Posts tagged ‘Structures for Inclusion’

SFI12: Design is relational.

Part 5 of 5

The day’s self-described “analyst and scribe” Steven Moore was last to speak to the Structures audience on Saturday. Throughout the day, Moore tracked the topics covered using a spreadsheet, and then ranked the topics by frequency. The ones covered most were: relationships, participation, spatial justice, & organizational structure. Public interest designers are clearly a participatory, activist, and practical bunch!


Moore tracked the topics covered by panelists (and audience members) for his closing remarks

One of Moore’s major takeaways from the day’s presentations was that “outsiders, or ‘valuable strangers,’ can broker knowledge but also adapt [outside] relevant knowledge to local context.” It’s a great framework for thinking about collaboration between all the team members and beneficiaries on a project. Moore also affirmed the opportunity for the SEED Network to be an industry forum “for the accumulation of accessible knowledge,” and to become a truly disruptive platform for the industry.

On the topic of organizational structure, Moore wisely noted that “there has not yet been enough focus on new, sustainable economic models for public interest design.” I couldn’t agree more. The biggest reason I keep going to Structures is to be a part of the community that will eventually build those models.

April 8’s daily design idea is Moore noted that “opportunity” was an important but underrepresented topic at this year’s Structures. What opportunities for social change design do you see?

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April 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm Leave a comment

SFI12: Quantifiable impact.

Part 4 of 5

The third panel was full of projects with clearly recognizable social, environmental, and economical impact. BNIM Architecture’s SEED award winning Bancroft School Revitalization was the first project presented, including heartfelt anecdotes by the neighborhood association’s president, Sandra Hayes. One of her biggest takeaways from this project is that “to be a change agent, you have to build relationships.” Tim Duggan, the landscape architect on the project and a long-term collaborator with BNIM, described another challenge for the team: creating a design language for Manheim that is distinct but still local. Duggan admitted that it’s a tricky but very important line to navigate.

rendering of Bancroft School Revitalization by BNIM and Make It Right

The next speaker was Green Guide for Health Care co-founder Gail Vittori, who realized 12 years ago that “no one was really connecting human health & the built environment.” The work that she has done and encouraged others to do (including some great progress by my employer, Perkins+Will!) has moved healthcare facilities forward by leaps and bounds. Now, the standard for hospital design is finally shifting toward healthy food, water and energy savings, and carcinogen free building materials. When asked about mobilizing this type of change, specifically though the effect of a “multiplier,” Vittori shared that employee retention in a powerful motivator in healthcare; statistics show that nurses stay in their jobs longer when there’s a green commitment from their employer, and hospitals clearly understand the value of lower turnover.

The always entertaining Pliny Fisk, co-founder of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, also shared some pieces of his portfolio. His project goals are strongly rooted in social impact and understanding, making him and Vittori (his wife) quite the power couple of public interest design. With his projects, Fisk said that his aim is for clients to think “that crazy American, he actually understands who we are as a culture.” In my opinion, it’s a goal that’s far from crazy.

MASS Design Group aims for triple bottom line impact with all their projects, including construction of housing for Butaro Hospital’s doctors

Michael Murphy and Tanya Paz were up next, presenting MASS Design Group’s SEED award winning Nyanza hospital. Murphy shared that designing “healthier environments” was the primary goal in founding the non-profit firm, a goal that has definitely been achieved with their celebrated Butaro hospital. The Nyanza project has many of the same goals as Butaro, but is located on a much tighter site, making it both a challenging and very rewarding project to work on.

When the audience asked this panel how we can improve legislation to make healthier cities, several great answers were offered. BNIM’s Sam De Jong reaffirmed the power of seeing the local community as a partner. Duggan reminded the audience to vote! And moderator Michael Gatto added by saying that we all need to be “solutionary” in our approaches.

April 7’s daily design idea is a quote by Make It Right’s Tim Duggan: “the moment you quantify the benefits, the bean counter will understand the value of tree hugging.”

April 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm Leave a comment

SFI12: Beneficiaries as participants.

