sustainable community development and problem-solving through holistic design and planning

About the Vermont Design Institute

The Vermont Design Institute (VDI) is a non-profit organization of design professionals formed as a resource and design center to serve grassroots communities in Vermont and elsewhere. VDI has been in existence since 1993 when it was born out of an outreach effort by the Vermont Council on the Arts.

VDI has been a stand-alone organization since 1995 and has expanded to serve places beyond our own region with a diversity of projects—from designing a school for children below the poverty level in Sikkim and community gardens and learning-playgrounds for children in Johannesburg to affordable housing, small town market centers, land conservation, and ecosystems protection for rural towns in Vermont.

VDI is a collaborative of professionals with expertise in architecture, historic preservation, landscape architecture, transportation and regional planning, natural resource protection, ecological economics, and land conservation.

The Vermont Design Institute is incorporated in the State of Vermont. We are supported by the Vermont Arts Council and the Preservation Trust of Vermont, among others. Our mission is to facilitate community planning and design at the local level; provide hands-on education about creating livable, sustainable communities meeting the needs of a climate-neutral future; and promote holistic design as a transformative tool for problem-solving.

Vermont Design Institute Programs

VDI functions as a resource and design center providing expertise in community visioning, design and planning services which meet community needs, hands-on activities which engage the public in decision-making, and facilitation of implementation and transformation. We believe that design tools are critical to solving our current socio-physical problems and to the transforming of our communities into climate-neutral places for all. Our programs involve working with rural communities and urban neighborhoods to empower them in their redevelopment and transformation. This may include enhancement of the village center, development of a network of trails and open space, solving transportation conflicts, strengthening historic places through restoration, or envisioning the greening and healing of old industrial sites as wilderness areas within our cities. VDI provides design resources and expertise to develop community visioning, creates design and planning drawings, and empower implementation through hands-on workshops, contracted projects, and pro bono programs. The contracted projects are most often grant-funded and matched through local participation.

Community Design Charrettes

The Vermont Design Institute organizes one community design charrette per year. VDI matches professional design expertise with local knowledge to address design issues concerning strength of historic villages, solutions to gateway and circulation issues, build-out scenarios for critical parcels of land, viability of local food systems, and linkages between the natural and built environments. Aimed at enhancing sustainability, the charrettes focus on empowering local participation in community change, enhancement, and transformation.

Innovative Design Courses

The Design Institute is involved in programs at the elementary school through university level. VDI created “Footprints toward Sustainbility” and “Design is Elementary” programs for school children and teaches service-learning studio courses at the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA.

Design Workshops and Conferences

The focus of workshops and conferences is to offer design-thinking and problem-solving as a community building tool to lay-practitioners and municipal leaders. VDI offers workshops on community design and planning, ecological design and restoration, transportation planning for people, historic preservation and land conservation. VDI has facilitated several design conferences including the international Sustainable Communities 2004 conference and the State of Vermont Smart Growth conference in 1993.

Publications and Outreach

VDI has “VDQ” design newsletters, a lending library of videos on conference talks and community projects, a website supported by the University of Vermont, the monograph Groundswell, and most recently design sheets on the Five Principles of Community Design.

Current VDI Board

We consider all those we work with as collaborators in the development of sustainable communities, rehabilition of global ecosystems, and implementation of holistic design and planning.

Diane Elliott Gayer, Community Architect

Steve Libby, Conservation Specialist

Michael Oman, Transportation Planner

David Hohenschau, Landscape Architect

Claire Tebbs, Landscape Architect

Samantha Dunn, Development Consultant

Jane Petrillo, Graphic Designer

Tyler Kobick, Design-Builder

Advisory Board:

Kathleen Ryan, Landscape Architect

Samir Doshi, Systems Ecologist

VDI Interns

Willa Antczak

Anna Urban

Lisa Patrick

Other Affiliated Collaborators:

Amanda Wright, Web Designer

Drawings and Photos

Drawings and photos used on this site are provided by Diane Gayer, Anna Urban, Molly Greene, Wesley Bascom, and Kathleen Ryan. Please do not reuse without permission.