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Elizabeth Way

How long have you been volunteering with the Collaborative, and what brought you to the Collaborative as a volunteer? 
I’ve been in Phila for 5 years now, since 2015. I didn’t really know anyone, very brand new. One of the first things I did was seek out organizations doing interesting work and talking with folks and was told to get in touch with the Design Collaborative. I remember touching base with Heidi and Robin at the time, and within a couple of weeks Robin had me on project that was up in Frankford doing streetscape re-design, and I absolutely loved the experience. I’ve been on projects since then, and really enjoyed participating in the process of the Collaborative. 


Why is design an important part of revitalizing communities to you? 
I think that many communities, when they know that they need to improve circulation, cross streets, storefronts, sidewalks; they know it needs to be done, but it is very difficult to organize ideas and to put it into a structure where they can have something to discuss. That is a really wonderful service the Collaborative offers: When they bring in a team and they ask a lot of questions; they clarify the intentions of communities. They put it into a format that people can react to and have a conversation about. And I think that is an invaluable service the Collaborative offers.  


What has been most surprising, rewarding, or fun about any particular Collaborative volunteer experience? 
Getting to see a lot of different neighborhoods. Understanding the histories of these different neighborhoods…the cultures and ethnicities. I was on a project that supported a comprehensive neighborhood strategic plan in South Philadelphia (SEAMAAC: Conceptual Design for the South 7th Street Improvement Program). Even within that neighborhood there were many different ethnic groups that were not communicating effectively with each other, and the shop owners were having difficulties keeping the streets clean, being able to provide access, and welcome people into their stores because there was so much street activity going on. That was a very interesting project, because it was looking at the immediacy of what the corridor needed, but also the changes that were happening to the larger neighborhood. 


What do you love most about Philadelphia? 
I recently went on the Walk Around Philadelphia tour, which is done in segments, done at your own pace. I did it with a coup of friends, and we walked the perimeter of Philadelphia. I saw neighborhoods I didn’t have any idea were out there. I saw a lot of infrastructure and buildings that are part of  Philadelphia’s history that have since been abandoned. I saw the infrastructure that no one really sees…the junk yards, the abandoned cars, the river front, the graffiti pier. Getting a sense of the North, South, East, West reaches of Philadelphia I think was a phenomenal experience. It made me realize that I tend to be in Center City, but Philadelphia is so much more. 


What advice, if any, would you offer to women-identified persons considering a career in in the design/AEC industry? 
Women particularly bring a good sensibility of practicality as well as high standard of design expertise to any effort. Women must be much more vocal in expressing their opinions and pushing for their designs. 


What impact do you feel women have had on the design/aec industry and what gap is still to be filled? Do you think they’ve had an overall impact that can be measured currently, or is that impact to be seen? 
Recent experiences working separately with a male and female architect, be it personality or circumstances, the women-owned firm listened better, understood our requirements and reflected them back in the scope of work, met our deadlines, and did not require a lot of back and forth to get the  

final product delivered. Whereas my experience with the male-owned architect firm, there was a chasing after for documents, pushing back of deadlines…it drove me crazy. I wonder if women are more cognizant of missed deadlines, are they better planners of the work to be done, even in my own professional life I’ve had to manage many projects. I wonder, are there some real skills that women inherently have, that exemplify the importance of our presence in the industry. 

March 2021



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