Gulf Coast Community Design Studio

Feature: How will Public Interest Design look in 2024? 19 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. More

Surdna Awards $845K to Community Design Orgs


Operating under the tagline “Fostering sustainable communities in the United States,” the Surdna Foundation has developed the Thriving Cultures program to support artists, architects, and designers working in community engaged design. For this quarter of 2014, the foundation has awarded eight grants totalling an outstanding $845,000 to organizations that “combine artistic and design practice with authentic engagement of neighborhood residents and community organizations.” This quarter’s grantees include the Kounkuey Design Initiative, Skid Row Housing Trust, the Center for Sustainable Development, Michael Singer Studio, the People’s Emergency Center, MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab), Turner World Productions, and Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. Surdna’s Director of the Thriving Cultures Program Judilee Reed describes the investment in professional activities:

Surdna is supporting an approach to design that recasts the traditional top-down method to urban and regional planning, design, and architecture, to one that prioritizes an understanding of the way people live and work in their communities. This focus on professional practice is one that requires prioritizing partnerships based on trust and genuine dialogue that results in projects that are driven by a shared understanding of communities’ needs, values, and aspirations.

Click here to read more about the eight Community Engaged Design grant winners, online at

Public Interest Design Institute Featured on WNPR


In the lead up to Public Interest Design Institute’s SEED Training at Yale School of Architecture last week, WNPR host John Dankosky spoke with Alan Plattus, professor at Yale and founder of Yale Urban Design Workshop, Bryan Bell, Executive Director of Design Corps, and Anne Frederick, Founding Director of Hester Street Collective. Kicking off the show with a quote from our own John Cary, Dankosky digs into the work of Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Rural Studio, and many other organizations–including those of the guests–who are ‘Solving Social Problems Using Public Interest Design.’

“Social” or “public-interest” design is working in high-risk neighborhoods all over the country, proving that thoughtful, community-involved design ideas really can address a community’s critical issues and needs. Architect Bryan Bell says, “Never before have so many of the world’s problems been as accessible to design solutions.”

Click here to listen to the entire show, online at

UT-Austin Public Interest Design Summer Program

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture–host of both the upcoming Public Interest Design Institute training program and Structures for Inclusion conference–has announced its second annual Public Interest Design (PID) Summer Program, scheduled to take place May 31-July 24, 2012. The two-part program involves an intensive research track that runs parallel with a community design/build project. This year’s partners include the UT’s Center for Sustainable Development, the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Public Architecture, and the Urban Land Institute.

Participants are selected based on a competitive application process, the deadline for which is March 1. The cost of the program is dependent on UT’s summer session tuition, still to be determined. An additional two-week externship for up to 10 candidates at Public Architecture in San Francisco is being offered for the first time this year.

Click here for more information or to register, or click here to see our coverage of last year’s PID Summer Program.

Yale to host next Public Interest Design Institute

The Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, Conn., will host the third Public Interest Design Institute (PIDI) training program, to take place Friday and Saturday, January 13-14, 2012. Made possible by support from the Surdna Foundation and the The Architectural League of New York, this session will include speakers such as Beyond Shelter author Marie Alquilino, 2011-2012 Loeb Fellow Anna Heringer, Emily Pilloton of Project H Design, Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group, Yale Urban Design Workshop founder Alan Plattus, David Perkes of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, as well as (organizer) Bryan Bell of Design Corps.

The early bird registration fee of $350 applies through Friday, December 16; thereafter the cost increases to $450. Future session hosts include University of Texas at Austin (March 22, 2012) and University of Cincinnati (April 13-14, 2012).

Click here for more information on the Yale session and PIDI generally.

Video: Seth Welty, Enterprise Rose Fellow

The above video is part of an inspiring new series about various members of the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship, their hosts, and, most importantly, their clients. In their own words, these crucial voices build a compelling narrative for one of the longest-running and most robust post-graduate internship opportunities available to architecture school graduates.

This particular video, the first of a few that we’ll be profiling here at in the coming days, features 2008-2011 Enterprise Rose Fellow Seth Welty. A graduate of Tulane University‘s School of Architecture, Welty describes his work in Biloxi, Miss. at the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. Seth’s contributions have ranged from “urban planning and mapping projects to the intimate design components of a house.” It’s such an extraordinary story that one can only wish every architecture school graduate could have a similar experience and such a lasting impact.

Click here to learn more about Seth Welty and the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship.

Architect Magazine Article on Humanitarian Design

The above is the introduction to an article on humanitarian design, “Making the Ideal More Real,” published this month in Architect Magazine. The views expressed above earn a quick and sharp rebuttal in the following paragraph from Emily Pilloton, founder of Project H Design, saying “Most critics who call humanitarian design the new imperialism haven’t done the work and realized how messy, political, and complex it can be.” (Practicing what they preach, Pilloton and Project H are embedded in a community in rural North Carolina.)

The article goes on to cite the work of Dallas-based Building Community Workshop, Biloxi-based Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, and Portland-based Building Sustainable Communities (BaSiC) Initiative. (Architecture for Humanity, arguably the biggest champion of humanitarian design through its competitions, projects, and popular Design Like You Give a Damn book, is strangely missing from the piece.) Click here to read the full article.

Thanks to Brad Leibin of Public Architecture in San Francisco for referring this piece.