Although a liberal arts education often lends a cold shoulder to the specialized world of architecture and urban planning, San Francisco-based architect Liz Ogbu will remind the Bowdoin and Brunswick communities of the socially, environmentally, and functionally significant role architecture plays in today's world on Monday.
Ogbu provides a pertinent voice: ten years after her own liberal arts education at Wellesley College, Ogbu has channeled her talent and ambition into revolutionizing the role of architecture and its relationship to the community.
Following her graduation from Wellesley in 1998, Ogbu traveled to Africa on a Watson Fellowship and attended architecture graduate school at Harvard University.
Currently, she is working for the San Francisco organization Public Architecture. Founded in 2002 by architect John Peterson, Public Architecture works to recreate the model of architectural practice. Traditionally, architects serve only the wealthiest 10 percent of the population, according to Visiting Assistant Professor Wiebeke Theodore. Public Architecture, however, "works to provide good design to the other 90 percent," she said
Public Architecture is a noncompetitive organization that breaks away from the "star architect" model. Instead, it works to convince architects to donate one percent of their time to working with non-profits in order to solve critical needs of the community.
"These non-profits are usually without good design and renovations because, under normal circumstances, they cannot afford the service of architects," Theodore said.
The work of Ogbu and Public Architecture poses several provocative questions including: What can good design do? Why does design matter? What is its role in building a more equitable, fare, and just environment?
This Monday, Ogbu will speak about several of her current projects and tackle these questions while demonstrating the importance of economically and environmentally friendly design.
"Ogbu is really a design activist," Theodore said. "She is not the typical design professional but has found a very important way of engaging communities in the world of architecture. And it strikes a resonant chord because architecture effects so many people beyond just the individual. With just a little attention and effort, improved design can make a community feel vibrant and loved."
Ogbu's talk is especially relevant in today's world, where people are rebuilding existing architecture with an eye for economic and environmental efficiency. Even in Brunswick, the buildings are changing. Renovations are in the works for the old high school and the Armory. The work of organizations like Public Architecture encourages communities to find the best and most resourceful modes of the town's reconstruction.
"Ogbu will show us the opportunity for non-profits and architects to seek out one another and see the potential in their collaborations," Theodore said. "They can dream big and start addressing space problems with the help of local designers. Even students are needed to expand that team. It will be and has to be a collaborative effort."
Liz Ogbu will speak on Monday, October 6, at 7 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.