Posts tagged ‘public interest’
With all of the diverse expert learning that today’s foremost public interest designers are doing, there were a lot of nontraditional terms and topics being discussed at the 2011 Structures for Inclusion conference.
Andrew Freear, director of Auburn’s Rural Studio program, mentioned that his students worked with local banks in Hale County on adapting their mortgage structures; the goal is to make buying the $20K House a more competitive option than long-term renting. Freear also discussed the three versions of the $20K house being developed at the time, which he referred to as a “product line” for customers to choose from.
The “Learning from Communities” panel shared how they identified as capacity builders, rather than structural builders. By engaging in a participatory design process with your beneficiaries, they stressed, you can empower that community to discover how possible change is, even beyond the project at hand.
In discussing Café 524 by Carnegie Mellon’s 2010 Urban Design Build Studio, professor John Folan highlighted how developing the project’s programming (the educational kind – not the spatial kind) was key in advancing the project. It also resulted in significant commitments for funding.
On the “Change Agents and Innovators” panel, Emily Pilloton noted that one of the six tenet’s of Project H’s design process is “design systems, not stuff.” And I really think she meant “systems” in the broadest sense of the word.
March 31’s daily design idea is a quote from The Age of Unreason by Charles Handy: “Words are the bugles of social change. When our language changes, behavior will not be far behind.” By getting more people to talk about design in a way that includes increasingly diverse aspects of social impact, we’ll be helping to advance the industry that much faster.
This is post 6 of 7 recapping Structures for Inclusion 10+1, an annual conference focused on design for social good.
The 2011 Structures for Inclusion conference was filled with public interest design experts, but I’m not sure if any of them would ever call themselves that. Panel one’s Sergio Palleroni, co-founder of the BaSIC Initiative and active participant in public interest design since before I was born, said he always feels like a novice in this trade. Panel two’s Rashmi Ramaswamy, co-founder of SHED Studio, confidently told us that “it’s ok not to know what you’re doing.” And featured speaker Andrew Freear, director of Auburn’s Rural Studio program, admitted to taking a hands-on and mistake-filled approach, which allows him to constantly be learning and improving his projects.
Students at the University of Austin, working with Sergio Palleroni and Dr. Leslie Jarmon, prototyped designs for the Alley Flat Initiative in Second Life in 2009 before construction started in 2010. Images via Arch Virtual.
In order to be an expert in public interest design, it seems that what you really need to be is an expert learner (or, in some cases, un-learner). Emily Pilloton‘s new design/build Studio H program is gradually and organically growing in scale (as are her students’ projects), based on what she and partner Matthew Miller learn along the way; and that was the plan from the start. Michael Zaretsky, Emily Roush, and Richard Elliott, un-learned a whole slew of habits while working on the Roche Health Center in rural Tanzania, including the knee-jerk reaction to go to Lowe’s for tools and materials. Dan Pitera, executive director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, believes that “we must question our assumptions” all the time in this field, particularly when starting work with an unfamiliar community.
A willingness to always be learning seems to materialize most clearly in the process of prototyping, or otherwise embracing trial and error. Cannon Design principal Trung Le, along with the rest of the “Change Agents and Innovators” panel at Structures, emphasized the value of prototypes and of convincing clients that there needs to be room in the design process for failure. Rashmi Ramaswamy elaborated on this idea by encouraging everyone to phase projects so that they kick off with innovative prototyping and testing, followed by measurement of specific outcomes. In her experience, including these phases is incredibly helpful in managing everyone’s expectations of what’s possible down the line.
This is post 5 of 7 recapping Structures for Inclusion 10+1, an annual conference focused on design for social good.