Public Interest Design
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September 1, 2014

Watch “The Architecture of Violence” This Week


With recent news of Israel planning to take over a section of Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank, this week’s Rebel Architecture episode on “The Architecture of Violence” with Eyal Weizman could not be more appropriate. Airing today at 11:30pm BST (6:30pm ET / 3:30pm PT) on Al Jazeera English, architect and professor Eyal Weizman explains the role architecture has played in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the evolution of urban warfare. This eye-opening–and at times unsettling–episode directed by Ana Naomi de Sousa spotlights responsibility, ethics, and morality within the built environment professions. Read the rest of this entry »

August 29, 2014

El Guadual Center Built Using Participatory Design


The textured concrete and bamboo walls and pencil-point structure of the El Guadual Children Center recently caught our attention on ArchDaily. Along with the captivating playful design of the building complex, architects Daniel Joseph Feldman Mowerman and Iván Dario Quiñones Sanchez employed a participatory design process to achieve a space that is not only aesthetically delightful but also meets the needs of the various people who will be using it for years to come. The Angry Architect shared the process in more depth on Architizer’s blog, which is well worth a read.

Composed of 10 classrooms, dining hall, indoor and outdoor recreation, semi-private arts spaces, first aid room, administration, vegetable garden, water feature, public outdoor theater, and a civic plaza, El Guadual Early Youth Development Center in Villa Rica, Cauca provides food, education, and recreation services to 300 kids 0-5 years old, 100 pregnant mothers, and 200 newborns as part of the national integral early youth attention strategy “de Cero a Siempre”.

Click here to read more about El Guadual Children Center, online at

August 28, 2014

“Nziza Cyane: Landscapes that Heal” by MASS

MASS Design Group has just released a new video featuring senior director Sierra Bainbridge and master gardener Jean Baptiste, who have worked together on all projects in Rwanda since Butaro Hospital. As Bapitste explains in “Nziza Cyane: Landscapes that Heal,” despite language barriers, they have been able to collaborate through designing and tending to the gardens together. “The secret of work is mutual respect,” Baptiste poignantly states. And MASS’s approach is proving that this works.

Click here to watch “Nziza Cyane: Landscapes that Heal,” online at

August 27, 2014

Feature: How will Public Interest Design look in 2024? 18 Practitioners Weigh In


Rewind to 2004 and think about what you were doing on August 27th. On this day ten years ago, a cold air conditioned breeze was blowing through my hair and onto my sticky skin as I took a break from moving boxes and bags into my apartment in New Orleans. Entering my fourth year of architecture school at Tulane University, I was looking forward to learning a new computer program called Revit. Public interest design–and social impact, community-led, humanitarian, and the lot–hadn’t even entered my evolving architecture vocabulary. Since that hot, humid August day in New Orleans, the field of passionate designers has blossomed beyond anything I could have imagined. Now, students entering their fourth year at Tulane have most likely heard of public interest design, if not participated in a studio or class specifically focused on the subject.

With the immense strides, enthusiasm, and involvement in this field of work since 2004, we were curious to hear from practitioners–new and established, young and, ahem, seasoned–on what the next 10 years has in store. We posed the following question to a few of our favorite designers:

How do you think the field of public interest/ impact design will look in 10 years?

Amongst the eighteen responses below, we see a resounding vision for more established methods, metrics, tools, and a mainstream position within the wider design and architecture industries. With these designers and many more at the helm of this movement, the promise for what we can achieve by 2024 is very bright. Read the rest of this entry »

August 26, 2014

“What Kind of Prison Might the Inmates Design?”


Los Angeles Times reporter Lee Romeny recently covered a 4-day workshop coordinated by restorative justice champion and designer Deanna VanBuren in the article “What Kind of Prison Might the Inmates Design?” VanBuren, principal of FOURM Design Studio, and fellow instructor Barb Toews, an academic dedicated to restorative justice, facilitated a workshop on designing a restorative justice center with 18 inmates at San Francisco’s County Jail No. 5.

As Romeny reports, the ideas and designs from men who are awaiting trial on violent crimes are not too far off from high-end clients with wishes for lofty residences and serene office spaces featuring plenty of daylight, natural ventilation, and even calming water features. Through these workshops, VanBuren’s goal is “to empower those inside the institutions and prod architects to actually talk to the people they are designing for… That’s how an architect would practice in any other setting.”

