Grace Farms Announces New Slate of Design for Freedom Pilot Projects and Partnerships at Second Annual Summit, Bringing Together Leaders to Advance the Movement to Design and Build More Humanely

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  • Grace Farms Announces New Slate of Design for Freedom Pilot Projects and Partnerships at Second Annual Summit, Bringing Together Leaders to Advance the Movement to Design and Build More Humanely

Pilot Projects include:
Diana Kellogg Architects and JDH Urban Regeneration Project’s Grain Market in Jodphur, India;
Unshattered, a project by MASS Design Group in New York’s Hudson Valley;
and a new project by Page as a part of their Blue Oceans Grant

Announcing New Partnerships Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Turner Construction, and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building

On Thursday, March 30, Design for Freedom by Grace Farms held its second annual Design for Freedom Summit, which brought together more than 500 leaders of the built environment, including more than 50 students from 21 universities, for a day of action and awareness. Uniting with the shared goal to accelerate the movement to eliminate forced labor from the building materials supply chain, attendees joined panel discussions and breakout sessions focused on creating change in the building industry and were welcomed with music by Marcus G. Miller and The Hummingbirds.

Grace Farms CEO & Founder Sharon Prince welcomes hundreds of attendees to the 2023 Design for Freedom Summit. Credit: Jacek Dolata

At the Summit, Sharon Prince announced a new slate of Design for Freedom Pilot Projects:
(* Design for Freedom Working Group Member)

  • The Grain Market, Jodhpur, India, currently in design, is a special collaboration with Design for Freedom. Diana Kellogg*, founder of her award-winning firm, is working with JDH Urban Regeneration Project, which is restoring the historic walled city of Jodhpur. Together, they will restore a historic grain market, transforming it into a world-class farmer’s market with dining.
  • Unshattered’s multi-purpose building, Wappingers Falls, NY, will provide new spaces to support Unshattered’s community. Unshattered is a non-profit social enterprise which paves the road between recovery and long-term sobriety by creating opportunities for women overcoming addiction and trauma to develop economic independence. One of the most unique and innovative organizations in this sector, Unshattered’s new welcoming space to foster community and provide expanded programming to the women they serve is designed by MASS Design Group*.
  • A new building project designed by Page will incorporate the Design for Freedom process and is the recipient of the firm’s 2022 Blue Oceans Grant, an internal competition. The three projects being considered are a federal building, a mixed-use development project, and a hospital. The selected Design for Freedom Pilot Project will be announced shortly.

Converting Textile Transparency to Interiors Roundtable, featuring: Ana Hinojosa (Oritain and formerly of US Customs & Border Protection), Buxton Midyette (Supima Cotton), Gabe Wing (MillerKnoll), Hayes Slade (Slade Architecture), Rachel Berkin (Tarkett), and Rebecca Best (Material Bank). Photo credit: Jacek Dolata

At the Summit, Slade Architects, who worked in partnership with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA), discussed phase one of an office project that incorporated Design for Freedom principles and ethical sourcing strategies. SO-IL is starting to work on the next phase of this project and this project will be announced later this year.

In addition to applying ethical sourcing strategies on future projects like the National Juneteenth Museum, BIG has also committed to examine past projects such as Vestre’s headquarters “The Plus” in Norway. The goal of this work is to grow knowledge of supply chains and ethical suppliers.

In addition to the pilot projects, Design for Freedom announced commitments from Turner Construction and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building, to educate their employees about Design for Freedom and integrate Design for Freedom principles into future projects.

On the importance of this annual convening, Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation, said, “Today, hundreds of leaders of the built environment are standing together to issue a clarion call to action. We are not just in agreement that forced labor in the building materials supply chain is unethical and immoral. We are also in agreement that now is the time for action and true market transformation to design and build more humanely.”

