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The Public Dialogue - A Blog by Public Architecture
04.16.14 Field Notes

This is the second part in a two-part series relating Amy Ress’ interview with Katherine Darnstadt.  For Part 1, click here.

Rendering of Demoiselle 2 Femme's Hope Center for Girls (Image Credit: Latent Design)

Amy: How do you find and select your pro bono clients?  How do you assess nonprofits’ goals?  What tools or processes have you used?

Katherine: We have developed a suite of questions to explore the project and its envisioned benefits.  First, we research the organization.  What is their mission?  Who are their funders?  What are their goals?  We come at it from a funder’s viewpoint by asking, “If you need us to help develop a program for a storefront arts space, what will this do, how will this increase your capacity, and how will you be able to respond to this increased capacity?”  We look at their overall vision for the project, and ask organizational questions like, “how will they support the ongoing program?”  Sometimes those questions come from the typical service provider relationship.  We look at opportunities to frame the project in an expanded context.  To develop a more comprehensive design solution, we explore existing city or funder initiatives.  For example, right now in Chicago there is a big push towards STEM and arts curriculum.  We ask the client, “How can this fit into citywide, community-wide, and organization-wide goals?” to help them make a better case for the project with funders and other partners in the capital campaign. Read more

04.09.14 Field Notes

This is the first part in a two-part series relating Amy Ress’ interview with Katherine Darnstadt.

We thought it valuable to sit down with the founder of Latent Design, one of the most active and impactful firms in The 1%.  Katherine Darnstadt received the 2013 AIA Young Architects Award, was a Social Impact Design Award Special Recognition recipient, was named one of the 2014 GOOD 100 global citizens, and most recently was a featured speaker at TEDxIIT.  We were interested in sharing how, as the leader of a small firm, Katherine has integrated pro bono into a sustainable business model.

Photo Credit: Katherine Darnstadt

Amy: Why does your firm participate in Public Architecture’s 1% program?

Katherine: We joined The 1% in 2010, right when I started Latent Design.  At that time, I was looking at any avenue to broaden and spread the message of the firm.  We saw an alignment of our goals and beliefs within the mission of The 1%.  We could use the platform to showcase Latent Design’s belief that design could be a tool for social impact.  The program provided an opportunity to network and work with community development and nonprofit organizations, and to work on socially impactful projects.  The 1% became a way to test different business strategies: how to facilitate this work through relationships that are more common between nonprofits, but not as visible between private firms and nonprofits.  We tried to figure out why such differences exist.  Participating in The 1% allowed us to try different strategies and fold them into our practice. Read more

03.25.14 Field Notes

Public Architecture is seeking full-time Summer Associate(s) to work closely with and support Public Architecture’s professional staff.

Past projects led by Summer Associates have included conducting interviews about pro bono design with some of the country’s top architects and developing a program for material reuse within The 1% program.  While specific projects may vary based on candidate’s skills and interests, all Summer Associate projects will likely involve significant research, writing, and communications support.  As part of the Public Architecture team, Summer Associates play an integral role in advancing key initiatives to realize our mission more broadly.

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03.18.14 Events

Updated 3/29: See what makes Design Access such a unique and intimate experience — event photos now available on Facebook.


“I think what you’ve done is shown us how to take a chance – a collective chance.”

Randy Gragg, Executive Director, University of Oregon, John Yeon Center for Architectural Studies

On February 19-21, Public Architecture hosted our third annual Design Access Summit, convening national leaders in design, philanthropy, business, government, and the nonprofit sector to discuss new ways of leveraging the design of the built environment for social impact.  In partnership with Ford Foundation, this year’s summit focused on the role that “anchor institutions” – institutions with a vested interest and presence in their specific city or region, such as universities and hospitals – can play in promoting the well-being of local, low-income communities.  Design Access participants explored planning activities, design processes, policy-making, and leadership actions that can better incorporate the interests of low-income communities into the design of anchor institutions.