Part 3 of 5

The second panel focused on Participation. Architecture for Humanity‘s program coordinator, T. Luke Young, kicked off by introducing AFH and the approach they take: “We don’t call ourselves designers; we like to be thought of as catalysts… in a global village.” AFH design fellow Diego Collazos continued by discussing the SEED award winning work he is doing at the Maria Auxiliadora School in Peru. A personal highlight of the project was how Collazos and his team asked students to stick green notes on the parts of the building that are good, and red notes on the parts of the building that are bad. This struck me as such a simple but effective technique for getting feedback, especially from children.

photo of the Maria Auxiliadora School

Tulane City Center‘s SEED award winning project, Grow Dat youth farm, was presented next by Emilie Taylor and Scott Bernhard. Their team empowered the youth to study “the logic of the site,” which informed many design choices, such as situating the building in the worst spot for growing vegetables. Separately, Bernhard also shared that Tulane’s admission rates increased 400% after integrating service-oriented curricula after Hurricane Katrina, such as the projects of City Center. There was a shared feeling of hope between the panelists and audience that other institutions would notice, and follow in Tulane’s footsteps.

photo via Nola.com of planting at Grow Dat youth farm

The panel wrapped up with Anne Frederick, the founding director of New York’s Hester Street Collaborative. In addition to introducing the audience to HSC’s advocacy work for the Lower East Side’s waterfront (which included a mobile scale model that residents can interact with!), Frederick also shared questions that she’s developed with the Center for Urban Pedagogy to help social change designers frame their projects. Their number one question is a critical but too often overlooked one: Is there a need for the project? (In the case of the SEED award winning projects, I’d guess that the answer is a resounding “yes!”).

Hester Street Collaborative’s “Waterfront on Wheels

April 6’s daily design idea is that “instructive failure” is pervasive in design for social good, particularly when the participant pool is large; an observation articulated by the Tulane City Center team but shared by everyone at Structures.

April 6, 2012 at 9:13 pm Leave a comment

Augmented Tweeting: Structures for Inclusion 12

I live tweeted the main day of this year’s Structures for Inclusion 12 (SFI12), hosted by UT Austin, but I also thought it would be fun to share a fuller version of those tweets here (particularly with all the vowels and grammar added back in). Hope you enjoy!


the range of social issues that could (and should) be addressed by designers

Part 1 of 5

Bryan Bell kicked off the Saturday session of Structures by talking about this year’s theme, “Design is Relational.” This theme was inspired by Sergio Palleroni’s presentation at last year’s Structures, regarding the fact that it’s often the non-physical effects of the design process that have the most lasting impact. Bell specifically noted that strengthening relationships within the industry and advancing our processes for collaboration are both essential going forward. “Creativity makes a bigger & healthier pie out of limited resources.” We can do more with less by working together better.

From there, Barbara Brown Wilson took the stage and reflected on past links between social change and physical space. Wilson highlighted the Disabilities Movement as a highly successful effort to transform standards for the built environment, and pointed out that we are currently in a relatively undefined proto-movement (which has yet to create that same level of disruptive impact). The SEED Network, which Wilson helped found, is certainly a step in the right direction. While the network has evolved into a platform for “knowledge brokering,” it was originally conceived as a “bat signal” for communities to reach out to when they needed design services. Providing services to these communities is obviously still the ultimate goal.

This year’s featured speaker, the amazing Coleman Coker, followed. He primarily focused on designing ethically, in response to the earth (something he’s been doing for over 30 years), in contrast to designing based on aesthetic judgment or taste. I found it incredibly inspiring to hear Coker speak about the social and environmental elements of his work, especially as the two are so integrated for him.

April 4’s daily design idea is Coleman Coker’s concluding thought: “if architecture is done well, it brings us closer to the world.”

