About NDC


Our Mission

The Neighborhood Design Center provides access to pro bono design services in underserved communities in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, MD. In collaboration with neighborhood groups, local government agencies and fellow nonprofits, we support locally driven initiatives for neighborhoods pursuing improved quality of life within their built environments.


 

Board, Staff, and Volunteers

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.

NDC’s full and part-time 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 and business management.

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:

  • Inclusive community-driven process plays a determining role in the quality of design.
  • Healthy places are built with consideration for social justice, environmental sustainability, and comprehension of the true character of a place and its people.
  • Everyone should have access to design excellence.
  • Unlikely alliances between local experts, design experts, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations are a key to neighborhood success.
  • Well-designed places enhance healthy cultural and democratic life in our neighborhoods.

History

“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.