Katie Swenson, the Vice President of national design initiatives at Enterprise Community Partners, will host the next webinar for the NEA’s Social Impact Design webinar series. This panel discussion, titled Social Impact Design NOW: Women in Design: We Are Not Missing, will ask women in the field of social impact design – How can we leverage networks to cultivate a culture of creativity for women in social impact design? Who is doing the work, and how are they doing it? 

Enterprise is based in Columbia, MD, and is widely known for affordable housing and is also the organizer of the prestigious Rose Architectural Fellowship which partners early-career architectural designers with local community development organizations, where they facilitate an inclusive approach to development to create green, sustainable, and affordable communities. 

Register for the webinar this Wednesday at 3:00pmRead Katie Swenson’s blog post to learn about the webinar.


Van Alen Institute

The Van Alen Institute ran a survey to get feedback on improving design competitions. It is interesting to see that 4 out of the 10 propositions for improvement have to do with public interest design and the value of design.

1. Show the value of good design. Designers  want more compensation for the time and resources put into a competition entry. Van Alen calls for recognition of the labor and money spent annually on design competitions, as a means of monitoring “how much value design creates.” The institute recommends the mandatory disclosure of time and associated costs of every competition entry.

5. Go beyond beautiful objects. Cultural institutions considering or organizing competitions should do so with the intent of addressing “a pressing cultural, ecological, or social issue.” 

8. Make it public. The statement that “[e]veryone knows that public engagement, when structured well, helps produce better design” may be bold, yet it is illogical to produce proposals without consultation with the people who will ultimately interact with them.

9. Give young designers what they want. Student and and emerging designers are more likely to desire interdisciplinary collaboration, public engagement, and design for “underserved communities”, survey results found.

See the rest at ArchDaily.


Treat yourself, or a friend, to a great gift this holiday season! Subscribe to PUBLIC Journal, a quarterly magazine about public interest design. AIA and AIAS members are eligible for a free digital subscription, but the print edition is so beautifully done that you’ll want it too.

PUBLIC features thought-provoking editorials and exceptional photography of meaningful projects that are improving lives. Our readers get insight into the social, political, and cultural issues that surround this burgeoning movement. PUBLIC tells stories of like-minded individuals attempting to make a difference and celebrates their challenges and successes, one project at a time. Today’s growing Public Interest Design movement deserves to be exposed and archived.

Subscribe here. Architecture for Humanity DC members are also eligible for 50% off. Contact the DC Chapter to find out more.


Bryan Bell, design activist and founder of Design Corps, will lead a 2 day Public Interest Design Institute in Washington DC from January 16-17 (Friday & Saturday). A mix of local and national speakers ranging from grass roots PID projects to federal government initiated projects are listed on the PIDI website. The range will give participants in depth knowledge on how to pursue these project types and what resources there are at all scales to get them off the ground.

Participants will also receive a SEED certification plus 11+ HSW CEUs and learn more about the Social, Economic, and Environmental Design rating system which helps prepare projects for grants applications. Speakers include DC’s very own public interest design firm Make DC along with the nonprofit/for profit combo firm Inscape Publico and volunteer group Architecture for Humanity DC. Larger organizations, such as the National Endowment for the Arts and Enterprise Community Partners may be participating as well.

AIA and AfH members get an early bird discount by Dec 17. Register soon with Public Interest Design Institute, space is limited! Event will be at the District Architecture Center.


Journeyman International website

Journeyman International is an organization which partners design students with local and global humanitarian groups. They offer two programs that students can apply for, a 9-month, full time University Thesis project for seniors, or a 10-week long Internship program for upper level students.

Not a student? No problem! JI wants to meet design professionals who are interested in helping out with the student programs. Not a designer? No worries! See if your organization can partner with a design student.

Find out more by attending the JI happy hour Thursday, September 25, 2014 in Washington DC. See the AFH-DC website for details.


Photo of Thomas Fisher from

Thomas Fisher writes about four emerging fields that Architects should expand their practice into to stay competitive.

“We should take a more expansive view of architectural practice. The four fields [on the next page], which have emerged in response to the pressing needs of our current age, represent inventive combinations of existing disciplines. These fields are among the most visible examples of the entrepreneurial revolution happening in our midst.”

Geodesign which uses programs like GIS to understand the effects of buildings on the natural environment. Service Design which plans and organizes processes to improve the interaction between service provider and customers. Experience Design which organizes processes with focus on user behavior and having a positive experience. Public Interest Design which emphasizes the creation or redesign of products, environments, and systems, with a clear human-centered approach.

Read the entire article in Architect magazine. *Listen to Thomas Fisher speak about “Redefining Practice.


AFAC campaign by Inscape Publico

Inscape Publico recently hosted a happy hour as part of their summer fundraising campaign. This year the featured project is the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s distribution facility. Plans include a renovation of the existing facility and a new teaching kitchen to promote food education. Inscape Publico is a nonprofit (501c3) architecture firm which provides design services for other nonprofit organizations. Their goal is to design for the public good and to inspire positive change in communities.

“Support the value of design with the power of your donation.” Donate here. Read more about Inscape Publico in the Washington Business Journal.



Check out the beautiful new Impact Design microsite created by the folks from The latest news is that they will be rebranding their current blog to become the Impact Design Hub. The Autodesk Foundation is supporting this effort along with providing their software to nonprofits for free. Nonprofits can qualify through an online grant.

Learn more about the Autodesk Foundation.



MakeDC awarded $20,000 of professional design services to Joseph’s House, a nonprofit that provides end-of-life care for homeless men and women in Washington DC. With a unique twist on the traditional design competition, MakeDC organized this competition where worthy clients presented their desire for design services. A panel of judges then voted for the winning team along with the  public who attended the event. Joseph’s House requested a meditation garden which will welcome neighbors to mingle with their guests receiving end-of-life care. MakeDC is a Public Interest Design firm in the Washington DC area.

See more about MakeDC.


Photo © Mark Warren courtesy Architecture for Humanity For the Baguinéda center, which opened in Bamako, Mali, in 2010, architects Michael Heublein and Quarc Design used local stone and earth block to recall traditional Malian adobe and mud-brick buildings.

The latest issue of Architectural Record highlights Architecture and Ethics. There is a great article on activist design, also known as public interest design, where Lamar Anderson describes its history within the field of Architecture. Listing many organizations such as Design Corps, Community Design Centers, Public Architecture, Architecture for Humanity (see the local chapter), Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, and MASS Design Group, Anderson gives a full picture of what is happening with this movement and where it hopes to go. They key to make this last? Funding, nonprofits, & research.

“In our own time of growing humanitarian crisis, global climate change, and mounting concern over income inequality, activist architects are no longer relegated to the field’s fringes…Increasingly, public-minded architects are thinking like economists, widening their focus beyond buildings themselves to the communities they support.”

Read more by Lamar Anderson at Architectural Record.