City Managers’ Design Academy: Overview

The American Architectural Foundation’s Center for Design and the City launched the City Managers’ Design Academy to provide key decision-makers in U.S. communities the opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills and engage with peers and design professionals around the planning for and implementing of the most critical civic projects; commercial and residential rehabilitation and infill, multi-modal transportation systems, affordable housing, open space, and green infrastructure.

The City Managers’ Design Academy (CMDA) program launched in 2015, with one session in April and one in October. Both academies were held in Dallas, Texas where city manager participants witnessed firsthand the city’s transformation through strategic design decisions. Through a generous gift from the Edward W. Rose, III Family Fund of The Dallas Foundation, all participants invited are sponsored to attend the event in Dallas and receive pro bono advice from AAF’s curated design resource team.

CMDA’s programming spans three days and provides intimate groups of civic leaders (city managers, county officials, and economic development and planning directors) the opportunity to present specific design challenges from their communities. After presenting their case studies, participants receive feedback from their peers and from a diverse group of renowned designers working throughout the U.S. These design experts share best practices that respond with innovative solutions to the challenges brought forth by the participants. Throughout three days of discussion, reflection, and retreat, AAF provides an intimate and collegial format for the select group of civic leaders and design professionals to build trust and solve some of their most pressing civic design challenges.

As part of Center for Design & the City, the City Managers’ Design Academy furthers AAF’s commitment to support civic leaders on issues related to design, leadership, and sustainability. CMDA joins the Center’s marquee initiatives including the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD), which for 20 years was a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with AAF and the United States Conference of Mayors, and the Sustainable Cities Design Academy. Together they have provided development and technical assistance to over 1,000 communities leaders in over 300 U.S. cities. Through this work, AAF has developed a firsthand understanding of the best ways to provide resources and support to leaders as they give shape and form to their evolving communities.

For further details on the City Managers’ Design Academy or 2017 sessions, please contact Elizabeth Okeke-Von Batten, Director of AAF’s Center for Design & the City, at or 202.787.1017.

Image courtesy of Robert Hensley.

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Posted in: Center for Design & the City, City Managers’ Design Academy
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