Public Interest Design Institute training – d.I – pt.II

On to Emilie Taylor with the Tulane City Center.

Emilie presented an important facet to public interest design, which I was surely not the only one interested in: funding.

How does one receive funding for a project that does not exist?

Bryan also found the topic of urgent importance and reiterated Emilie’s funding model.  Basically, it goes schematic design –> prove it is feasible through this design, receive funding –> pay architect for stamped, developed drawings.

With his own experiences, Bryan pointed out he does not do pro-bono work, but rather makes an RFP (request for proposal) to the intended group, and makes an agreement with them, that is he does the initial design, once they receive the project, he will be commissioned and compensated to carry the project through completion, as a deferment fee.  As he likes to say, the odds are better to receive a project you create yourself than to win a design competition.

Grow Dat Youth Farm, image from

The important underlying factor throughout these projects to remember, as designers, is that we need to prove our value and the benefit design contributes to a higher quality of life.  Emilie was able to bridge the gap between need and tangible value added with the the project, the Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I have a special place in my heart for urban farms, as my thesis project was an educational center on a farm to promote the farm’s rootedness within the community, but this was a different case, as they were starting up the farm, youth program, and built space all at the same time.  And good news, they were all a success!

The built structure for this farm is one that reenforces the value of beautiful design for all.  The structures’ design centered around an agreement to use donated freight cars, and surrounding them, which were used for classes and kitchens, was a public open space that was even recently used as a PechaKucha stage.

image from


image from

If you attended the University of Cincinnati, went to the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, and majored in a degree within the School of Architecture and Interior Design, you will know this project.  If not, you certainly should.  Our very own professor, Michael Zaretsky, has devoted several studios and much of his time and talent over the past several years developing the Village Life Outreach Project, specifically the Roche Health Clinic.  A really great thing about this clinic is that it involves so many sectors of our university, doing what they do best – architecture students designing, engineering students running tests and calculations, and such, and initially envisioned by doctor, humanitarian, and UC alumnus, Dr. Chris Lewis.

Architecturally speaking, the clinic exhibits high quality design that utilizes local resources and objectives.  A new facet to the design process I learned from this presentation is that while there were plans available from a local architect in Dar es Salaam, these were simple and “cookie cutter” (shunned in the West!), reflecting an more of a colonial aesthetic than anything, even mimicking the suburb in its master planning layout.  This would simply not do for the clinic and future vision of a campus.  The local population didn’t want to go back to their traditional building style though, so concrete was utilized as well as a new brick-making technology.  There are plans to keep expanding, so check their website and be inspired.

So, while debriefing the day, some points were made.

  • We must look for something greater, the poetry of their story rather than our preconceived ideas
  • As designers, we should and recognize learnable moments
  • And finally, the importance of design as a vehicle to advance others’ social and cultural objectives.

Please comment to provide more insight or your opinions on public interest design, the Institute, or other humanitarian design groups.


Author: Meg C

Meghan is a recent Master of Architecture graduate from the University of Cincinnati. She is interested in all aspects of sustainability, finding the most pertinent ways it relates to the built environment including social justice in terms of material choice, implementation, and life-cycle. While pragmatic concerns are ever-present, she constantly explores the inexplicable beauty to be found in the intersection of order and the poetics of space.

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