Liz Ogbu
A designer, urbanist, and spatial justice activist, Liz is an expert on engaging and transforming unjust urban environments. Her multidisciplinary design and innovation practice, Studio O, operates at the intersection of racial and spatial justice. She collaborates with/in communities in need to leverage design to catalyze sustained social impact.

From designing shelters for immigrant day laborers in the U.S. to a water and health social enterprise for low-income Kenyans to developing a Social Impact Protocol for housing with university researchers and LISC. Liz has a long history of working on and advocating for issues of spacial and racial justice. Her work blends community-centered research methodologies, dynamic and creative forms of engagement and prototyping, spatially just architecture and planning principles, and tools to build participatory power and community-centered systems. Her clients have included the Oakland Museum of California, Jacaranda Health, Piedmont Housing Alliance, and Pacific Gas & Electric. And her network of collaborators have been equally dynamic including the likes of HealthxDesign, envelope a+d, Ideas + Action, and the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise (Cornell).

Liz has been actively involved in shaping two of the world’s pioneering public interest design nonprofits. In 2011, she was part of the inaugural class of Innovators-in-Residence at IDEO.org, IDEO’s sister nonprofit dedicated to fostering global poverty reduction through design and innovation. Prior to that, she was Design Director at Public Architecture, a national nonprofit mobilizing designers to improve communities through design.

In addition to her practice work, Liz has had a long commitment to bringing social impact work into the classroom where her courses and research explore opportunities at intersection of design, innovation, and community engagement. She previously taught at the California College of the Arts for several years, and in 2012, held an appointment as the inaugural Scholar in Residence at the school’s Center for Art and Public Life. She has also held academic appointments at UC Berkeley and Stanford’s d.school, and served as the Visiting Porter Chair in Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture during the Spring 2017 semester. Previously, she served as the Droga Architect-In-Residence in Australia, investigating urban marginalized populations and community development practices in the country.

Liz lectures often on issues of social and spatial justice. Previous appearances include the Aspen Ideas Festival, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Chicago Humanities Festival, and  TED Women. Her 2013 TEDx Talk and 2017 TED Talk have been viewed over a million times. Her work and TED Talk were also featured on NPR’s TED Radio Hour. She has also written for and been profiled in publications such as the New York Times, Atlantic’s City Lab, Next City, Places Journal, and the Journal of Urban Design. Her work has also been widely exhibited, including at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and Rotterdam Biennale. Among her honors include 2009 Holcim Global Innovation Prize, Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council, IIDA Titan Award, and YBCA 100.

Liz earned her Bachelor of Arts in architecture from Wellesley College and Master of Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.

Select Honors

2020 Argon Award of Excellence in Sustainability | Fast Company Southface Institute, 2020

IIDA Titan Award | IIDA, 2019

Droga Architect in Residence | Australian Institute of Architects, 2016

YBCA 100 | Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 2016

Public Interest Design Top 100 | PublicInterestDesign.org, 2013

Design Vanguard | Next City, 2012

Senior Fellow | Design Futures Council, 2011

Global Innovation Award (Day Labor Station) | Holcim Foundation, 2009

Research Fund Grant | US Green Building Council, 2008