others. I plan to keep working hard to change unjust systems and I plan to take good care of myself in the middle of it all.  Lets be in solidarity.  I look forward to seeing and spending more time with you all.



Retreat to Residency


Just a few weeks ago my business partner Kyle and I had the great fortune of going to Glen Cove, New York to be with our cohort of Echoing Green Fellows. We were in the midst of many projects in high gear so it was hard to pull way but going to the “New Fellows Retreat” is mandatory and you just don’t say not to retreats or Echoing Green. We did as we were told and showed up for 5 days of intensive connecting and learning with our fellow fellows who were coming from all over the word. Two arrived from Uganda, 1 from Kenya, another from Ghana and Argentina. Some had active businesses in India, Sweden, and China so moved from country to country. Now my sometimes judgmental mind had initially decided that this crew of over achievers  must be competitive, hard or standoffish.  I stepped off the train ready to be nice and try to set a tone of camaraderie as I attempting to ignore my own competitiveness.  I was immediately disarmed by Frederick Wikholm, Zoe Wong and Rebecca Hui who were curious and interested and in our work. They were so easy to talk to. Then I ran into Tony Weaver and my roommate for the week, Amina Yamusah. They both hugged me and welcomed me with genuine feeling….

OK so I was basically wrong. Not only was I was humbled by the genius of their organizations, (and their age -most were around 30 years old) I was most humbled by who they were and how they got to this point in their lives.  Who found these people?


I guess Echoing Green did. They also created an environment that fostered community, connectivity, and mutual support from the beginning as we gathered in circle. We did unique team building exercises that included my first improv class with Lisa Allison Pertoso and a scavenger hunt in midtown Manhattan during which I had to convince an apple store technician to fix my non-apple product-a Kenneth Cole watch.  We explored our inner landscapes and the ways we functioned in the world as leaders. We had pitching sessions and brain trusts where we helped one another with problems we were facing in our new companies. I connected with Radwa Rostom, a fellow builder, and made a decision to use my Echoing Green professorial development stipend to visit her in Egypt and see how she creates durable and resilient houses and community buildings in underprivileged communities. I had an emotional session with my fellow Black Male Achievement Fellows- Corey Green, Tony Weaver, Jacob Allen, Quardean Lewis-Allen, Aminah Yamusah, Damon Packwood, Mubarak Lawrence and Alex Peay- where we spoke about black joy and our deep need for self care as people of color in the world trying to make big changes. I am so glad to be on this journey with you.


We also met with our chaplains. I had never heard of chaplaincy before but perhaps you have. During our fellowship we can call them anytime we need them.  Their job is to listen to us and to support our emotional and spiritual well-being no matter our beliefs. Who knew a fellowship existed to support our whole selves. The chaplains, Eric, Shaundra and Jasmine-provided Kyle and I with a tool to help us create covenants and rituals around our partnership. These processes were intended to keep our relationship healthy and strong through the challenges we may have ahead.

Orion belt

My amazing scavenger hunt team

While there were many serious moments my fellows and I just had so much fun.  I honestly fell a little bit in love with all of them. They understood what Kyle and I were going through in ways some of our closest friends and family cannot. They understood why we are working so hard and how high the stakes are.  To get  5 days with people who get you and a supportive staff caring for you meant that I relaxed into a place that allowed me to have the most fun I have had in quite a while.  I want to thank Echoing Green and my other fellows for their support and encouragement. Thanks to that week, I returned to Oakland refreshed. I put my head down for another two weeks and then left for Captiva, Florida to do my first artists residency at Robert Rauschenberg’s former home and studios.  I am here now and immersing myself into a totally different world and atmosphere that is also amazing but I am missing my 2016 Echoing Green Fellows for sure.


Echoing Green Announces 2016 Fellowship Award for Designing Justice +Designing Spaces

Today it was announced that the new organization I started with my business partner Kyle, Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, has been awarded an Echoing Green Fellowship!


Here are some deets:

About Echoing Green


For nearly 30 years, Echoing Green has supported next-generation talent in solving the world’s biggest problems. These leaders spend their lives working with purpose and define their generations. They make society better.