Click here to read “What Kind of Prison Might the Inmates Design?”, online at

August 25, 2014

Watch Yasmeen Lari on Rebel Architecture Series


Al Jazeera’s ‘Rebel Architecture’ series kicked off last week with the very well-received “Guerilla Architect” about self-build Spanish architect Santiago Cirugeda. Kicking off today at 11:30pm BST (6:30pm ET / 3:30pm PT) is “A Traditional Future” featuring the work of Pakistan’s first female architect Yasmeen Lari. Previously focused on designing modern buildings for high-profile corporate clients, Lari shifted her practice to disaster relief and humanitarian aid in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. For designers and architects interested in this area of work, Lari offers a unique approach to rebuilding using vernacular design and construction with locals over imported, mass-produced structures. Read the rest of this entry »

August 22, 2014

New Book Released on Architecture Live Projects


Edited by two practicing architects and professors Harriet Harriss and Lynette Widder, Architecture Live Projects is an invaluable collection of essays and case studies on work completed “in the borderlands between architectural education and built environment practice.” Commonly known as design-build in the US, Live Projects include community-based design, urban advocacy, and other forms of hands-on and “real world” learning that are quickly gaining ground in university architecture programs. An essential for students, educators and practitioners with an interest in this type of work, the 24 essays dive into theory, learning ambitions, academic best practices, licensing and accreditation, and architectural integrity.

Architecture Live Projects provides a persuasive, evidence-based advocacy for moving a particular kind of architectural learning, known as Live Projects, towards a holistic integration into current and future architectural curricula. Because of their position, Live Projects as vehicle for simultaneously providing teaching and service has the potential to recalibrate the contesting claims that both academia and profession make to architecture… It is an invaluable resource to current and future Live Projects advocates – whether they aim to move from pedagogy into practice or practice into pedagogy.

Click here to learn more and purchase Architecture Live Projects, online at

August 21, 2014

Watch Aziza Chaouni’s TED Talk on Fez River

Architect and civil engineer Aziza Chaouni–who also made the Global PID100 list–tells the story of a 20 year restoration project in her 6 minute TED talk “How I Brought a River, and My City, Back to Life.” Recorded at the TED2014 Conference in Vancouver early this year, Chaouni describes the vision and ongoing changes being made to the Fez River in her hometown of Fez, Morocco. Taking place in a World Heritage site, the beauty of the project is the intentional and incremental moves to transform the river over many years to meet the needs of the residents.

The Fez River winds through the medina of Fez, Morocco—a mazelike medieval city that’s a World Heritage site. Once considered the “soul” of this celebrated city, the river succumbed to sewage and pollution, and in the 1950s was covered over bit by bit until nothing remained. TED Fellow Aziza Chaouni recounts her 20 year effort to restore this river to its former glory, and to transform her city in the process.

Click here to watch “How I Brought a River and My City Back to Life,” online at

August 20, 2014

“9 Women Who Are Rocking Public Interest Design”


Architect and writer Rennie Jones recently showcased “9 Women Who Are Rocking Public Interest Design” in Architizer. We were thrilled to see familiar practitioners here on–Emily Pilloton, Julia King, Erinn McGurn, Ceara O’Leary, Liz Ogbu, Marika Shioiri-Clark, Emilie Taylor, Chelina Odbert, and Deanna VanBuren–highlighted in a mainstream architecture news website. Along with the publicity, we hope the range of design initiatives and array of practice methods inspires more designers–men and women–to explore outside the bounds of traditional architecture and design practice.

Women are an inspiring presence in this sector of design and, in another trend that contrasts tradition, they are being recognized for it. There are many women (and men!) who put in the sweat and lack of sleep to establish the field, but here we will highlight nine of the next young guns.

Click here to read “9 Women Who Are Rocking Public Interest Design,” online at

August 20, 2014

Design Trust Announces Call for Fellows


The Design Trust for Public Space has issued a Call for Fellows for the new program Design Guidelines for Neighborhood Retail. In partnership with New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, three fellows representing the fields of Architecture, Engineering, and Graphic Design will be selected to collaborate on developing design guidelines for ground floor retail and community space in mixed-use developments. Aimed at practitioners with seven or more years of experience, this unique opportunity offers seasoned designers and engineers a chance to influence New York City’s vibrant streetscapes using participatory design and research methodologies. Applications from interested candidates are due September 15, 2014.

Mayor de Blasio’s ‘Housing New York’: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Housing Plan, calls for a holistic approach to community development that will support diverse, livable neighborhoods, including an increased emphasis on mixed-use development. Because  HPD’s core competency is housing, the agency needs to build capacity in developing non-residential, ground-floor spaces in mixed-use buildings… This project aims to improve retail outcomes by developing guidelines for the physical design of retail space.

Click here to read more about the three fellowship requirements for Design Guidelines for Neighborhood Retail, online at

Image source: Gail Albert Halaban for Design Trust

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