Mercado Central in Minneapolis, MN.

MN Impact: Designing for Culturally Enriched Communities

September 30, 2020


As the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color and the global call for racial justice demonstrated, securing Minnesota’s and the nation’s prosperous future is inextricably linked to identifying and addressing systems of exclusion. Minnesota consistently ranks among the top 10 states in the country in terms of quality of life. Yet, the state experiences some of the widest health, income, and educational disparities between people of color and Whites. This project’s premise is that the built environment can be used to create Culturally Enriched Communities (CEC), healthy and connected communities in which everyone can thrive, and is an instrumental facet of efforts to eliminate disparities.

What has been done

In partnership with the Urban Land Institute MN, the Regional Council of Mayors and the Center for Small towns, interviews were conducted with elected officials, planners and policymakers from 20 communities/municipalities around the state with an aim of identifying best practices and challenges to creating Culturally Enriched Communities. These design interventions inform CEC’s eight principles: Synergistic Communities, People-Centered Communities, Globally-Oriented Communities, Meaning-Making Communities, Relationship-Building Communities, Health-Supporting Communities, Capability-Building Communities, and Innovation-Driven Communities.

Culturally Enriched Communities logo.

Given that eliminating disparities cannot be accomplished by one discipline or sector alone, CEC is inherently a multi-disciplinary/multi-sectoral effort that brings together knowledge and insights from design along with health, sociology, geography, education, politics, business, and public policy. An inherent aspect of CEC is providing solutions where all sectors can come together–from federal, state, and local governments to public safety officials, educators, health providers, businesses, faith leaders, city planners, designers, and citizen advocates–to denounce racism, injustice, and marginalization in all forms.

In addition to lessons from Minnesota, the CEC database of design interventions now includes Copenhagen, one of the world’s healthiest cities. The goal is to continue to expand the resource with best practices from cities around the US and the world.


The Culturally Enriched Communities website fuses interdisciplinary research findings with design-related best practices that can be used to eliminate health, income, and educational racial disparities and strengthen the economic and cultural vitality of neighborhoods, cities, regions, and states. Using a website as a dissemination format enables us to share a greater number of best practices and to share them widely, with design practitioners, educators, policy officials, and advocates from Minnesota and beyond. The database is searchable by building type and location, enabling advocates to foster synergies with others in their area.

Once the pandemic hit last March, Professor Tasoulla Hadjiyanni (Interior Design) and her team used the CEC platform to feature design interventions to COVID-19 from around the world along with information on vulnerable populations that could benefit from attention. And then in May, following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, they created Landscapes of Hope, a research project undertaken in the Twin Cities that documented the stories of over 200 buildings impacted by the protests, elaborating on how the design of the built environment can pave the way for social and racial justice.
The CEC website had over 5,000 visits in the last 30 days.

American Indian Cultural Corridor street view.

The American Indian Cultural Corridor’s name and conceptual identity is the work of the Minneapolis-based Native American Community Development Institute. The goal is to re-brand the traditional heart of the city's Native American community as a place where both Indians and tourists can enjoy Native American food, art, and culture on Franklin Avenue and in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota.