AIA, Design Planner, City of Baltimore
Renata Southard is an urban designer and architect, licensed in Maryland. In her primary role, she is a Design Planner in the Land Use and Urban Design Division of the Baltimore City Department of Planning, where she provides community design services for Impact Investment Area neighborhoods under a special Mayoral initiative, manages design review for development projects, and coordinates with sister agencies to strategically align investment. Prior to her position with the Planning Department, Ren headed the Baltimore office of Autotroph Design, a full-service architecture firm focused on adaptive reuse, multi-family, and mixed-use buildings.
While earning her Bachelor of Arts with concentrations in sculpture and printmaking, Ren worked as a designer and project manager in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Nashville. After settling in Maryland in 2012, Ren completed her Master of Architecture, with a Certificate of Urban Design from the University of Maryland School of Architecture. While at UMD, Ren earned the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award. She was also part of the preliminary design team for UMD’s international award-winning Solar Decathlon entry, reACT.
Ren teaches Design in Practice at the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. In an attempt to share a broader view of planning and design professions with students, Ren regularly engages with universities. She has guest lectured at Virginia Tech and collaborated on architecture and urban design studios at Morgan State University and Cornell University.
Since 2018, Ren has chaired AIA Baltimore’s Urban Design Committee (UDC). Under her direction, UDC collaborated with BOPA and the Department of Planning to bring a traveling exhibition called Society’s Cage to Baltimore in 2020. The UDC also offers ongoing technical assistance on larger initiatives, such as the Baltimore Greenway, a plan to connect 35 miles of trails throughout the city. Recently, UDC hosted a forum called ‘Reconnecting Communities across the Highway to Nowhere’ in support of Baltimore City’s pursuit of a federal grant focused on the geography of Route 40 between Martin Luther King Blvd. and the West Baltimore MARC station.
Ren continues to practice art and participate in gallery exhibitions. In 2021, she was part of the Center for Architecture and Design’s inaugural show in Baltimore, called “Say It Loud – Beyond the Built Environment.” She is currently testing ideas about micro-placemaking with a “little free gallery” project, in which people take and leave art. Proceeds raised with “little free gallery” help support a non-profit arts program in West Baltimore.
Ren has worked on award-winning conceptual projects and collaborated on master plans for several communities in Baltimore. She sees incredible potential in post-industrial cities and strives to make a positive impact in Baltimore.