In his September 15 breakout session, "Citizen Architect," Steven A. Moore, Ph.D., told the audience that "we architects are too often seen as self-congratulatory artists" who are only "interested in self-expression." He then presented a program he founded that completely departs from that stereotype.

As a professor in the architecture school at The University of Texas at Austin, Moore launched the Alley Flat Initiative, which he described in the session as "an anti-gentrification tool."

A collaboration among the university and several local nonprofits, the initiative identifies alley lots in the lower-income area of East Austin that can accommodate secondary (also known as accessory) dwelling units. Moore explained how the program has progressed over the past few years to the point where two affordable, student-designed dwelling units have been built. Five more—some designed by students, others done pro bono by professionals—will start construction in January 2010.

Moore said he hoped the initiative would help "reconceptualize affordable housing from units of consumption to units of production"—perhaps contributing to the city by capturing stormwater or solar energy. He also emphasized that he sees the architect's role not as an instigator, but as a facilitator.

"A citizen architect is not one who initiates community change," he said. "A citizen architect is one who finds people who are already working on community change and helps them make informed choices."