The Business Case for Design for Freedom panel, with: Richard Lui (MSNBC), Ana Hinojosa (Oritain and formerly of U.S. Customs and Border Protection), Debbie Propst (MillerKnoll), Maha Kahn (United Nations University Centre for Policy Research), and Raphael Sperry (Arup). Photo Credit: Jacek Dolata

The Summit featured three panels discussing Design for Freedom pilot projects; the business case for Design for Freedom moderated by Richard Lui of MSNBC, on how prioritizing ethical material transparency advances human rights while also affirming corporate values, lowering legal and financial risk, and increasing value for businesses and consumers alike; supply chain transparency; and steps we can take to eliminate forced labor from the building materials supply chain. Breakout roundtables included: Building Materials and the Climate Report by Yale CEA & UNEP; Converting Textile Transparency to Interiors; Global Policy as a Driver; Material Circularity + Tech Innovation; Timber Studies; and Tools for Material Transparency. The afternoon closed with a presentation about empathy and the human experience by Platonfounder of The People’s Portfolio, Peabody Award-winning photographer, storyteller, and human rights activist.

Adam Thatcher, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foods, a certified B Corporation and public benefit subsidiary of Grace Farms Foundation, spoke to the impact model and goals of the company, and its innovative efforts to drive awareness about Design for Freedom in a way that is tangible and accessible for consumers and in the workplace. Thatcher announced a new program that provides companies the opportunity to bring ethically sourced coffees and teas into their offices and events to educate their workforces about Design for Freedom. Arup, HMTX, MASS Design Group, MillerKnoll’s global retail headquarters, Sciame Construction, SHoP, TED, and Tony’s Chocoloney are among the first to try these products in the workplace.

The Hummingbirds, featuring Grace Farms’ Music Director Marcus G. Miller, Florian Idenburg of SO-IL (drums), and Nick Roseboro from Architensions (trumpet). Credit: Jacek Dolata

A highlight of the Summit was a performance by The Hummingbirds, featuring Grace Farms’ Music Director Marcus G. Miller along with musicians and architects Florian Idenburg of SO-IL on drums and Nick Roseboro from Architensions on trumpet.

Throughout the day, Summit participants also had the opportunity to explore Grace Farms, taking nature walks and architectural tours, with Architectural Advisor Toshihiro Oki, formerly of SANAA, savoring tea in the Pavilion, and enjoying two exhibitions—Common Good Through Crisis, designed by 2022 AIA Firm of the Year MASS Design Group, and Peace Forest, by Peter Miller of Palette Architecture and Shohei Yoshida of sy + a, both project architects on Grace Farms’ River building.

Next year’s Design for Freedom Summit is planned for March 26, 2024.

Grace Farms welcomed hundreds of attendees for the 2nd Annual Design for Freedom Summit on Thursday, March 30. Photo credit: Jacek Dolata

Since its launch in 2020, Design for Freedom has participated in projects around the world to reduce the risk of forced labor in material supply chains. Most recently completed are architect and artist Nina Cooke John’s Harriet Tubman monument located in Harriet Tubman Square in Newark, New Jersey, which was unveiled to the public on March 9, 2023. Cooke John is currently working on the exhibition Design for Freedom, that will open at Grace Farms in the fall. Grace Farms also worked with the Serpentine Pavilion project team to enhance material transparency and prioritize ethical procurement for the 2022 Pavilion, Black Chapel, designed by Theaster Gates. Additional information about Design for Freedom pilot projects can be found here.

The River building during the 2023 Design for Freedom Summit by Grace Farms. Photo credit: Jacek Dolata

Grace Farms has collaborated with 20 colleges and universities nationally and internationally to present Design for Freedom and educate future leaders. Leaders of Design for Freedom has also addressed audiences at Greenbuild, the AIA National Conference, COP 27 and the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Building (OBO) Industry Advisory Group Meeting. The Design for Freedom report, which was published in 2020, along with the Design for Freedom toolkit, are included in syllabi throughout the field. Both the report and toolkit can be downloaded from the Design for Freedom website.

Forced labor and human trafficking is an estimated $150 billion industry. The illegal use of forced labor across industrial sectors subsidizes corporate profits and has contributed to the expansion of this global industry. This criminal activity affects approximately 28 million people, mostly from impoverished communities or from areas of conflict and disasters. Design for Freedom seeks to address this pressing humanitarian crisis by creating a radical paradigm shift to design and build a more humane future.

Feature photo credit: Cristian Salazar