Echoing Green has established a global community of emerging leaders – over 700 and growing – who have launched Teach For America, City Year, One Acre Fund, SKS Microfinance, and more. Echoing Green is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that raises funds to support its mission. Through its Fellowships and other innovative leadership initiatives, Echoing Green unleashes tracks down the best and the brightest leaders, brings them together, and launches them on their path to success.

About the Fellowship

This year Echoing Green reviewed 2,077 applications from 120 countries, which represent meaningful trends from the front lines of social change.

This year’s Fellows are split almost evenly between for-profit (43 percent) and nonprofit organizations (39 percent). An additional 14 percent have a hybrid model, and 4 percent are not yet decided. The top five issue areas for selected Fellows are:

  1. Poverty alleviation and economic development (24 percent)
  2. Education (23 percent)
  3. Environment (14 percent)
  4. Health and healthcare (10 percent)
  5. Food and agriculture (9 percent)

DJ+DS is one of 33 innovators in the 2016 Fellowship class who will further develop social enterprises that address some of the world’s most intractable challenges around economic development, racial and gender equality, food security, and the environment including our dear friend Damon Packwood and Quardean Lewis-Allen. This award provides all the Fellows with an opportunity to become part of a select global network of leaders identified by Echoing Green as dramatic, scalable, and important to the progress of the world. Fellows will access a community of funders, investors, and entrepreneurs across issue areas, geographies, and disciplines.  Fellow will also receive seed funding available for two years to support the continued growth of their organizations.

About DJ+DS

Echoing Green

Echoing Green Finalist Portrait

So for those of who don’t what WE do now here is the mission:

At Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS), we believe that the built environment embodies many of our society’s gross inequities. Through our innovations in architecture and real estate development, we seek to end the crisis caused by mass incarceration by supporting reentry and diversion programs/ practices such as restorative justice. With our non-profit, government and community partners, we co-create new prototypes, such as peacemaking centers, mobile classrooms, and housing for foster age youth. Together, we harness the power of the built environment to create triple bottom line equity and support the success and expansion of restorative justice, education, and workforce development programs.

Thank you to everyone who supported us on this year’s journey to get here including our board, friends, volunteers and family. I personally could not do any of this without you and it means more than you know.





Ready to Launch

Its been quite a week for me filled with good news. We are moving into our final workshop at San Quentin exploring the intersection of restorative justice and design, Artichoke released the talk I gave last year at Lumiere and the School on Wheels has started an incredible branding process with the Google Brand Lab and Ana Teresa Fernandez.


However the most exciting thing of all is that the School on Wheels is finally under construction!


Launch Party Flyer

This is perfect timing given that (June 7, 2016)  Today, ArtPlace America announced that the Pop-up Resource Village is one of 80 projects that it will consider for its 2016 National Creative Placemaking Fund.

These 80 projects are 6% of the 1,361 initial applications that ArtPlace reviewed.

ArtPlace America’s National Creative Placemaking Fund is a highly competitive national program that invests money in communities across the country in which artists, arts organizations, and arts activity will help drive community development projects that are addressing challenges or opportunities related to agriculture and food; economic development; education and youth; environment and energy; health, housing; immigration; public safety; transportation; or workforce development.

Pop up Resrouce Village Cover Slide Image 1

Building on its School on Wheels Project and Women’s Shelter Bus, we proposed the development of an entire mobile resource village that will bring much needed resources to the Bayview Hunters Point community in San Francisco.  I will partner with the founder of Pop-up Hood Sarah Filley and the San Francisco Sherriff’s Department’s 5 Keys Schools and Programs as well as many others to create this new prototype for social change.( The complete list of the 2016 finalists for ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund may be found here. )

For those of you who don’t know ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a ten-year collaboration among 16 partners foundations, along with 8 federal agencies and 6 financial institutions, that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical, and economic fabric of communities.

I am so excited we made it to this final stage and look forward to keep the village moving!


