AFO Names Josymar Rodriguez 2021 Hatfield Scholar

May 14, 2021
graphic rendering of Portland city A design from the 'Pandemic Response for the Homeless' project by Josymar Rodriguez

The Architecture Foundation of Oregon (AFO) has named Josymar Rodriguez (MArch, class of 2021) a 2021 Hatfield Scholar. The scholarship recognizes architecture students who have demonstrated a commitment to community service and design excellence. There will be a virtual Hatfield Lunch honoring Rodriguez at 12:00 pm Monday, May 24.

Rodriguez received the scholarship on the heels of winning the 2020 COVID-19 Student Action Fund Award from the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

photo of Josymar Rodriguez

Both the AFO and CGI recognized Rodriguez for her commitment to improving living conditions and the built environment for unhoused and vulnerable populations. With support from the UO and the Student Action Fund Award, Rodriguez developed the project, “Pandemic Response for the Homeless,” which focused on the Portland homeless population and developing a wayfinding system.

“I study and live in Old Town, an area where urban blight coexists with new developments, social housing, and numerous organizations catering to the houseless, a community deeply affected by the COVID -19 pandemic,” Rodriguez wrote in her Hatfield application. “’Pandemic Response for the Homeless’” incorporated CDC guidelines and design suggestions to comply with social distancing practices and improve public spaces, aiming to foster healthy relations between us all. Understanding streets as landscapes of care and nourishment places to safely access food, health resources, employment, and much more.”

Associate Architecture Professor Nancy Cheng describes the pandemic project as provocative. “It invites the unhoused to inhabit the city with dignity alongside the majority population, rather than assuming that society can banish or hide the underclass,” Cheng explained. “The booklet illustrates how tactical investments could provide essential services for hygiene, waste collection, and donation distribution alongside urban amenities such as greenery, gathering spaces, and market stalls”

"As architects, we have the responsibility to design how we inhabit the planet. We have to own it, care for it, and do so by building fairness and justice through our acts."
—Josymar Rodriguez

Rodriguez, who moved to Oregon from Venezuela in 2019, also co-founded the nonprofit INCURSIONES in her hometown of Caracas. The nonprofit focuses on working with vulnerable communities to address critical aspects of the Venezuelan crisis: food insecurity, urban violence, and social disintegration.

Photos of a Venezuela architecture project A design from the INCURSIONES nonprofit in Venezuela

For her last project with the nonprofit before leaving Venezuela, Rodriguez helped renovate three community kitchens for an NGO that works to alleviate child malnutrition.

“As architects, we have the responsibility to design how we inhabit the planet. We have to own it, care for it, and do so by building fairness and justice through our acts,” Rodriguez wrote of her work. “I am committed to developing new ideas for transforming our spaces, overcoming discriminatory practices, and leading our way forward through design as the tool to imagine and build spaces for love, spaces for all.”

Justin Fowler, director of the Portland Architecture Program, calls Rodriguez’s work relentlessly imaginative and attuned to real community needs.

“For Josymar, architecture always emerges as a critical vehicle for communication, mutual support, and collective action—it’s a social act,” Fowler said. “I’m thrilled that AFO is recognizing Josymar and furthering the kind of work that is so central to the ethos of the School of Architecture & Environment and the Portland program.”

a graphic design for the unhoused in Portland during the pandemic A design from the 'Pandemic Response for the Homeless' project