“[Design Access] brought together highly skilled, diverse, and passionate leaders with practical on-the-ground experience to better understand the business and political realities of anchor institutions and the equity issues facing low-income populations – all within a safe place for meaningful dialogue.”

Salem Reiner, Associate Director of Economic Development, Office of the President, Johns Hopkins University

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03.18.14 Resources

Public Architecture is pleased to release Cabin Project, the fourth in an on-going series of case studies that feature projects by the American Institute of Architects members participating in The 1% program who are making pro bono service an integral part of design practice.  Shadow Hills Riding Club, located in the northern Los Angeles neighborhood of Shadow Hills, offers therapeutic riding programming for people with mental or physical disabilities in which horses are used to facilitate healing and growth.  Staff from the Architecture + Civic Engagement (ACE) Center at Woodbury University’s School of Architecture led a design build studio in which architecture students designed and constructed residential cabins for military veterans in support of Shadow Hills’ Saddles for Soldiers program.

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03.13.14 Events

By Amy Ress

Public Architecture and Shelter Media Project are delighted to share our Resilient SF videos series. This new video series explores how three design teams directed their expertise to increase San Francisco’s ability to be adaptable and flexible in times of great stress, as well as provide a benefit for citizens today.

David Baker Architects - Local Cache


Perkins + Will - San Francisco - RDoC


CMG Landscape Architecture - Golden Gate Park: A Sustainable Retrofit

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12.10.13 Resources

By Ezra Mauer

Public Architecture is thrilled to announce the release of the 2012/2013 Public Interest Design Externship report. The PID program, run by the Center for Sustainable Development within the School of architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, explores how built environments are received by the communities they serve. During the summer externship, students learned the analytic techniques of post-occupancy analysis with faculty at UT Austin. They subsequently spent time with Public Architecture collecting and interpreting data related to select projects in San Francisco in 2012 and Austin in 2013.

The report is a 171-page, full-color publication featuring five case studies on design intent and three post-occupancy evaluations – and is free to download. Public Architecture President, John Peterson, and UT Austin Architecture professor and Director of the Sustainable Design Program, Steven A. Moore, penned the report’s introduction. We highly encourage you to take a look at this impressive and compelling piece of work.

12.03.13 Field Notes

Final Proposal for Waller Creek Conservancy | Act Now!

In celebration of #GivingTuesday, we’re sharing five of our favorite ways that friends of Public Architecture can support our mission to leverage the design of the built environment as a tool for social gain. Whether you’re a longtime donor or a new fan of our work, your support in all forms is critical to our continued success and growth:

  • Make a donation. Making a gift to Public Architecture is the single easiest way to support our organization. Just this morning, we received a holiday donation from our friends at Teknion—longtime supporters of Public Architecture and annual sponsors of our Design Access Summit. This year, Teknion even rewarded each leader behind the Summit’s winning proposal (learn more here) with their very own RBT chair!

Teknion RBT Chair

  • Spec socially responsible products. When you choose products from The 1% Collection, our partners donate 1% of sales to Public Architecture. From Shaw Contract Group’s Homage collection to Skyline Design’s 5+ Collection by Michael Graves, exceeding your design expectations has never been easier—or more rewarding.
  • Stock up on new software. #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday are just behind us, but Novedge is offering #AutoCAD 2014 at a great price—and donating $200 per each new copy to Public Architecture.
  • Join us. Whether you’re a firm looking for ways to give back or a nonprofit in need of design services, The 1% pro bono design platform offers access to projects and resources to make the most of your pro bono pledge. And we’re always looking for great volunteers and interns to join our ranks—your time, energy, and support are invaluable to us.

And last but not least:

  • Follow #GRATEFULx13. Between now and December 31st, we’re counting down our top thirteen highlights of 2013. Join the countdown on Facebook and Twitter, and share your commitment to social impact design with your friends and family this holiday season!