Making the Echoing Green Finals


In December of last year my new business partner, Kyle Rawlins and I decided to apply for the Echoing Green Fellowship for social entrepreneurs. I had applied before with FOURM design studio and made it to the semi-finals. I decided that with the launch of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, it was time to give it another go. Just a couple of months ago we were informed we had made the finals. We were one of 70 finalists( out of approximately 2000 applicants) that would be invited to the Echoing Green Finals interviews. I was ecstatic!  Kyle was calm and cool as usual. We rapidly responded to their additional queries and chatted with a current fellow assigned to us, Katrina Spade who founded the Urban Death Project. ( you must check this out as its amazing). She along with the folks from the Reset Foundation gave us some great advice on the interview experience.


Image of Urban Death Project

We were then asked if we wanted to participate in the Echoing Green’s largest fundraiser, the annual Big Bold Benefit, by pitching our company in 60 seconds in front of 400 people. After my heart skipped several beats I said “sure” knowing that they would only select a few to do it so what were the odds. One day later we were informed that we would be one of 11 organizations pitching that night. My heart may have stopped for just a minute. I then went into a round of pitch coaching with Bill Smartt who helped me get the complexities of our company explained in just 60 seconds. This is a very short time with little room for error so I practiced it in the shower, on walks, in the car, on the street and anywhere people would not think I was crazy.  During the  week I also found out that my friend Damon Packwood founder of Gameheads was a finalist and my colleague from Harvard Quardean Lewis-Allen of Made in Brownsville. Their work is exemplary of the kind of amazing people we were among.


Finally, the day came and on Wednesday of this week, Kyle and I had our first interview with staff and that evening I gave the pitch. I was last and think it went pretty well despite an obvious gaff afterwards during the Q&A where I tried to answer another applicants query….sigh.

Designing Justice+Designing Spaces Facebook

Me and my partner Kyle

Thursday we had individual and partner interviews with several groups of judges, a photo shoot, peer coaching session and a final pitch at the end of the day with dinner and drinks. It was by far the most intense and exciting selection process I have been through and I am grateful to the Echoing Green staff for all their help. Can’t help but do some shout outs: Janna Oberdorf( helped me with pitching), Maggie Gleason( reminded me to eat and feel calm), Leah Stern( helped us figure out our theory of change), Neelam Sakaria & Fozzie Nelson ( helped us figure out where we were going) , Teresa Vazquez ( helped us think through converting small fish into big fish) and many more…..

No matter what happens, we had an amazing experience with the best being the other amazing finalists we met. They are truly incredible people. I made some new professional colleagues and some new friends ( including my awesome roommate Sylvia) this week thanks to Echoing Green.


Designing Refuge

“It was the first time since I have been here that I felt like I had a purpose”

– Robyn



Cedi building her design for a mobile women’s shelter

So much has happened the last 6 months that I am never sure where to start. However today it is clear that I need to share our experience in the San Francisco county Women’s Jail #2. I feel this way because it so clearly demonstrates why architects need to engage the people they are working as collaborators instead of end users.


As some of you know I have been working with the 5 Keys Charter School to design a School on Wheels (starting construction in May!). However, we are also engaged to adapt another  municipal bus to be a women’s shelter. Prior to starting this project, I did not know that women are often released from jail in the middle of the night and have no safe place to go. They spend the night on the street, find shelter that may not be safe, or get bombarded with drug dealers and pimps before they even get a chance to start figuring out their life after jail. Many women have written to the sheriff about this issue and they along with the 5 Keys Charter school has responded by asking us to transform a donated municipal bus into a comfortable refuge for women the night they are released from jail.


Now last I checked I have never been in jail nor have I had to sleep a night on the streets. Frankly, what do I know about the needs of a woman who is hoping to start again fresh with little to no resources but the clothes on her back the night she was arrested. So we decided to facilitate a 3-day and consecutive 2 day workshop at County Jail #2 in San Francisco with over 60 women to develop a design that will best meet their needs.  The workshop used a number of different design tools to explore what spaces of resource and safety would look like to the women who will be using this intimate place of refuge. We tried out some new stuff like doing a full scale mock up with just our bodies. We also worked with artist Ana Teresa Fernandez to explore ideas of pattern making in the project.  We are hoping to work with Ana on both buses to develop an exterior expression that integrates her social justice work and is responsive to the community we are serving.


