Deanna Van Buren

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Deanna Van Buren

Funded with support from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation
2016 Black Male Achievement Fellow
Founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces with Kyle Rawlins

Deanna Van Buren 2016 Black Male Achievement Fellow

Bold Idea 

Counter societal inequities evident in the dominant architectural models of courthouses and prisons by engaging communities in the design and development of buildings that integrate restorative justice, economics, education, and reentry housing.


Deanna Van Buren helps an incarcerated student with his design. Photo courtesy of Lee Romney.


Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS) believes that the built environment embodies many of our society’s gross inequities. DJDS, therefore, seeks to transform the lives of black men, boys, and their communities of care through innovations in architecture and real estate development. With its nonprofit, government, and community partners, DJDS works to create new prototypes, such as peacemaking centers, mobile classrooms, and housing for foster-age youth. Together, they harness the power of the built environment to create triple-bottom-line equity and support the success and expansion of restorative justice, education, and workforce development programs.


Deanna Van Buren is co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, a nonprofit harnessing the power of design and development to transform people and communities. After starting her first company in 2011, she became a national leader in formulating and advocating for restorative justice centers, a radical transformation of justice architecture. Her passion for exploring the intersection of design and culture has been fueled by her work as a design lead on urban design, institutional, and education projects in the Bay Area, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Recent projects with DJDS include the Syracuse Peacemaking Center in New York and Restore, a multi-use hub for restorative justice and workforce development in East Oakland, California. Deanna is currently conducting the first design studios with incarcerated students and is a recent awardee of the Rauschenberg Artist as Activist grant to develop a prototype mobile resource village. Deanna received her BS in architecture from the University of Virginia and her MArch from Columbia University, and is an alumnus of the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

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