Founded in 1968, the Neighborhood Design Center is a nonprofit organization that facilitates the development of healthy, equitable neighborhoods through community-engaged design and planning services. By providing the tools, expertise, and partnerships necessary to realize neighborhood visions, we support broad participation in the evolution of the built environment.
NDC Projects are collaborations between residents, community stakeholders, design professionals, local government agencies, fellow nonprofits, and our staff. Together we lay the groundwork for improving blocks, renovating parks and school grounds, reclaiming abandoned structures for community use, and revitalizing commercial districts.
We believe that these unlikely partnerships provide mutual benefit, offering invaluable on-the-job training and exposure to members of the design community and positioning historically disinvested neighborhoods to attract future investment.
NDC Project Locations Map since 1968
Last year, we worked on over 200 projects, designed over 4800 trees, and worked with over 65 schools to further the grassroots vision for our communities. Zoom in and out to see the full scale of the number of projects in the different jurisdictions we have worked in the past 50 years, then click on the dots to see specific project details.
Take a deeper look at our work in the Annual Summary for fiscal year 2017.
NDC’s passionate and creative staff members provide consultation services, design, manage projects, recruit volunteers, facilitate meetings and workshops, research best practices, and coordinate efforts with public agencies and community partners. Staff members have backgrounds in architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, social design, planning, environmental planning, forestry, art and social work.
The Neighborhood Design Center is governed by a Board of Directors, which includes senior professionals from the region’s leading design and development firms as well as leaders from other local institutions and corporations. The Board oversees the fiscal management and policy development of NDC.
In addition, the Community Design Works program works with over one hundred volunteers, who provide thousands of hours of pro-bono services each year. NDC’s nearly four decade long tradition of working with the local design community has institutionalized a spirit of volunteerism within its ranks unequaled by most design centers. Volunteers represent a range of professions, including architects, planners, landscape architects, interior designers, engineers, graphic artists, and development and construction professionals.
NDC’s Internship program provides a structured, paid opportunity for students of design and planning to experience a wide range of community-engaged design. Interns work directly with communities to help further community goals, and learn best practices for this field of work. We work with undergraduate and graduate students in all design fields.
Design Builds Community Builds Design
Since 1968, the Neighborhood Design Center has provided pro bono planning and design services to over 3,000 community initiatives that have helped communities build new playgrounds, reclaim vacant lots and abandoned buildings, revitalize commercial districts, create community master plans, and beautify their neighborhoods.
At NDC, we believe:
- Everyone deserves access to good design.
- The more inclusive and community-driven the process, the better the design.
- Well-designed places enhance healthy cultural and democratic life in our neighborhoods.
- Healthy places are built with consideration of social justice, environmental sustainability, and the true character of a place and the people who live, work, worship and do business there.
“You share responsibility for the mess we are in. Get involved in helping cities rebuild or risk the consequences.”
Whitney M. Young, Executive Director of the Urban League
June 24, 1968
On June 24, 1968, in the midst of the civil rights movement, Whitney M. Young, Executive Director of the Urban League, stepped to the podium to address the 100th Convention of the American Institute of Architects. “You are distinguished by your thundering silence” in the face of urban disintegration, he challenged. “You share responsibility for the mess we are in.” His words were not comforting, nor were they meant to be. “Get involved in helping cities rebuild,” he said, “or risk the consequences”. From Young’s challenge sprang a national call to arms among architects, and nonprofit “design centers” opened in cities across the United States.
In the fall of that same year, a group of architects in Baltimore took this challenge and began working with low and moderate income communities to rebuild after the riots and white flight that swept the city in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Thus was the birth of the Neighborhood Design Center.
The volunteer architects started simply, working with residents and a few nonprofits to develop plans for community centers, playgrounds, affordable housing, and neighborhood master plans. The goals of the architects were to use the projects as a community organizing tool, a means of advocating for urban development, and as a tool for increasing investment in Baltimore’s neighborhoods.
By the early 1970s, what was strictly a volunteer organization could not keep up with the growing demand for services. Funding was secured through the efforts of Charles Lamb, FAIA (founding partner with the architectural firm RTKL) and NDC hired its first paid staff to manage the requests and projects. Since then, the office has functioned in this manner – maintaining a small number of paid staff that are supported by a large number of volunteers.
In 1993, NDC expanded outside of Baltimore, opening a second office in Prince George’s County to serve the older, lower-income communities surrounding Washington DC. The expansion of NDC allowed the organization to draw from a regional volunteer base – from Northern Virginia to suburban Baltimore – as well as assist various statewide initiatives.