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Design Needs a Social Conscience

In recent years, the architecture world has seen a significant surge of interest in socially-conscious design; from sustainability to social housing, and from public space to disaster relief, architecture is beginning to take on some of the biggest humanitarian challenges of our era. But despite its popularity, public-interest design is still only a fringe activity in architecture, either bolted on to existing design or only practiced by a select group of people. In this short article originally published by Metropolis Magazine, Metropolis Editor-in-Chief Susan Szenasy makes the case that rather than working on the periphery, "the drive to improve living conditions for all life should be at the center of contemporary architecture and design."

On a bright April weekend, a group of committed, passionate, accomplished designers and their collaborators from the Americas and elsewhere gathered in downtown Detroit to speak about socially responsible design. It was the 15th annual Structures for Inclusion conference. The convener, Bryan Bell, is the architect behind the nonprofit organization Design Corps, and the spirit behind the SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) rating program.

Six Public-Interest Design Projects Honored with 2015 SEED Awards

The 2015 winners of the annual Social Economic Environment Design (SEED) Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design have been announced. The international competition celebrates designs which excel in these realms, and strive to create manageable sustainable impacts. The winning projects, selected by a jury, will receive $1000, as well as attendance to the annual Structures for Inclusion conference in Detroit, Michigan in April.

The six winning projects each encompass the ideals of community outreach, socio-economic improvement, and environmental awareness in the context of their unique locations. Though the designs are distinct, the values they embody are universal.

Read more about the winning designs after the break.

Rwinkavu Operating Rooms and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Image Courtesy of Design Corps Parque Urbano e Instituto Sitie. Image Courtesy of Design Corps El Guadual Early Youth Development Center. Image Courtesy of Design Corps A jam manufactory for NAXII. Image Courtesy of Design Corps

The Winners of the 2014 SEED Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design

Six public-interest design projects have been announced as this year’s winners of the International SEED Awards, held by the SEED NetworkDesign Corps, and Parsons The New School for Design. According to the jury, these six are those which most creatively and successfullyaddress the pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our world today.

See the six SEED Award winning projects, after the break...

2014 SEED Award Call for Entries

Design Corps and the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Network announce the Call for Entries in the fourth annual SEED Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design competition. Recognizing excellence in social, economic and environmental design, the SEED Awards represent the confluence of forces needed to create truly sustainable projects and change in the world.

SEEDoc: Nyanza Maternity Hospital / MASS Design Group

Since June, we've been reporting on the Design Corps and SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design)'s, SEEDocs, a series of mini-documentaries that highlight the stories of award-winning public interest design projects. As each mini-doc has been an excellent, inspiring exploration of the challenges and benefits of community-oriented design, we are pleased (and not a little sad!) to announce that the final seed-doc has just been released.This month's mini-doc, probably the series' best, focuses on the Nyanza Maternity Hospital, designed by MASS Design Group. MASS of course garnered much attention for their Butaro Hospital, also in Rwanda (for an interesting inside-look at the construction of Butaro, read this excellent article by MASS co-founder Marika Shiori-Clark). Should this hospital be funded and realized, it will no doubt make more headlines for the innovative public-interest design firm. Read more about MASS Design Group's lastest project in Rwanda, after the break...Part of what sets MASS Design Group apart is their receptive, "open slate" approach to projects. As Sierra Bainbridge, Director of Implementation at MASS, explains in the doc: "we don't come in with any ideas, at all, about what's going to happen - just a very very long list of questions. We can only build a very good building if we check in and understand, every step of the way, that we are understanding the clients the way that they intend for their needs to be understood."Of course, as Ms. Bainbridge points out in the doc, sometimes the clients themselves - the nurses, doctors, and patients who use the facility - don't even know how their needs could be better met, since they have gotten so used to their current, sub-par facility, a dilapidated structure built in 1931. This is where the experience of the architect comes in. With one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world, Rwanda loses over 40,000 infants, toddlers, and mothers each year; deaths that, in about 50% of cases, could have been prevented with improved hospital care. MASS Design has isolated one of the major factors in these preventable deaths: poor air circulation. When patients sit in crowded, stuffed hallways-come-waiting rooms, disease spreads rapidly. The very buildings that were designed to heal, actually kill. And so, the crowning features of MASS's design for the Nyanza Maternity hospital are solar chimneys – "a new ventilation concept that pulls fresh air up throughout the building, dramatically reducing the potential spread of disease." With the design completed, now the project only lacks donor funding to come to fruition. Please share the video, and the word, about this extraordinary project - we'll be waiting to publish it on ArchDaily once it's built. Did you miss the other SEEDocs? See them all: 

  • Maria Auxiliadora School - On August 15th, 2007 a powerful earthquake hit the region of Ica, Perú, destroying the small Maria Auxiliadora School. The first responders left after a matter of months, but the damage remained. With help from Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow, Diego Collazo, the community decided to take the school’s – and their children’s – future into their own hands.  
  • Escuela Ecológica- In this school in Lima, Peru, students learn in small, dark rooms and play in the dirt. The community desperately wanted a park where the children could play and a school where they could comfortably learn. With the help of a local architect and a group of professors and students from the University of Washington, the community is making those dreams a reality. 
  • Bancroft School Revitilization - In Manheim Park, a low-income, neglected neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri,there was an abandoned, abestos-ridden school that no one used - until residents approached BNIM Architects with the idea of turning it into a revitalized community center. With the help of the Make It Right Foundation, BNIM collaborated with the neighborhood to design a multi-use center with affordable housing units, a health clinic, and public gathering space. 
  • The Grow Dat Youth Farm - A brilliant example of “Urban Agri-puncture” (a strategy that uses design & Urban Agriculture to target a city’s most deprived, unhealthy neighborhoods), changing the lives of New Orleans youth. Central to the farm’s development has been the creation of a campus, designed and constructed by students enrolled at the Tulane City Center, who turned an abandoned golf course to an energy-efficient, organic farm sensitive to regional climate.

