L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs


Gulak Lecture

Join architect Zena Howard for an exploration of individual and shared experiences at the intersection of urban design, art, history, anthropology and public policy.

Watch the full presentation on the Wilder School YouTube channel


Zena Howard, FAIA, LEED AP, is principal and managing director with the architecture and design firm Perkins&Will. 

Howard's career has been defined by visionary, complex, and culturally significant projects – like Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. and The Durham County Human Services Complex in Durham, North Carolina – that navigate social issues of dignity, equity, and justice in cultural and civic places. She has been recognized as a citizen architect for shaping architecture through Remembrance Design, a design process that responds to inequity and injustice by restoring lost cultural connections and honoring collective memory and history.

"One of the throughlines of my life and career has been an understanding of how cultural identities manifest through buildings, parks, and places. With my work as an architect, I have been able to help African Americans and other underrepresented groups share their vital stories. Whether a somber memorial or a site for celebration, cultural projects offer our diverse communities a unifying sense of self and create a greater understanding that heals and transcends divisions." – Zena Howard

Howard recognizes both the shared and individual sense of experience in the built environment – the emotional connection between people and spaces. This guides her role as Global Cultural and Civic Practice Chair and a body of work that unifies communities, strengthening public wellbeing and advancement.

Curiosity and compassion also drive Howard's approach with teams. She embraces cross-disciplinary collaboration with a broad range of specialists in urban design, art, history, anthropology, and public policy. As a founding member of Perkins&Will’s global Diversity and Inclusion Council and through advocacy and mentoring, she advances diversity within the architecture profession.


The Wilder School brings leading experts in planning, architecture, or urban design to VCU each year through the annual Morton B. Gulak Lecture in Urban and Regional Planning.

Launched in 2013, the lecture series honors the memory of Morton B. Gulak, Ph.D., who helped found the Master in Urban and Regional Planning program more than 40 years ago.

Gulak, who died in 2012, taught at VCU for 38 years. He inspired legions of students in the areas of urban design, urban revitalization, physical planning, and the application of professional planning methods.


The 2022 speaker was Christopher J. Howard, an accomplished architect and scholar whose commentary and design proposals on monuments and memorials have earned him national recognition. His presentation, “Civic Art, Justice and Inclusion,” examined the importance of civic art including monuments and memorials in contemporary society and incorporating design tactics and policy guidelines for elevating public spaces through more inclusive civic art. 

Watch the 2022 video here

The Gulak Lecture was placed on hold from 2020-2021.

The 2019 speaker was Gary Hack, a professor emeritus and the former dean of the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania, who has developed and advised on plans for cities, neighborhoods, and developments in over 35 cities in the US, Canada, and Asia, including the redevelopment of Prudential Center in Boston and collaboration with Studio Daniel Libeskind on the winning entry for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center. Hack spoke on Sept. 26.

Watch the 2019 video here

The 2018 speaker was Majora Carter, a leading urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer and Peabody Award-winning broadcaster. She is responsible for the creation and implementation of numerous green-infrastructure projects, policies, and job training and placement systems. She spoke Oct. 17.

The 2017 speaker was Toni L. Griffin, founder of Urban Planning and Design for the American City. Through her New York City-based practice, Griffin served as project director for the long-range planning initiative of the Detroit Work Project, and in 2013 completed and released Detroit Future City, a comprehensive citywide framework plan for urban transformation.

Watch the 2017 video here.

Previous Gulak Lecturers include Sara Zewde, a designer at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, and renowned planners Dhiru A. Thadani, Ellen Dunham-Jones, and Jeff Speck.

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