When he's not working out of City Hall, Maurice Cox is an associate professor at the University of Virginia's School of Architecture and a founding partner of RBGC Architecture, Research & Urbanism. He's also one of the country's foremost practitioners of democratic design: That is, he understands that design's impact grows when the designer allies himself with many partners. In the poor black community of Bayview, hundreds of miles from Charlottesville, Cox helped lead a six-year, $10 million effort to rebuild the village. He organized town meetings and involved residents in every major planning decision, from determining which houses to bulldoze to outlining the project's final scope and character. Today, Bayview is becoming a national model for community-led design. "Maurice gave people a voice," says Bryan Bell, founder of Design Corps, a nonprofit architecture firm that builds affordable housing. "Bayview is a self-determined community of people who [once] lacked self-determination. The signature of this place is theirs."
A version of this article appeared in the June 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.