Joshua A. Foster, NOMA, Assoc. AIA - Founder & CEO, JAF Creative Solutions
Joshua A. Foster, NOMA, Assoc. AIA - Founder & CEO, JAF Creative Solutions


Questions for Joshua A. Foster, NOMA, Assoc. AIA – Founder & CEO, JAF Creative Solutions

1. When did you realize architecture was your calling, and what were some defining experiences that shaped your personal values and outlook on the built environment?

Some of my fondest childhood memories are from the drives through the city of Philadelphia in the back seat of our family car. As my parents now tell me, they can remember me sitting in the back with the window open, intently looking at all of the buildings, studying the people going in and out of them, listening to all of the sounds of the city, and telling them all about it when we reached our destination. These experiences fostered my love for the built environment and by my junior year of high school, I began to piece together that love of cities with the goal of pursuing architecture as a career. The defining moment in my career though was when I realized that architecture itself was in fact not my calling. It was then that I realized my calling is to help others maximize and reach the height of their potential. For me, architecture is simply a tool in which I can provide communities with the spaces to thrive and live out the fullness of their own callings.

2. Who are some architects or individuals who inspire you in your pursuit of social justice and equitable design? What qualities or achievements of theirs resonate with you the most?

My inspiration comes from all of those around me that I interact with on a daily basis. The sum of the experiences that I have and the stories that I listen to from those who have different experiences than myself equals the foundation for equitable design. I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine, John, who is the founder of 100 Fold Studio, an international non-profit architecture firm based in Montana. He mentioned that the way he views his network is as a constellation. This resonated with me because, in the architecture profession, we seem to be enamored by the design achievements of individual stars—aka starchitects. While there are indeed individuals whose talent can stand alone, I believe that there is great power in the collective of individuals who come together to create something beautiful—aka constellations. So every single person that I connect with and add to my own constellation inspires me to continue on the pursuit of social justice and equitable design.

3. Imagine you have been granted limitless resources to address a specific social justice issue through architecture. What problem would you tackle, and how would your ideal solution look and function?

I’d like to answer this question by grounding it in an idea that isn’t as lofty as needing to be granted limitless resources but instead is based on the need for intentional commitment. Imagine a world where 1 + 1 equals 100. This scenario is based on a standard I’ve been developing where dedicating at least 2%—1% design and 1% construction—of total project costs to community impact initiatives, yields a 100% impact return for both public and private sector building projects. This approach is rooted in the principle that every project, regardless of its end user, holds the potential to foster significant community impact. A clear financial commitment to this standard aims to bridge the gap between profitability and social impact. By allocating 1% of design fees and 1% of construction fees towards community impact facilitation and implementation, this standard underscores the notion that investments in the community can align with development, design, and construction. Whether the project program serves a direct community purpose or not, embedding a commitment to community impact from the start ensures a broader and more inclusive consideration of success while demonstrating that every project can be a catalyst for sustainable growth and community impact. As you can tell, I may have thought about this idea at least a few times!

4. What advice would you give to young architects or aspiring design professionals who are passionate about social change and want to use their creativity to make a difference?

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The essence of this quote by Theodore Roosevelt lies in its emphasis on empathy and engagement. Understanding this quote in the context of our profession means recognizing that technical knowledge and creative excellence, while critical, are not enough on their own. The true impact is achieved when architects and design professionals demonstrate a genuine concern for the well-being of those they are designing for. So as emerging architects and design professionals, get up and get out of the office. The sooner you get into the community, the sooner you can make a genuine impact.

Joshua A. Foster, NOMA, Assoc. AIA – Founder & CEO, JAF Creative Solutions

Joshua A. Foster is an award-winning community builder, architectural designer, educator, and speaker. He is the Founder and CEO of JAF — a community-impact focused consulting firm empowering the AEC and real estate industry with the tools to maximize impact in the built environment. Joshua also serves on multiple local and national non-profit boards including, the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), the Long Beach Community Design Center, Architecture + Advocacy, and the USC Architectural Guild. A native of the Philadelphia area, Joshua is a graduate of both Columbia University and the University of Southern California.