6 Extraordinary Public-Interest Design Projects Honored with SEED Awards

The Maa-Bara Project, a 2013 Award Winner, empowers students in Kenya to use kitchen scraps and low-cost technology to grow their own food. Photo courtesy of Maa-Bara.

Out of 65 submissions from 21 countries, six public-interest design projects have just been announced as this year’s winners of the International SEED Awards. The SEED Network and Design Corps have singled out these projects as those which best incorporated social consciousness, community outreach, and sustainability into their designs.

The 6 projects represent the diffusiveness of public-interest design today, and how, by looking through the lens of design, many diverse (and yet often re-occurring) social problems can be addressed.

The Winning Projects, which you can see on display at the 13th annual Structures for Inclusion conference at the University of Minnesota College of Design March 22-23, 2013, are: SAGE: Affordable Green Modular Classrooms, Gervais, Oregon; Puyallup Tribal Longhouse, Tacoma, Washington (Puyallup Tribal Reservation); Rosa F. Keller Building, New Orleans, Louisiana; Firm Foundation, Banjarmasin, Kalimantan, Indonesia; Sudan Jalle School, Jalle Payam, Jonglei State, South Sudan; Maa-Bara: Catalyzing Economic Change & Food Security, Lenya (Bondo District), Nyanza, Kenya.

More info on these extraordinary public-interest designs, after the break…

Firm Foundation, a 2013 SEED Award Winners, proposes a re-design of the waterfront for a poor community in Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Firm Foundation.

Firm Foundation

From the Jury: “We found the replicability of the project especially compelling for other communities facing similar issues.  The project successfully combines economic opportunity, community building and reinventing relationships with the river in a highly innovative and contextual way. “

A re-design of the waterfront of The RT 14 region of Sungai Jingah in Banjarmasin, home to a community of low-income families whose modest livelihood and social interaction rely heavily on the resources of the Andai River, which has become a source of vulnerability due to lack of basic waterfront services.

Courtesy of Maa-Bara

Maa-Bara: Catalyzing Economic Change & Food Security

From the Jury: “a fascinating project that has the potential to have a tremendous social and economic impact on the population served.  This project is particularly compelling because of its applicability to many developing countries facing similar issues of food scarcity”

The Maa-Bara project empowers local student groups in impoverished Lenya, Kenya, to sustainably grow fish and vegetables using “aquaponics” deployed on-site at school.  A combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, this low-cost, low-tech method of farming re-circulates water and nutrients in a closed-loop system and can be built from off-the-shelf components readily available in the country. The system provides students with a consistent food supply as well as an affordable, scalable and replicable entrepreneurial means of constructing and operating an income generating system.

Puyallup Longhouse, a 2013 SEED Award Winner, is a sustainable community center for the Puyallup Tribe, a vulnerable community. Photo courtesy of Puyallup Longhouse.

Puyallup Longhouse

From the Jury: “The jury was struck by the elegant combination of the principles of sustainability with cultural relevance, while providing a contemporary aesthetic.”

The Puyallup Longhouse was designed with the goal of creating a community center and beautiful, relevant and affordable housing for members of the Puyallup Tribe struggling with the challenges of increased urbanization, high unemployment and low income.  The design embraces the tribe’s culture and follows the concept of traditional longhouses where family, friends & community members interacted to perform such daily activities as singing, dancing, weaving and carving.  Modern technologies supplemented the natural design strategy and led to homes that are much more energy efficient than current Washington State energy code. 

The Rosa F. Keller Building, a 2013 SEED Award Winner, is a housing complex in New Orleans which integrates formerly homeless and low-income residents in a safe environment. Photo courtesy of the Rosa F. Keller Building.

Rosa F. Keller Building

From the Jury: ”incredibly important to the city of New Orleans and a strong model for supportive housing throughout the U.S…This project is unique in the way that it integrates low-income people who have never been homeless with those who have.  The socio-economic benefits of this project are immense and the design product provides dignity to both the residents and the recovering community.”

New Orlean’s first supportive housing project, the Rosa F. Keller Building addresses the need for mixed income permanent housing as an option for the city’s most vulnerable homeless as well as for lower-income working people seeking safe & affordable places to live. 

SAGE, a 2013 SEED Award Winner, a project to design affordable, green modular classrooms. Photo courtesy of SAGE.

SAGE: Affordable Green Modular Classrooms

From the Jury: “a very replicable model that can be applied to a wide variety of locations to address the need for healthy and productive educational environments.”

The SAGE Affordable Green Modular Classrooms address the need for a “healthier” version of the modular classroom which has become standard in over-populated school districts – and tackle the issue of making green design affordable.

Sudan Jalle School, a 2013 SEED Award Winner, designed to aid in disaster recovery in war-torn Southern Sudan. Photo courtesy of Rebuild Sudan.

Sudan Jalle School

From the Jury: “The compelling narrative coupled with a simple, elegant, scalable design solution placed the Jalle School project among the jury’s favorite entries.  The project successfully meets the needs of a vulnerable, yet incredibly resilient community with great dignity and innovation.”

The new Sudan Jalle School in South Sudan’s war-torn Jonglei State, helps fulfill the community’s need for long-term disaster recovery by creating a permanent structure for education, investing economically in the community, and creating a community-owned gathering place. Sudan Jalle will be the first school in the region, the only permanent structure within seven miles, and likely the only flood-resistant building in the region.


Cultural Preservation of Kam Minority Heritage in Dimen Village, China through Design-  Dimen Village, China

Guardians Institute Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. Museum and Cultural Arts Center

Ichi Go Ichi E Restorative Garden- Seattle, Washington

InHouse OutHouse- Houston, Texas

LRGV Colonia Planning & Implementation- Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas

Masonic Amphitheater- Virginia

PackH2O water backpack: Alleviating the Achilles Heel of the Global Water Crisis

Peacock Commons; Affordable Housing for Emancipated Youth- Santa Clara, California

Piet Patsa Performing Arts Centre-  Vijoenskroon, Free State, South Africa

Stacked Tectonics: JDT Orphanage Primary School- Calcutta, India

You can see last year’s winners here: 2012 Winners

More information at DesignCorps.org

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "6 Extraordinary Public-Interest Design Projects Honored with SEED Awards" 13 Nov 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=292696>
  • Jill

    Thanks for featuring these great projects. We have a better photo we’d like you to use for the rebuld sudan project. Please contact me and I’ll send it to you asap.

  • SEEDer

    These are really bad. They remind me of how bad “green” architecture looked in the 70′s. There has to be a way to do excellent work in the public interest. Look at the Rural Studio, Shigeru Ban and Francis Kere.

  • Jeff

    Agree with Seeder.
    Do these projects involve architects? If they don’t, Design Corps should make that a requirement going forward. If they do, the architects got so carried away being inclusive that they forgot to be architects. Who juried this? The Sudan project looks like some kids hanging out in the middle of a highway beside some shed roofed shacks.

  • Nishanth

    :) these look like a joke.

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