Design x Community Engagement: A Conversation with Designing Justice + Designing Spaces


Tuesday, December 1, 2020
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM





AIA Georgia welcomes Shelley Davis Roberts of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces.

“To develop each project, DJDS intimately engages with the communities it intends to service. For a housing facility for youth transitioning out of foster care in Atlanta, for instance, DJDS engaged with the community during a nine-month process that included model-making, visual games, and finance education. In many cases, they learned that the spaces they create should be flexible, reconfigurable, and mobile in order to provide civic resources wherever they may be needed.”

Excerpt from the Architect’s Newspaper

An architectural associate at the groundbreaking firm, Roberts has been a part of a number of projects geared toward integrating public participation in the design process in hopes of a more impactful design that is held accountable to its community and the ideas of restorative justice. In partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Atlanta, DJDS brought Atlanta residents to the table to transform the Atlanta City Detention Center into a Center for Equity.

This is the second part in a series on community engagement and design, the first led by AIA Atlanta and the Atlanta YAF.

*Earn (1) LU CEU

Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, Shelley Davis Roberts earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA and a Master of Architecture Degree from U.C. Berkeley. Her multi-disciplinary interests have guided her work in architecture, diversified community development, identity, and culture while working as a visual & performing artist and educator for over 20 years. Shelley has worked on a wide range of architectural project types including affordable multifamily housing, schools, private family residences, commercial and sacred spaces. Roberts is currently an Architectural Associate with Designing Justice Designing Spaces focusing on social justice architecture which creates the infrastructure needed to end mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on underserved communities of color.  As a former Chapter President for the San Francisco Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, she researched and presented on the contributions of African American Architects in her lecture “Evolution of the African American Architect”. In addition to teaching Architecture and Diversity, as a former instructor at the City College of San Francisco,  Shelley has also completed large-scale art installations as a collaborating artist of House/Full of Black Women for their 2016 -2020 Episodes which address the displacement of black women and trafficking of young girls in Oakland.

Designing Justice + Designing Spaces is an Oakland-based architecture and real estate development non-profit working to end mass incarceration by building infrastructure that addresses its root causes: poverty, racism, unequal access to resources, and the criminal justice system itself. Their work counters the traditional adversarial and punitive architecture of justice—courthouses, prisons, and jails—by creating spaces and buildings for restorative justice, community building, and housing for people coming out of incarceration.

DJDS also operates the Concept Development Fund, a program that helps nonprofits and advocates transform their ideas for community infrastructure reinvestment into fully realized designs complete with budgetary outlines, imagery, and other concrete details. The Fund receives charitable contributions that are used to support the financial costs of the concept development process.