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Public Interest Design: The Latest Architecture and News

13th Annual Structures for Inclusion Conference

00:00 - 8 February, 2013
13th Annual Structures for Inclusion Conference , © Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

The thirteenth annual Structures for Inclusion conference (SFI-13) will be held March 23-24 at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis Campus. The conference is preceded by the Public Interest Design Institute, a training program sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, that will be held at the same location on March 21-22. These are two major events that help compose the inaugural Public Interest Design Week, March 19-24.

Non-Design: Architecture's (Counter-Intuitive) Future

00:00 - 7 February, 2013
Quinta Monroy development after occupation. © Cristobal Palma
Quinta Monroy development after occupation. © Cristobal Palma

Global architecture underwent a seismic shift in the 20th Century. Governments, keen to mitigate the impoverishing effects of rapid urbanization and two world wars embarked on ambitious social housing programs, pairing with modernists who promised that design could be the solution to social inequality and poverty. Today, the problems inherent in these mid-century tower blocks are well documented and well known, and these modernist solutions to poverty are often seen as ill-conceived failures.

If the 20th century was all about designing to solve social problems, then the 21st century has been about the exact opposite – not designing to solve social problems. These days, it is much more common to see architects praising the social order and even aesthetic of illegal slums, which in many cases provide their residents with a stronger community and higher quality of life than did many formal social housing projects of the past. The task of architects (both today's and tomorrow's) is to develop this construction logic: to use design and, rather counter-intuitively, non-design to lift these urban residents out of their impoverished conditions.

More on the social potential of non-design after the break...

SEEDoc: Maria Auxiliadora School

00:00 - 16 January, 2013

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. Resources were shuffled to the big cities, and the small school waited, for years, for the authorities to take on the reconstruction. They never did.

And so, with help from Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow, Diego Collazo, and with funding from the Happy Hearts Fund and the SURA Group, the community decided to take the school’s - and their children’s - future into their own hands. This SEEDoc, the latest installment of inspirational mini-documentaries from the Design Corps and SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design), tells their story.

More after the break...

Curry Stone Prize Winners' Inspiring Videos

00:00 - 4 December, 2012

Each of this year's winners of the Curry Stone Design Prize are incredible examples of the powerful, and truly varied reach, of Public-Interest Design - which is why we're sharing these short films, by Room 5 Films, on each of the winning projects. From the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda designed by MASS Design Group to the "Liter by Light" project (that recycles plastic bottles to bring a safe source of light to the slums of the Phillippines), each of these films are inspiring snapshots into the work and worlds of each of these winners.

More videos on Curry Stone Prize Winners, after the break...

6 Extraordinary Public-Interest Design Projects Honored with SEED Awards

00:00 - 13 November, 2012
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. + 7

Bancroft Project Breaks Ground

00:00 - 5 November, 2012
Bancroft Project Breaks Ground, Rendering for the Bancroft School in Kansas City, Missouri. Part of a revitalization effort by the community of Manheim Park, the Make It Right Foundation, and BINM Architects. Photo © BNIM Architecture + Planning
Rendering for the Bancroft School in Kansas City, Missouri. Part of a revitalization effort by the community of Manheim Park, the Make It Right Foundation, and BINM Architects. Photo © BNIM Architecture + Planning

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

00:00 - 25 October, 2012

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...

2012 Curry Stone Design Prize Winners Announced!

00:00 - 23 October, 2012
Butaro Hospital, Rwanda / MASS Design Group
Butaro Hospital, Rwanda / MASS Design Group

The Winners for this year's coveted Curry Stone Design Prize, which awards talented designers who "harness their ingenuity and craft for social good," have just been announced!

A big congratulations go out to The Center for Urban Pedagogy, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Liter of Light, MASS Design, and the Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation! More info on these incredible organizations, after the break...

Happy World Architecture Day!

05:00 - 1 October, 2012
From upper left: “Chicago Thaws Into Spring,” “Bustling Beijing,” “Approaching London” © Flickr User CC Stuck in Commons. Used under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>Creative Commons</a>
From upper left: “Chicago Thaws Into Spring,” “Bustling Beijing,” “Approaching London” © Flickr User CC Stuck in Commons. Used under Creative Commons

World Architecture Day, celebrated on the first Monday of every October, was set up by the Union International des Architects (UIA) back in 2005 to “remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat” (not coincidentally, today’s also the United Nations’ World Habitat Day).

SEEDocs: Bancroft School Revitalization

10:30 - 21 September, 2012

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

04:00 - 17 August, 2012

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.

3rd Annual SEED Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design - Call for Submissions

11:53 - 16 August, 2012

Design Corps, the Social Economic Environmental Design® (SEED) Network, and their 2013 partner, the University of Minnesota College of Design, are pleased to announce the Third Annual SEED Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design.

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

10:30 - 22 June, 2012

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…

Infographic: Public Interest Design

14:00 - 31 May, 2012

Public Interest Design is the next frontier of the sustainability movement. Taking a triple bottom line approach, it positions design to more tconsider economic, environmental, and social factors - creating better places, products, and systems for people to live their best lives. Inherently human-centered and participatory, public interest design seeks to improve the quality of life for all people, regardless of their socio-economic background.

Design Like You Give A Damn [2] / Architecture for Humanity

12:00 - 21 May, 2012

There are few organizations that would utter the words: “we need to constantly look for ways to make ourselves redundant” (46).

But Architecture for Humanity isn’t your typical organization. Since its inception in 1999, the company has put design professionals in the service of local communities, empowering these locals to the point where, frankly, they don’t need the architects any more.

And Design Like You Give A Damn : Building Change from the Ground Up, written by Architecture for Humanity co-founders Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr, isn’t your typical architecture book. More like an inspiration design manual, Design Like You Give A Damn offers practical advise and over 100 case studies of projects that share Architecture for Humanity’s mission of building a sustainable future.

Beyond chronicling inspired designs and against-the-odds accomplishments, the book importantly offers a provocative philosophy : architecture belongs, not to the architect, but to the people and the world for whom it is designed.

More about life lessons and tips from Design Like You Give A Damn after the break…

After the Meltdown: Where does Architecture go from here?

10:30 - 17 April, 2012

You can get into Architecture for one of two reasons: good architecture or bad.

For Cameron Sinclair, the co-founder of Architecture for Humanity, it was the latter. As a kid, Sinclair would wander his rough-and-tumble South London neighborhood, contemplating how it could be improved (and creating elaborate Lego models to that effect). Instead of soaring skyscrapers or grand museums, he was inspired by buildings that “integrated your neighborhood in a way that made people feel like life was worth living.”

But that’s not Architecture. Or so he was told when he went to University.

Architecture Schools have created curriculums based on a profession that, by and large, doesn’t exist. They espouse the principles of architectural design, the history and the theory, and prepare its hopeful alumni to create the next Seagram Building or Guggenheim.

Unfortunately, however, the Recession has made perfectly clear that there isn’t much need for Guggenheims – certainly not as many as there are architects. As Scott Timberg described in his Salon piece, “The Architectural Meltdown,” thousands of thousands are leaving the academy only to enter a professional “minefield.”

So what needs to change? Our conception of what Architecture is. We need to accept that Architecture isn’t just designing – but building, creating, doing. We need to train architects who are the agents of their own creative process, who can make their visions come to life, not 50 years down the road, but now. Today.

We’ve been trained to think, to envision and design. The only thing left then, is to do.

More on the public-interest model and the future of Architecture, after the break…