With so many women we needed not just Ana’s efforts as a volunteer but those of the following amazing women who continue to support this essential work: Abigail Hammett, Kelly Gregory, Sameena Sitabkhan , Taylor Dearinger, Cristina Rossi and Jess Pauly. Jess along with our intern Zoe Parsigian were there every single day.

Now I assumed they would want beds and a plush comfy space but what we discovered is that this is not at all what they desired. Instead we learned about the need for a place to make a call, get access to the internet, some alternative clothing that was comfortable( sweats or leggings preferred) and to my surprise, recliners! They wanted the space above all to be clean and safe. Beds we not a priority nor was a shower. They asked for mirrors and toiletries to freshen up in order to meet the world and the challenges they know all to well.

It was a great week and we got so much information that we will spend this week just coding and analyzing the data before we get going on the design. We will be looking for funding for the construction of this space so feel free to share this great start with others. We already know this new prototype is needed in many other cities like Los Angeles. We hope this small space of transition will make some difference in decreasing recidivism and provide these and other amazing women with a better chance at getting on their feet.

I want to thank the staff of the 5 Keys Charter School  and CJ #2: Patricia Richard, Captian Fisher, Angie Wilson,  Marcela.Espino, Joanna Hernandez, Maria Cornejo, Jackie Gordon
Terye Lewis, Arly Wagner, Leandra Martin and the deputies on staff for making our largest workshop ever possible. Finally the biggest thank you to all the women who participated in SF County Jail #2 for their support and amazing design work on this project!




Cedi presenting her design ideas


Kayla presenting her design for a honeycomb skylight

Creating BIG Oakland

BIG_logo_Colors copy

When I got back from doing the Loeb fellowship I had no home to come back to nor an office to kick start my business. Despite rising costs and scarcity of residential units in Oakland I found a place to live that I love. Who knew that the trick would be to find an office.

DVB Video Capture I

Since my return in 2013 I have moved 5 times due to buildings getting sold, rents doubling and just plain incompatibility with the people sharing space with us. During this time, I looked at co-working spaces hoping there would be space for my practice including all the “Stuff” that comes with a creative profession. Turns out that unless you want to touch down with a laptop or take an expensive cube at the perimeter, there is little available for small architecture practices.  I started to think that what we needed was a place for small design firms like mine where we could share resources and own the building ourselves. I mean, why not?  We are architects and if we team up with contractors, we could support each other in making it a reality.Oscia CaptureI started to talk about it with others and was told about another architect Oscia Wilson with the same idea. I was excited to see that she was already on the path to creating it. I met up with her at a co-working potluck and realized I was connecting with someone who was serious about making this a reality. I called my friend and now business partner Kyle Rawlins and together with contractor Jean Bjork we decided to launch Big Oakland– One of the first co-working spaces exclusively for the architecture, engineering and construction industry.

Office images

Sometimes if you need something, you just have to make it yourself but it takes a village.  Therefore, I hope you will support our kickstarter campaign that we launched this week and help us make this dream a reality.

I look forward to hosting you there and never moving again!






The Witness is here….Finally!

The Island

For 5 years I have spoken about it and  written about it, played it  and stressed about it at times but today I have the great pleasure of sharing that the Witness is complete! It is already pre-released on STEAM ( you can just download it onto your PC or MAC) and will be released tomorrow in full for those of you who prefer other modes of playing video games like PS4.   For those of you who have never played a video game in your life I suggest you give this one a try. It’s peaceful, beautiful, intelligent and mystical.

The Lake

I am proud of my part and but even more so for the entire team that you can read about here:


Working with Jonathan Blow, Digo Lima  and Nico Wright

It is the longest I have ever worked on a project in my entire life so I hope that you all get a chance to enjoy it. In the meantime you can check out the reviews online. I like this one by IGN.

Check out the stills below and I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts.

The MountainThe Beach

The Swamp

Pink TreesThe Beach