The AIA New Jersey Equity in Architecture Series Presents a Webinar on Equity in Community Engagement

September 13, 2020

The AIA New Jersey Equity in Architecture Series Presents a Webinar on Equity in Community Engagement

Wednesday, September 16 is the 8th installment of the AIA NJ webinar series based on the AIA Equity Guide to the Architectural Profession. The live Zoom event will be held from 6:30-8:30PM.

Equitable and inclusive practices involve not only the workplace but also the communities and end-users that the profession serves to produce a more flourishing built environment. As community needs become deeper and more urgent, encompassing broad concerns such as resiliency and social justice, architects will do well to adopt solutions created in partnership with those communities. By practicing greater equity, the profession increases its value to society as well as its visibility among potential partners and future practitioners.

This live, interactive course teaches the principles from Chapter 8: Engaging Community. This course relates to the architectural profession by identifying areas of the profession that are lacking equity and providing tools and lessons that the attendees can apply to their own lives to increase equity in their personal and professional communities. The American Institute of Architects, as part of the global community, champions a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion within the profession of architecture to create a better environment for all. Achieving this vision has a direct impact on the relevance of our profession and the world’s prosperity, health, and future. This course directly aims to move the needle with regards to equity, diversity, and inclusion through teaching best practices in the area of community engagement. 

This webinar has been approved for 2 AIA LUs. Register for this free member benefit by CLICKING HERE.

This program will be presented by a group of four AIA members:


Rachel Ehrlich, AIA, LEED AP, is an Associate Principal at Dattner Architects. Rachel’s focus is on the architecture of affordable housing, with a specialty in the design of supportive, senior, and special needs housing. Her passion lies in contributing to vibrant, livable neighborhoods, which form the cornerstone of social equity by offering well-designed, sustainable, inviting, and affordable homes for people of all income levels. A climate activist, Rachel believes that good design is socially and environmentally just, making a lasting contribution to both the built realm and the social fabric of cities.

Last year, Rachel was elected to the Borough Council of Madison, NJ, where she has resided for five years. She is currently serving in the first year of a three-year term. Prior to that, she served for two years on the Madison planning board  She holds a Master of Architecture from New Jersey Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts from Skidmore College. Rachel is the recipient of the AIA Henry Adams Medal.


Susan Pikaart Bristol, AIA, LEED AP, NJ P.P. is an Architect and principal of SPB Architecture LLC.  She is LEED Certified in Green Design. Her community engagement work led her to become a NJ Professional Planner and participate in the local and regional planning process.  Susan is former member and chair of a municipal planning board.  Her work has ranged from community-scale design and planning to small structures and residential projects. Susan is a native of NJ who based her academic thesis in the city of Paterson, NJ.  She has two degrees (B.S. Arch & M. Arch) from the University of Virginia. 

Susan has had a 15-year career as an adjunct instructor at the NJIT School of Architecture & Design where she created the award-winning Garden State Studios.  In these studios, she taught students how to practice Community Engagement with a site-specific design process that yields transferable knowledge. Design excellence and critical thinking are at the core of her professional and educational activities.  Susan is co-founder of a grass-roots planning & preservation organization, an activist and a poet. 


Simone Tsigounis, AIA, Esq. LEED AP, NCARB, is a practicing small-firm Architect and Attorney, embracing twenty-three years of civic engagement. Simone is a three-term Cresskill Council Member, honored with distinction by the NJ Legislature, lending knowledge as liaison to the Historical, Senior, Environmental, Health, and Planning Boards. A graduate of MIT and Rutgers Law School; receiving accolades in design and published for successfully representing those in need with the Civil Justice Clinic.

Ms. Tsigounis is known for voicing the architect’s perspective in positively shaping Cresskill’s growth since 1997, formerly on the Zoning Board and currently on the Planning Board. Committed to addressing the needs of our citizens in the creation of Cresskill’s History Museum, future 9/11 Memorial, and proposed housing for our developmentally challenged.

Simone is an Educational Counselor and Mentor serving twenty-one years with MIT’s Office of Admissions and former Adjunct Faculty in Design for local colleges. She is an active member of the Architects League of Northern NJ, recipient of the Distinguished Service and Trustee’s Awards; working with AIA New Jersey’s K-12 Education Committee. Simone is a member of the NY and NJ State Bar Associations; engaged with the Young Lawyer and Real Property Law Sections and the Bergen County Bar, certified as a LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional), Interior Designer, Real Estate Salesperson, and member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.


Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, LEED AP, CID,  is the Principal at her firm, Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, Architect, LLC. She is licensed to practice architecture in NY and NJ and to buy and sell real estate in NJ. She is a past president of AIA NJ and The Architects League of Northern New Jersey.

Stacey is the immediate past chair for the AIA NJ Women in Architecture and K-12 Archit4ectural Education Committees and the founder of AIA NJ’s Equity in Architecture Committee. She has developed a nine-part lecture series presenting the AIA National Guides to Equitable Practice and is also developing a firm credentialing system to identify firms that encourage and demonstrate equitable practice. 

Stacey has a B.S. Architecture and B. Architecture from the Catholic University of America and an M. Architecture and M.S. Management from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Stacey has been an adjunct professor of interior design and guest juror at varied local colleges. 


Learning Objectives

1.       Participants will learn how to practice greater equity in community engagement, increasing the profession’s value to society as well as its visibility among potential partners and future practitioners.

2.       Participants will learn the fundamental principles and attributes of community engagement and specific methods for working with community members in equitable, inclusive, and just design practices, decision making, and outcomes.

3.       Participants will learn what community engagement is and how architectural projects improve when divergent voices arrive as a consensus about project goals and characteristics.

4.       Participants will learn ways that individuals and groups of citizen architects can participate and contribute to equitable community engagement.

Participants will learn ways that architects working in a professional capacity can properly discern the appropriate cross-section of those affected by the project, design an equitable forum for local community involvement during the design and pre-design phases and ensure that the voices of all, not only the most vocal are heard and included in the project development.


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