The Just City Lab investigates the definition of urban justice and the just city and examines how design and planning contribute to the conditions of justice and injustice in cities, neighborhoods and the public realm.

Would we design better places if we put the values of equality, inclusion or equity first?  If a community articulated what it stood for, what it believed in, what it aspired to be – as a city; as a neighborhood – would it have a better chance of creating and sustaining more healthy, vibrant place with positive, economic, health, civic, cultural and environmental conditions.  Imagine that the issues of race, income, education and unemployment inequality, and the resulting segregation, isolation and fear, could be addressed by planning and designing for greater access, agency, ownership, beauty, diversity or empowerment.   Now imagine the Just City – the cities, neighborhoods and public spaces that thrive using a value-based approach to urban stabilization, revitalization and transformation. Imagine a set of values that would define a community’s aspiration for the Just City, and imagine that we can assign metrics to measure design’s impact justice, and image we can use these findings to design interventions that minimizing the conditions of injustice. 


The lab accomplishes this work through three project initiatives:

 Just City Essay Publications**:  Volume 1 was released in 2015 featuring 26 authors from 9 different countries.  A second volume is planned to further the discussion and debate about whether a truly just city is achievable.  A series of forums will also be planned, featuring best practices.

 Just City Indicator Project**The Just City Indicator Project is developing an indicator framework tool including an elaborate menu of urban values, indicators and metrics, both spatial and social,designed to evaluate how design of the built environment contributes to health, economic, civic, cultural, aesthetic and environmental design wellbeing.  The initial pilot project, “Public Life and Urban Justice in NYC’s Public Plaza’s” was completed in 2015 by Professor Griffin, with the J. Max Bond Center, Gehl Studios and Transportation Alternatives.  The second pilot project to create an indicator framework for the neighborhood scale is under development.  These issues are also explored through the GSD spring seminar, Design for the Just City.

 Just City Participatory Planning Approaches:  As part of the Just City Indicator Project, the lab will research and develop unique participatory tools that enable a community to define the values necessary to achieve their just city or just community.  The tools will also equip communities with the ability to collect and analyze neighborhood data to be entered into the indicator framework for evaluation of the presence of just and unjust conditions.

 ** Just City publications and indicator studies dated 2015 were developed by Professor Griffin at the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at the City College of New York, Spitzer School of Architecture.

Toni Griffin looks to the right. She is wearing black glasses and a leather jacket.

Toni L. Griffin

Professor in Practice of Urban Planning
Harvard Graduate School of Design

Toni L. Griffin is the founder of Urban Planning for the American City, based in New York.  Through the practice, Toni served as Project Director for the Detroit Work Project Long Term Planning initiative, and released Detroit Future City, a comprehensive citywide framework for urban transformation.  Current clients include the cities of Memphis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.

Toni is also Professor in Practice of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she will both teach and develop values-based planning methodologies through the Just City Design Lab. 

Most recently, Ms. Griffin was a Professor of Architecture and the founding Director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York.  Founded in 2011, the Center’s work focused on Legacy City DesignInitiative; Just City Design Indicators Project; and Inclusion in Architecture, examining the participation of people of color in architecture and related design fields.

Toni has held several public sector positions including, Director of Community Development for Newark, New Jersey; Vice President and Director of Design for the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation in Washington, DC; and Deputy Director for Revitalization and Neighborhood Planning for the DC Office of Planning.  She began her career as an architect with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP in Chicago, where she became an Associate Partner. 

Ms. Griffin received a Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Notre Dame and a Loeb Fellowship from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.  In 2014, Toni was the Visiting Associate Professor and Theodore B. and Doris Shoong Lee Chair in Real Estate Law and Urban Planning, in the Department of City and Regional Planning at University of California, Berkeley.