April 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm 3 comments

Congrats to the winners of the 2012 SEED Competition!

via PublicInterestDesign.org (January 27, 2012):

“The 6 winning projects along with 13 honorable mentions were selected from a field of 45 submissions from 14 countries. According to the press release, ‘The award winners and honorable mentions…offer tangible evidence of how design is effectively playing a role in addressing the most critical issues around the globe…Each project team carefully identified a community’s needs and priorities, then maximized the use of resources to strategically address these.'”

Announced last month by the SEED Network, the following six projects have been selected as winners of this year’s SEED Competition (images above begin at upper left and go clockwise):

Bancroft School Revitalization, Kansas City, Missouri. Team includes BNIM Architecture + Planning, Dalmark Development and Management Group, Make it Right, Green Impact Zone, Historic Manheim Park Association, JE Dunn Construction, and Truman Medical Group.

Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan and Rehabilitation, Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico. Team includes Atkins Olshin Schade Architects and The Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority.

Grow Dat Farm, New Orleans, Louisiana. Team includes Tulane University City Center, Grow Dat Youth Farm, and New Orleans City Park.

Escuela Ecologica Saludable Initiative: Parque Primaria, Lima, Peru. Team includes University of Washington (Department of Landscape Architecture, Department of Global Health, School of Forest Resources, Global Health and Environment Fellows), Architects Without Borders- Seattle, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos/ Fundacion San Marcos, Escuela Pitagorus #8183, COPASED de Zapalla, and Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholar Jorge Alarcon.

Nyanza Maternity Hospital, Nyanza, Rwanda. Team includes MASS Design Group, UNICEF, Rwandan Ministry of Health, Transsolar Kilma Engineering, Nyanza Hospital Administration

Maria Auxiliadora School, Los Calderones, Peru. Team includes Architecture for Humanity, Happy Hearts Fund, ING-INTEGRA Peru, Maria Auxiliadora School, Los Calderones Community, Tate Municipality.

The winning teams will present their projects in just over a month at this year’s Structures for Inclusion conference, being held at the University of Texas at Austin. See you there!

February 22’s daily design idea is celebrate your industry’s accomplishments, and eventually others will too.

February 22, 2012 at 7:51 pm Leave a comment

The 98%.

We may happily aim to diversify our architectural vocabulary, always be learning, better understand economic value, take an entrepreneurial approach, and work collaboratively with our clients – but the question remains of how to start doing all this now and ultimately, in the words of Mike Newman (co-founder of SHED Studio), how to better serve “the other 98% of people that don’t normally receive design services.”

In the “Learning from Communities” panel at the 2011 Structures for Inclusion conference, executive director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center Dan Pitera displayed a diagram of the current “design ecosystem.” Currently, the base of the economic pyramid and base of the design pyramid are at opposite ends, meaning that the vast majority of design services are going to a small minority of beneficiaries. Larry Kearns, a principal of Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects, monetized the design pyramid: in his experience, projects usually cost clients $2/sf at design base and $200/sf at the point. So part of figuring out how to better serve the 98% has to be figuring out a model that makes a $2/sf project much more economically viable for the designer.

The Design Ecosystem, as described by Dan Pitera at Structures for Inclusion 10+1. Currently, most design work is done for a very small but wealthy portion of the population. The majority of the population commands little wealth, and also receives very few design services.

Platforms like Public Architecture’s 1% program or New York’s local desigNYC are encouraging designers and firms to entirely donate their services, in exchange for having the connection between the service provider and the recipient facilitated for them. Organizations like Designs 4 Dignity and local chapters of Architecture for Humanity are rallying individual volunteers to donate their time and expertise, so that the client receives upfront and schematic design services (often including production of fundraising materials) free of charge. There are also a growing number of 501(c)3 non-profit design firms including Project H Design, Public Architecture, Architecture for Humanity, MASS Design Group, and Structures’ own Design Corps, who are able to serve a wider range of clients because outside donations and tax breaks are supporting their efforts.

And while all of these organizations are doing amazing work, I still think that the design industry can do better. Which is April 1’s daily design idea and the final post recapping Structures for Inclusion 10+1, an annual conference focused on design for social good.

April 1, 2011 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

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