Why Future Architects Gather

Jacob Ellenberg
Published in
5 min readDec 19, 2019


Future architects have been gathering for a long time. Millenia even. Perhaps longer.

Ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, Bayt Al-Hikma, Akbar’s Court, Ilé-Ifẹ̀, Al-Andalus, Bell Labs, and Black Mountain come to mind.

There are more, known and unknown.

But, for the first time, on November 7th, 2019 we met under the name Future Architects.

We met because we were invited by Sharon Chang (Founder, Guild of Future Architects) and Kamal Sinclair (Executive Director, Guild of Future Architects). We met because our curiosity drew us. We met because trying to have a positive impact in the world can be difficult, frustrating, and at times lonely work. We met because someone rose a banner to gather under. We met because of a dual possibility that we might find camaraderie among fellow agents of change and perhaps receive some valued forms of support for our collaborative work. We met because we trust Sharon and/or Kamal. We met because we know that philanthropic funds can be deployed more effectively, and we know this, because we do so. We met because the vision of a Guild of practitioners developing a craft around evolving systems (social, tech, industrial, economic, political) to be more just, equitable, and ultimately more beautiful for more people is a vision that spoke to something in us that still dreams and hopes and strives for exactly that.

And in meeting we were moved.

We were moved by the smell of burnt sage, the texture of cornmeal rubbed against our palms, and the sounds of an opening ceremony offered by Miguel Rivera that acknowledged the lands, the four directions, and called upon the wisdom of the ancestors of all people. Moved by Sharon and Kamal’s humility to invite us all into the process of the Guild’s co-creation. Moved by how NYU Tisch Dean Allyson Green opened the doors to their new MTA (media, technology, art) building in Brooklyn, and said that we, too, could call it home. Moved by the master facilitation of Melinda Weekes-Laidlow as her steady hand guided us into spaces of collective vulnerability, resonance, and trust. Moved in being guided to see each other beyond the pale of crafted social facades, status jockeying, and entrepreneurial niceties. We were moved to see clearly. And moved as we were clearly seen.

And in being moved we opened.

We opened to hope. We opened to dream. Opened to pursue our visions of a more beautiful world with the support of a Guild and its members at our backs. Opened to learn about how to be more effective in our work. Opened to help others in theirs. Opened to the possibility that how we pursue change is a craft. We opened to the perspective that how a group operates is at least as important as what it does.

And in being opened we learned.

We learned through experience that vulnerability’s reflex is trust and group bonding. We learned through example that “Shared Futures” may be a new, yet age-old approach to pursuing systemic societal change. Learned that Shared Futures allow groups the time and space to imagine, reflect, and experiment through myriad forms: a business, a non-profit, a movement, a fund, a study, or a work of art. We learned about Shared Futures underway within the Guild: InSite Baltimore(Baltimore), Community Properties(New London), Beyond Prisons(Los Angeles), Radical Imagination(NYC/LA), If Africa(Africa), Citizen Artists(USA). Learned that Shared Futures come in numerous shapes, sizes, and intentions. Learned that they are changing the world. Learned we want to start our own. We learned that lunch time wasn’t long enough to meet all the incredible future architects present. Depending on who we spoke with, we learned about advances in AI, contemplative technologies, the role of speculative fiction in urban planning, afrofuturism, and much more. Learned that once engaged in conversation, the mouths of future architects adhere to Newton’s first law of motion, and won’t stop moving unless acted on by an outside force. Learned that herding future architects to their next session is not a task to wish on anyone. Learned that the deep harmonic call from conch shell is surprisingly motivating. We learned that fellow future architects sometimes see facets of us and our work more clearly than we see ourselves. We learned that through those in the room the Guild may have catalyzing impact on a vast range of fields and industries.

And in learning we committed.

We committed to explore, shape, and actualize the potential inherent in Shared Futures and Future Architecture. We committed to help shape the next convening. Committed to offer assistance to each other. Committed to stay in touch, on and offline. Committed to accept the resources being offered by foundations, because they see the Guild as a true innovator in next generation philanthropy and business. And we committed, each in our own way, to help refine, strengthen, and amplify that innovation through our own collaborations and resources.

And in committing we create.

We create a powerful network of future architects. We create many and varied Shared Futures ranging from agriculture reform to reimagined urban planning. We create a future where imagining and shaping culture is not the domain of only the economically privileged, but a pursuit democratized to all. Through practice, debate, and iteration we create a shared lexicon that articulates the craft and discipline of Future Architecture. Through applied lean prototyping, we create a new wave of philanthropy unburdened by antiquated habits of unresponsive strategic planning. Using principles of ethical design, we create spaces of radical diversity and inclusion to facilitate dialogue, healing, ownership, and peace. With open hearts and clear minds, we create conditions for personal, collective, and cultural transformation. Provoked by the grand challenges before humanity, we create opportunities for institutions to deploy resources more effectively and with far greater impact.

And in creating we fulfill.

We, members of GoFA, fulfill our purpose to instigate a hundred years of cultural realignment to the earth, human, and life-centric values we need to survive and thrive as a species. We as individuals fulfill that heartfelt drive to help shape the world into the beauty we know that it can be, has been, will be, and is. We fulfill the impulse to be a beacon for others who seek change rooted in honesty, compassion, equity, justice and beauty.

In the end, we fulfill what it means to be Future Architects.