6 Extraordinary Public-Interest Design Projects Honored with SEED Awards

The Maa-Bara Project, a 2013 SEED Award Winner, empowers students in Kenya to use kitchen scraps and low-cost technology to grow their own food. Photo courtesy of Maa-Bara.
The Maa-Bara Project, a 2013 SEED 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 32 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...

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. 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. Puyallup Longhouse, a 2013 SEED Award Winner, is a sustainable community center for the Puyallup Tribe, a vulnerable community. Photo courtesy of Puyallup Longhouse.  Sudan Jalle School, a 2013 SEED Award Winner, designed to aid in disaster recovery in war-torn Southern Sudan. Photo courtesy of Rebuild Sudan.

Bancroft Project Breaks Ground

When we introduced you to the Bancroft School in September, the topic of one of the SEED Network's awesome mini-documentaries, or SEEDocs, the revitalization project was still in development. However, this Saturday's ground-breaking ceremony means that this innovative community complex will soon be a reality.

The building, which was an elementary school from 1904 until it fell into disrepair and closed in 1999, is located in one of Kansas City's most neglected, lower income neighborhoods: Manheim Park.  However, thanks to the joint-efforts of the Make It Right Foundation, BNIM Architects (the AIA’s 2011 Firm of the Year), and the Historic Manheim Park Neighborhood Association, the once asbestos-ridden school will soon be the center of a revitalization project to transform the urban landscape. 

More on the Bancroft Project, after the break...

The Latest SEEDoc: Escuela Ecológica in Lima, Peru

SEEDocs: Escuela Ecologica from Design Corps on Vimeo.

The latest installment of SEEDocs, the series of fascinating mini-documentaries on award-winning public interest design projects was revealed today. While the first spotlighted an incredible SEEDocs: Mini-Documentaries on the Power of Public-Interest Design" href="http://www.archdaily.com/245235/the-grow-dat-youth-farm-seedocs-mini-documentaries-on-the-power-of-public-interest-design/" target="_blank" data-mce-href="http://www.archdaily.com/245235/the-grow-dat-youth-farm-seedocs-mini-documentaries-on-the-power-of-public-interest-design/">community garden in New Orleans, designed/built with help from the Tulane City Center, and the last on the revitalization of an abandoned, abestos-ridden school in Kansas City, this month's doc takes us out of the U.S., to a school in a poor neighborhood in the desert city of Lima, Peru.

More info on this incredible project, after the break...

SEEDocs: Bancroft School Revitalization

Design Corps and SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) have released the latest installment of SEEDocs, their series of awesome, mini-documentaries that highlight inspirational stories of award-winning public interest design projects.

While June’s doc featured an incredible community garden in New Orleans, designed/built with help from the Tulane School of Architecture’s Tulane City Center, this month focuses on the revitalization of an abandoned, abestos-ridden school in Manheim Park, a low-income, neglected neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri.

Check out more images and info about this empowering project, after the break…

The New SEED Field Guide - Call for Projects

The Social Economic Environmental Design® (SEED) Network, which just announced its 3rd annual Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design, is offering yet another exciting opportunity for Public Interest Designers.

The Grow Dat Youth Farm & SEEDocs: Mini-Documentaries on the Power of Public-Interest Design

If you read our infographic, then you know that Public-Interest Design is one of the few growing sectors of the architecture industry. From the prevalence of Design-Build curriculums in Architecture Schools to the rise of the 1% program and non-profits like Architecture for Humanity, Public-Interest Design (PID) is hitting its stride.

Which is why we’re so excited that two of PID’s biggest players, Design Corps and SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design), have teamed up to create SEEDocs, a monthly series of mini-documentaries that highlight the inspirational stories of six award-winning public interest design projects.

The latest SEEDoc follows the story of the Grow Dat Youth Farm - a brilliant example of what we call “Urban Agri-puncture” (a strategy that uses design & Urban Agriculture to target a city’s most deprived, unhealthy neighborhoods) that is changing the lives of New Orleans youth.

More on this inspiring story, after the break…

SEED Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design Competition

The SEED Network recently launched the 2nd Annual SEED Awards for excellence in Public Interest Design to showcase and promote projects that help create socially, economically, and environmentally healthy communities. The projects will be judged using “SEED”: Social Economic Environmental Design”® a standard evaluation to measure the positive impact of design projects. Sixwinners will be announced January 27, 2012. Each winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to present at Structures for Inclusion conference at the University of Austin in Austin, Texas March 24-25, and a $1,000 cash prize. Each winning project will also be included in a documentary series by The UpTake. More competition information after the break.