Former First Lady Michelle Obama gave a keynote speech on the first day of the AIA Conference on Architecture, which is currently in session in Orlando, Florida. Over 45 minutes, Obama spoke to AIA’s president Tom Vonier about cities and the role of architects there, urging them to work on projects in low-income communities:
Yes there are the projects that happen downtown—that important building, that important park—but there's also those community centers, those parks and district facilities, the homes, the opportunities that you have to make a neighborhood beautiful for a family or a child that feels like no one cares. So I would urge you all to think about that, as you look at the next project that you take.
According to Dezeen, Obama said that after downtown areas receive the already-limited funding to improve infrastructure and other facilities, the people outside of the city center are left with “crumbling” schools and neighborhoods that feel “like another planet.” "When you run out of resources, who's the last to get the resources? The kids outside the circle," said the former First Lady.
Obama, who has worked for the city of Chicago as an assistant to the mayor as well Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development, also acknowledged the costs required to keep cities flourishing:
Cities are a complex, big, messy enterprise. And they're expensive. To have a city with millions of people—with dense populations, great architecture, economic development, commercial development—and when you think about what it takes to run a city—the infrastructure, pot-hole repairs, traffic safety, you name it... it is expensive. It takes an investment. If we're going to have cities, then we have to invest. Which means you have to pay taxes, and we have to know that it requires money.
We have spent a lot of time looking at structures and models. [Tod and Billie] have been phenomenal... They've been getting to understand the South Side of Chicago, because that is our home town [...] So we have been blessed to have architects who are thinking about the big picture of what buildings mean in the lifeblood of a community.