Libby Bland came to planning and design through a passion for understanding how the narratives of place differ based on whose voice is prioritized. Her undergraduate studies at Sarah Lawrence College culminated in a thesis about how community building in displaced minority spaces intersects with design. 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 until now. While in Philadelphia, she also worked on several oral history projects around neighborhood displacement, and a community led urban farm redesign.Since 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. In 2019, Libby 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 a narratives 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.