Public interest design
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Public interest design is a human-centered and participatory design practice that places emphasis on the “triple bottom line” of sustainable design that includes ecological, economic, and social issues and on designing products, structures, and systems that address issues such as economic development and the preservation of the environment.
Starting in the late 1990s, several books, convenings, and exhibitions have generated new momentum and investment in public interest design. Since then, public interest design—frequently described as a movement or field—has gained public recognition.
Public interest design grew out of the community design movement, which got its start in 1968 after American civil rights leader Whitney Young issued a challenge to attendees of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) national convention:
". . . you are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights, and I am sure this does not come to you as any shock. You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance."
The response to Young’s challenge was the establishment of community design centers (CDCs) across the United States. CDCs, which were often established with the support of area universities, provided a variety of design services – such as affordable housing - within their own neighborhoods.
In architecture schools, “design/build programs” provided outreach to meet local design needs, particularly in low-income and underserved areas. One of the earliest design/build programs was Yale University’s Vlock Building Project. The project, which was initiated by students at Yale University School of Architecture in 1967, requires graduate students to design and build low-income housing.
One of the most publicized programs is the Auburn University Rural Studio design/build program, which was founded in 1993. The Rural Studio’s first project, Bryant House, was completed in 1994 for $16,500.
Public Interest Design from the 1990s – Present
Interest in public interest design – particularly socially responsible architecture – began to grow during the 1990s and continued into the first decade of the new millennium. Conferences, books, and exhibitions began to showcase the design work being done beyond the community design centers, which had greatly decreased in numbers since their peak in the seventies.
Non-profit organizations – including Architecture for Humanity, BaSiC Initiative, Design Corps, Public Architecture, Project H, and MASS Design Group – began to provide design services that served a larger segment of the population than had been served by traditional design professions.
Many public interest design organizations also provide training and service-learning programs for architecture students and graduates. In 1999, the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship was established, giving young architects the opportunity to work on three-year-long design and community development projects in low-income communities.
Other organizations providing professional training through fellowships include Code for America, Design Corps, Design Impact, Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, bcWORKSHOP, IDEO.org.
Two of the earliest formal public interest design programs include the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio at Mississippi State University and the Public Interest Design Summer Program at the University of Texas .
Also in 2011, a survey of American Institute of Architects (AIA), 77% of AIA members agreed that the mission of the professional practice of public interest design could be defined as the belief that every person should be able to live in a socially, economically, and environmentally healthy community.
Publications, Conferences, and Exhibits
Several books have been published that showcase a variety of public interest design projects and practitioners:
- Good Neighbors, Affordable Family Housing." Tom Jones, William Pettus, and Michael Pyatok, 1997 (ISBN 978-0070329133)
- Learning by Building: Design and Construction in Architectural Education." William J. Carpenter, 1997 (ISBN 978-0471287933)
- Good Deeds, Good Design: Community Service through Architecture." Bryan Bell, 2003 (ISBN 978-1568983912)
- Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises. Kate Stohr and Cameron Sinclair, ed., 2006 (ISBN 978-1933045252)
- Expanding Architecture, Design as Activism." Bryan Bell and Katie Wakeford, ed., 2008 (ISBN 978-1933045788)
- Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People. Emily Pilloton, 2009 (ISBN 978-1933045955)
- The Power of Pro Bono: 40 Stories about Design for the Public Good by Architects and Their Clients. John Cary, 2010 (ISBN 978-1935202189)
- Design Like You Give a Damn 2: Building Change from the Ground Up." Kate Stohr and Cameron Sinclair, ed., 2012 (ISBN 978-0810997028)
The annual Structures for Inclusion conference showcases public interest design projects from around the world. The first conference, which was held in 2000, was called “Design for the 98% Without Architects." Speaking at the conference, Rural Studio co-founder Samuel Mockbee challenged attendees to serve a greater segment of the population: “I believe most of us would agree that American architecture today exists primarily within a thin band of elite social and economic conditions...in creating architecture, and ultimately community, it should make no difference which economic or social type is served, as long as the status quo of the actual world is transformed by an imagination that creates a proper harmony for both the affluent and the disadvantaged." The Structures for Inclusion conference is now entering its 14th year, to take place March 23–25, 2013, hosted by the University of Minnesota College of Design. The event is part of a larger, first-of-its-kind Public Interest Design Week. Other recurring events, chief among them the Design Like You Give a Damn: LIVE, coordinated by Architecture for Humanity, and the Design Access Summit, coordinated by Public Architecture, have also taken shape in recent years.
In 2007, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum held an exhibition, titled “Design for the Other 90%,” curated by Cynthia Smith. Following the success of this exhibit, Smith developed the "Design Other 90" initiative into an ongoing series, the second of which was titled “Design for the Other 90%: CITIES” (2011), held at the United Nations headquarters. In 2010, Andres Lipek of the Museum of Modern Art in New York curated an exhibit, called “Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement.” In 2012, the U.S. Pavilion of the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Cathy Lang Ho, focused on "Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good." Also in 2012, "Public Interest Design: Products, Places, & Processes," was curated by John Cary and Courtney E. Martin, at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco.
