Architecture Professor to Use AIA Grant to Help Portion of Houston’s Aging Population

April Ward Research

Photo credits: Shelby Skinner, Clifford Robinson, Kennia Lopez, April Ward

The American Institute of Architects’ Design for Aging Knowledge Community selected Assistant Professor Jessica April Ward in Prairie View A&M University’s School of Architecture as a 2019-2020 AIA Design for Aging Fellow. As a fellow, Ward will use a $10,000 grant to further research being done in PVAMU’s Regenerative Design Studio course – one of the classes she teaches.

“My research assistant Towana Davilmar and I will present this research at the Environments for Aging Expo & Conference at the end of the two-year period,” said Ward. “We look forward to connecting with a national knowledge community in the architectural profession whose mission is to ‘foster design innovation and disseminate knowledge necessary to enhance the built environment and quality of life for an aging society.’”

So what exactly does Ward and Davilmar’s research entail? “The project focuses on finding evidence-based regenerative design solutions for residents who are Aging in Post Disaster Neighborhoods who have been exposed to extended periods of environmental injustice and mega-storm damage. In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and left behind widespread devastation. The most vulnerable populations affected were seniors and young families with children,” said Ward.

The project should provide long-term housing solutions needed for effective disaster recovery. “The short-term benefits will happen when students and seniors share stories, work together and educate each other through the project. Co-designing their spaces and housing solutions, and giving them a voice in their future and legacy is an important requirement of just design. Of course, I have to thank Pastor T. Leon Preston II at Yale Street Baptist Church for facilitating the community-based component of the research,” said Ward. “In regards to this project overall, I’m honored to receive support and acknowledgment from the AIA. It is also great to be included in a cohort whose research focuses on the environment, with resident quality of life and wellness being at the forefront.”

By Marchita Shilo