Liz Ogbu is a designer, grief worker, and activist who lives to use human-centered design to make communities better—more functional, more inclusive, more beautiful. She’s well-known for using place-based repair and grief work as a catalyst for community healing. . Watch Liz’s powerful TED talk, “What if gentrification was about healing communities instead of displacing them?” Whether designing shelters for immigrant day laborers in the U.S., or a water and health social enterprise for low-income Kenyans, Liz leads a process that treats the “clients” as collaborators, leveraging design to address systemic harm, catalyze community healing, and foster environments that support people’s capacity to thrive. An Oakland native, she is adjunct faculty at the Stanford d.school and the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of a social impact design studio, Studio O. In 2023, she was an inaugural University Fellow at the University of Virginia. Her projects have been featured in museum exhibitions and received numerous design awards globally. Liz and her work have been profiled in publications such as the Boston Globe and Metropolis Magazine.
She earned the 2022 Arnold W. Brunner Grant for Architectural Research focused on examining the intersection of grief and space; the 2023 Changemakers Authors Cohort; the Local Initiatives Support Corporation Rubinger Fellowship; the 2019 Titan Award from the International Interior Design Association; and her TED Talk has been viewed more than a million times
Oh, and did we mention she’s one of only a few hundred African-American architects in the country? (It’s something she’s actively working to change.) And did we mention she’s the kind of speaker who brings stunning images along, and makes you want to expect more from the places where you live, learn, and work? Now you know.
I'm an architect that doesn't design buildings. I design opportunities for impact.
The irony is that in many of the places that I find myself working, people's need and—equally important—aspirations have always been there.
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