Designing Gender Inclusive Spaces

How does design impact gendered experience? Or rather, how does gendered experience impact design? Historically, design has neglected the needs of women, girls, transgender people, and gender minorities. In recent years, designers have worked to change gender-biased systems in their practice. Join us for a conversation with architects and urban designers as they consider the role that design plays in creating safe and inclusive spaces for all genders.

This panel is being held in conjunction with Cooper Hewitt’s Designing Peace exhibition. In context of their work, panelists will discuss the obligation that architects and designers have in protecting the public’s health, welfare, and safety. Lori Brown will speak on safe access to abortion clinics. Seb Choe will discuss the equitable design of public restrooms. Chelina Odbert will share about gender-inclusive urban planning. Cooper Hewitt curator Cynthia E. Smith will moderate the discussion and audience Q&A.

About the Program

  • Program Length: 75 minutes
  • Interactivity Level: Low
  • Intended Audience: People curious about design, architecture, urban design, social justice, and gender studies. No previous design or design history knowledge is required.


Lori Brown’s (she/her) creative practice examines the relationships between architecture and social justice with an emphasis on gender and its impact on spatial relationships. She is the author of Contested Spaces: Abortion Clinics, Women’s Shelters and Hospitals, the editor of Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture and the forthcoming Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture, 1960-2015 co-edited with Dr. Karen Burns. She co-founded and leads ArchiteXX, a gender equity in architecture organization in New York City. Brown is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a 2021 Architectural League of New York Emerging Voices recipient. She is a Professor at the School of Architecture at Syracuse University and a registered architect in New York state.

Seb Choe (they/them) is an architectural activist and community organizer based in New York and Hawai’i. Choe is Associate Director of JSA/MIXdesign, an architecture studio and inclusive design consultancy that works to make everyday building types, including restrooms, university campuses, and art museums, accessible and welcoming to people of different ages, cultures, disabilities, genders, and religions. Choe is a director with Friends of Gadsden Creek, an environmental justice campaign based in Charleston, and regularly works as an educator with marginalized youth across the country. Choe’s creative practice, which spans music, film, and writing, has been featured in The New York Times, 99% Invisible, PIN-UP Magazine, and the 2021 Venice Biennale. Choe holds a B.A in Architecture from Columbia University.

A portrait of a woman with medium-light skin tone looking to camera. She has curly light brown hair and wears a black collared jacket.Chelina Odbert (she/her) believes in the power of community-engaged design to advance racial, environmental, and economic equity in neighborhoods and cities. As Founding Principal and Chief Executive Officer of National Design Award-winning firm Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), she aims to bring good design to under-resourced communities and connects localized design interventions to large-scale policy change. Recognized by the Aspen Institute, Ashoka Changemakers, and Van Alen Institute, she has also been named an Emerging Voice by The Architectural League of New York and a Knight Foundation Public Space Fellow. Odbert has held teaching appointments at Harvard Graduate School of Design and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She earned a BA from Claremont McKenna College and a Master of Urban Planning from Harvard University.

Cynthia E. Smith (Moderator) (she/her) serves as Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s Curator of Socially Responsible Design organizing an exhibition and publication series on humanitarian-focused design. She integrates her training as an industrial designer with her advocacy on human rights and social justice issues, serves on international design juries, and lectures widely on socially responsible design. Her most recent exhibition Designing Peace is on view in New York until August 2023.


  • Location: This program will take place in person in the Lecture Room at Cooper Hewitt (2 East 91st Street, New York, NY). The Lecture Room is on the ground floor of the museum and fully wheelchair accessible. There is an accessible restroom on the same floor. Theater-style seating will be available. There will be an option to watch the panel virtually on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel. Read more about accessibility at Cooper Hewitt.
  • What to Expect: This program will include brief presentations with slides by speakers, followed by a moderated conversation and an audience Q&A. Prior to the start of the program, in-person attendees can view Designing Peace. The program will be livestreamed and available on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel. In-person tickets are required. Virtual tickets are encouraged. The program will be recorded and available on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel.
  • Accommodations: The program includes live CART captioning.
  • For general questions, please email us at You may submit a question in advance for our speakers. If we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, email us or let us know when registering. Please make your accommodation request as far in advance as possible—preferably at least one week before the program date when possible.

Health & Safety Measures

Please visit Cooper Hewitt’s Plan Your Visit page for up-to-date information on health and safety guidelines.

Special Thanks

Designing Peace is made possible with lead support from

Circular logo symbol next to [FORD FOUNDATION]

Major support is provided by Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer.

Generous support is also provided by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Helen and Edward Hintz, and the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery Endowment Fund.

Additional support is provided by Agnes Gund, the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York as part of the Dutch Culture USA program, the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund, the Netherland-America Foundation, the Norwegian Consulate General, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

In-kind support is provided by Tretford Americas and Consolidated Flooring.