Good Design, Local Design: How Designers and Cities Can Support Each Other


Design is vital to the life and growth of any city. This panel will discuss different ways in which municipalities can make use of a strong local design community to support projects at a variety of scales, including the institution of Design Excellence programs and other changes to the public procurement process at multiple levels. The discussion will explore the potential impacts of design-forward policies on the public realm, local design culture, and the economy. The panel will include representatives of municipal agencies, policy makers, and the local design community.

The panelists are Aaron Forrest, co-founder of Ultramoderne and Assistant Professor at RISD; Jillian Finkle, the Principal Planner for the City of Central Falls, RI; Martina Haggerty, Special Projects Director at the City of Providence Department of Planning and Development; and the moderator, Manuel Cordero co-founder of DownCity Design and as faculty in the Architecture department at RISD.

These events are being recorded and photographed. By attending, you give your consent to be photographed, filmed, taped, and/or recorded.


Aaron Forrest

Aaron Forrest, AIA, is an architect and co-founder of Ultramoderne, an architecture and design firm located in Providence, RI. Led in partnership with Yasmin Vobis, the office is committed to creating architecture and public spaces that are at once modern, playful, and generous. The principals are driven by an experimental approach that leads to conceptually rigorous and well-executed designs. The office has extensive experience working with both government and non-profit clients on the design of the public realm, and its work has been recognized internationally, including recent awards from the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Architectural League of New York, and AIAri.

Aaron received both his Bachelor’s Degree and Masters in Architecture from Princeton University, and currently serves as Assistant Professor at Rhode Island School of Design. Prior to RISD, Aaron taught studios at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University. He has extensive professional experience, having practiced in New York with Bernheimer Architecture and Guy Nordenson and Associates Structural Engineers, and in Madrid with Ábalos & Herreros Arquitectos. He was also a designer-in-residence at MoMA/PS1 for the Rising Currents exhibition.

Jillian Finkle

​Jillian Finkle is the Principal Planner for the City of Central Falls, RI, focusing on economic development and redevelopment projects. She previously served as the Coordinator for the Broad Street Regeneration Initiative, working with Central Falls, Pawtucket, Cumberland, and 14 stakeholder partner organizations to leverage an $11.5 million RIDOT road improvement project for revitalization of this vital commercial corridor. An advocate for children’s play, she also served as the Managing Director for Providence PlayCorps through the Providence Parks Department. She comes out of the Museum field, working as a program/project manager and exhibition developer for institutions such as the Providence Children’s Museum, the National Children’s Museum, the National Colonial Farm, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, and Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. Specializing in the use of theatrical techniques in interpretation and informal education, she also served on the Board of the International Museum Theatre Alliance for nine years. She currently lives with her family in the Edgewood section of Cranston.

Martina Haggerty

​Martina Haggerty is Special Projects Director at the City of Providence Department of Planning and Development where she oversees planning, urban design, and transportation projects and policy initiatives. She is a passionate advocate for smart growth, walkability, and multi-modal transportation solutions. Prior to taking on this role, Ms. Haggerty worked as a Principal Planner for the City of Providence for six years and an Urban Designer for a consulting firm in Boston. She holds a Master of Science degree in Architecture and Urban Design from Pratt Institute and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Roger Williams University.

Manuel Cordero


Manuel Cordero is an educator and architect based in Providence. His interest in expanding the audience of architectural practice and discourse led him to found DownCity Design, a nonprofit design organization dedicated to improving civic life while offering inquiry-based, experiential learning opportunities. He enjoys sharing his passion for design with students of all ages, including high school and middle school students for DownCity Design and as faculty in the Architecture department at RISD.

Cordero is a licensed architect in Rhode Island with several years of experience in large-scale institutional projects, focusing on educational and community planning projects. He currently works as Assistant School Construction Coordinator for the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE). At RIDE, Cordero oversees all school construction in the state including monitoring compliance with the Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools protocol, a LEED equivalent for schools. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Cordero received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and earned a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was awarded the Sandy Hirschen Award, the Laub Fellowship and the prestigious John K. Branner Travel Fellowship. He is an active member of the Providence community, serving on the Board of several local nonprofits, including the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. ​