Libby Bland came to planning and design through a passion for understanding how the narratives of place differ based on whose voice is prioritized. At Asakura Robinson, this has been best reflected in her work on Harris County’s first affordable housing study, and on the Harris County Transportation Equity Study. Through both of these projects, she is working to ensure that community members who are not typically involved in planning processes are given a voice in the decisions that are made about their neighborhoods. Libby is also pursuing this focus in the re-launch of the Neighbors program, where Asakura Robinson provides pro-bono design and planning services to communities that are not traditionally given access to professional resources.
She completed concurrent master’s degrees in Architecture and City and Regional Planning with a focus in Community and Economic Development at the University of Pennsylvania. Her graduate thesis between the two departments studied the history of rural, Southern Black placemaking and self-planning from before the Civil War to modern-day. After moving to Texas, Libby worked at the statewide housing justice organization, Texas Housers, as a Neighborhood Equity Planner and Analyst, where her research-informed several lawsuits around inequitable housing, and environmental justice issues. Through this work, she also helped local community groups advocate for themselves and their neighbors.
Libby was chosen by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the fifth cohort of the Culture of Health Leaders. Through this grant, she will be given professional leadership training, and will work in Houston to build an initiative around how affordable housing and supportive services can contribute to a culture of health. Formerly, she was chosen to be a fellow of Katherine McGovern School of the Arts and Project Row Houses’ socially engaged arts fellowship where she continued her studies of how different narrative lenses overlap in rapidly gentrifying communities. She was also chosen to be a member of the inaugural class of Interchange Fellows through the Mid America Arts Alliance where she is continuing her research around neighborhood preservation.
If you could work on a project anywhere in the world where would it be?
The South Carolina Lowcountry
Where do you get your design inspiration from?
I am passionate about the the ingenuity and creativity of Black communities across the African diaspora.
If you had a superpower to make a bigger impact on communities/ cities/ or environments what superpower would you have?
I’m a little weary of superpower/magic fixes to systemic issues, because they oversimplify the complicated issues around racism, classism, sexism, and economic inequality. That being said, I wish that I could help everyone to be more empathetic, because I think that humanizing the “other” goes a long way in helping us to make more equitable city planning decisions.