12.02.13 Field Notes

In September, we challenged three design firms to propose resiliency strategies focused on San Francisco’s ability to withstand its next natural disaster. CMG Landscape Architecture, David Baker Architects, and Perkins + Will San Francisco presented innovative solutions that focused on systemic and social opportunities. Recently, KQED Quest, through its lens of regional sustainability issues, brought the topic of resiliency and disaster preparedness to the forefront:

Mention sleeping in Golden Gate Park, and most people think of homelessness. But the idea that San Francisco’s most famous park could be used as an emergency shelter for thousands of victims after a major earthquake – as it was after the 1906 earthquake – is again resurfacing.

Click here to read the rest of their article covering our recent Resilient San Francisco event and CMG Landscape Architecture’s Camp The Park proposal.

11.14.13 Field Notes

Public Architecture is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Novedge, who is making it easier than ever to support the efforts of The 1% pro bono design program. For every new seat of AutoCAD 2014 sold, Novedge will contribute $200 to Public Architecture. In the words of Franco Folini, Co-Founder and President of Novedge: “It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.” Learn more about the origins of this program–and the origins of both Public Architecture and Novedge–below, and don’t forget to visit Novedge today to support the efforts of social impact designers nationwide.

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11.05.13 Field Notes

We’re thrilled to announce that the 4th International Holcim Awards is open for entries! Since 2003, the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction has led the field in recognizing innovative projects and future-oriented concepts from architects and designers worldwide. No vision is too big and no project is too small. From now to March 24, 2014, the Holcim Awards is accepting submissions that envision a more sustainable and equitable built environment for all.

Holcim Awards - Open Now For Entries

All of us at Public Architecture know how transformative the Holcim Awards can be in taking a project from vision to reality. Our Day Labor Station received two Holcim Awards—the North America Silver Prize in 2008 and the Global “Innovation” Prize in 2009—and Holcim continues to be a strong supporter and advocate of our efforts. Most recently, the Holcim Foundation supported Public Architecture’s ResilientSF Design Challenge, engaging designers at Perkins + Will, CMG Landscape Architecture, and David Baker Architects to envision solutions for a more resilient San Francisco.

So why apply for the Holcim Awards?

  • You may be working on a potential winner right now. As friends and partners of Public Architecture, you’ve already made a significant investment in promoting socially responsible and sustainable design. Through the Holcim Awards, you can share your research, designs, and methodologies with an appreciative audience while advancing the practice of social impact design worldwide.
  • Join forward-thinking architects and designers from around the world. From students and young professionals to established firms like Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, the Holcim Awards attracts submissions from visionary practitioners and leaders around the world. Winners from the five regional competitions in Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa Middle East, and Asia Pacific in 2014 will then advance to the Global Holcim Awards in 2015.
  • Share more than projects—share values, too. Together with its internationally renowned partner universities, the Holcim Foundation has developed five target issues for evaluating Awards: Progress, People, Planet, Prosperity, and Proficiency. Learn more about Holcim’s high standards of innovation, sustainability, and social responsibility here.
  • Impact matters. From small projects like our own Day Labor Station to large projects like an urban remediation and civic infrastructure hub in São Paulo, Brazil, the independent juries of the Holcim Awards know that innovation and transformation happen at many different scales.
  • Gain real recognition, with real rewards. Not only is the Holcim Awards an opportunity to showcase your work on an international stage, but Award winners also receive a significant cash prize. Altogether, the Foundation awards a total of $2 million to winning projects and designers each cycle.

Interested? Learn more about the Awards, including details about project eligibility, competition levels, and evaluation criteria, at the Holcim Awards website.

Have a project in mind? Download the step-by-step application guide here to get a head start!

Questions? Connect with the Holcim Awards via Facebook and Twitter (@HolcimAwardsUS).

Happy applying!


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10.23.13 Resources

By Ezra Mauer

This week is an exciting one for us at Public Architecture: it is Pro Bono Week.  Started by the American Bar Association and now championed by the Taproot Foundation, Pro Bono Week is a celebration of the pro bono ethic across all professions that use their talents to make a difference.  There are several events taking place this week that we’re excited to report about:

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