Design With Love: A Conversation with Katie Swenson

On Thursday 12/3 Brick & Wonder members gathered for a conversation with Katie Swenson, Senior Principal at MASS Design Group and author of two new books launched in 2020, In Bohemia and Design With Love: At Home In America

Brick & Wonder members can access a recording of the session in our private member’s site, here

About Design With Love:

Design with Love (Schiffer Publishing, 2020) is a photography essay, documenting the work of Rose Fellows from 2000 to the present, written by Katie Swenson and with photos by Harry Connolly.

The book dives into the work of 10 architects and designers who have embedded with 10 community development projects during their Rose Fellowships, lifting up the voices of the fellows and community members.

About Katie Swenson: 

Katie is a nationally recognized design leader, researcher, writer, and educator. She joined MASS Design Group on February 1, 2020. Previously the vice president of Design & Sustainability at Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a national nonprofit that has invested over $43.6 billion in community development, Katie is an expert in affordable housing, community development, and leadership cultivation. Katie also founded Enterprise’s National Design Initiative, directing the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute, the Pre-Development Design Grant, and the Rose Fellowship. The Rose Fellowship connects emerging architectural designers and cultural practitioners with local community development organizations to facilitate an inclusive approach to development, resulting in sustainable and affordable communities. 

The Enterprise Rose Fellowship work has been showcased at the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the New York Center for Architecture, and the National Building Museum and recognized by the American Institute of Architects for its groundbreaking work. 

Key Insights: 

  • 29.9% of Americans (93.6m) live close to poverty
  • 11.8% of Americans live in poverty
  • 5.3% live in deep poverty
  • In the US, less than 5% of all housing units are subsidized to be affordable. In Europe, roughly 20% of housing is subsidized. 

MASS Design Group is structured as a non-profit organization. 80% of the firm’s income comes from fee-for-design services. 20% is from philanthropy. 100% of it’s efforts are mission oriented.

Memorable Quotes:

“85 percent of the homes in Pine Ridge are trailers – flimsy, inefficient, structures that immediately depreciate in value, undermining any chance of building equity and passing on generational wealth. This outcome reflects a stunning mismatch between the American banking system and the needs of people on the reservation: lenders won’t finance site-built homes on a reservation because they can’t foreclose on the land.”


“Beauty cracks open the door. If it’s a good building, then people feel good about it.” The building becomes part of the urban fabric, and rather than protesting the residents, neighbors focus on the valuable addition to the neighborhood.”


References & Resources: 

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein (Available on Amazon)

Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap (Netflix)

Designing The We: A For-Benefit Social Design Studio

Subsidized Housing in the United States (Wikipedia)

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