In 2005, adopting a term coined by architect Kimberly Dowdell, the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Network was co-founded by a group of community design leaders, during a meeting hosted by the Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The SEED Network established a common set of five principles and criteria for practitioners of public interest design. An evaluation tool called the SEED Evaluator is available to assist designers and practitioners in developing projects that align with SEED Network goals and criteria.
In 2006, the Open Architecture Network was launched by Architecture for Humanity in conjunction with co-founder Cameron Sinclair's TED Wish. Taking on the name Worldchanging in 2011, the network is an open-source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design. Designers of all persuasions can share ideas, designs and plans as well as collaborate and manage projects. while protecting their intellectual property rights using the Creative Commons "some rights reserved" licensing system.
In 2011, the Design Other 90 Network was launched by the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in conjunction with its Design with the Other 90%: CITIES exhibition.
In 2012, IDEO.org, with the support of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched HCD Connect, a network for social sector leaders committed to human-centered design. In this context, human-centered design begins with the end-user of a product, place, or system — taking into account their needs, behaviors and desires. The fast-growing professional network of 15,000 builds on "The Human-Centered Design Toolkit," which was designed specifically for people, nonprofits, and social enterprises that work with low-income communities throughout the world. People using the HCD Toolkit or human-centered design in the social sector now have a place to share their experiences, ask questions, and connect with others working in similar areas or on similar challenges.
- Healthy community design
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
- Sustainable architecture
- Sustainable Design
- HCD Connect Methods
- Cary, John. "Infographic: Public Interest Design". PublicInterestDesign.org. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Cary, John; Courtney E. Martin (October 6, 2012). "Dignifying Design". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Leavitt, Jacqueline; Kara Hoffernan (2006). Mary C. Hardin, ed. From the Studio to the Streets: Service Learning in Planning and Architecture. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-1563771002.
- Whitney Young 1968 Speech to the AIA
- Design Coalition, "Our Roots"
- Pearson, Jason (2002). Mark Robbins, ed. University-Community Design Partnerships: Innovations in Practice. New York, New York: Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 6–7. ISBN 1-56898-379-4. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Hill, David (March 2012). "The New Frontier in Education". Architectural Record. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Clemence, Sara (April 2012). "Avant-Garde in Alabama". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Bostwick, William. ""Citizen Architect": The Humble Origins of Socially-Responsible Design". Fast Company. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- "Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio: Community Architecture". National Building Museum. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Hughes, C.J. (March 2012). "Does "Doing Good" Pay the Bills?". Architectural Record. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Enterprise Community website, "About the Fellowship"
- Code for America Fellowship Program webpage
- Design Impact website, "Fellowship"
- Gulf Coast Community Design Center, "Public Interest Design Program"
- bcWORKSHOP website, "Summer 2012 bcFELLOWs"
- IDEO.org, "Innovators in Residence"
- Coast Community Design Center home page
- Overview of Public Interest Design program, University of Texas School of Architecture
- Harvard School of Design course description
- Bell, Bryan. "Public Interest Design Takes Shape". Metropolismag.com. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Bell, Bryan; Roberta Feldman; Sergio Palleroni; Davide Perkes (31 December 2011). "2011 Latrobe Prize Progress Report: Public Interest Practices in Architecture". Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Good Neighbors, Affordable Family Housing book description on Amazon.com
- Learning by Building: Design and Construction in Architectural Education book description on Amazon.com
- Good Deeds, Good Design: Community Service through Architecture book description on Amazon.com
- Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises book description on Amazon.com
- Expanding Architecture, Design as Activism book description on Amazon.com
- Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People book description on Amazon.com
- The Power of Pro Bono book description on Amazon.com
- Design Like You Give a Damn 2: Building Change from the Ground Up book description on Amazon.com
- Bell, Bryan (2003). Good Deeds, Good Design: Community Service Through Architecture. New York, New York: Princeton Architectural Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-1568983912.
- Design Like You Give a Damn: LIVE webpage
- Design Access Summit webpage
- Design Other 90 Network
- Design for the Other 90%: CITIES
- MoMA Exhibition: "Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement"
- 2012 U.S. Pavilion Exhibition: "Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good"
- Exhibition: "Public Interest Design: Products, Places, & Processes
- Autodesk Gallery
- Association for Community Design website, "About" page
- SEED Network website
- SEED Network principles
- SEED Evaluator
- Open Architecture Network website
- Cameron Sinclair's TED Prize talk and wish for the Open Architecture Network
- Worldchanging website
- Design 21 Social Design Network website
- UNESCO website
- Design Other 90 Network website
- IDEO.org website
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website
- HCD Connect website
- The Human-Centered Design Toolkit from IDEO