SAID Happenings

A recap of events at UC's School of Architecture and Interior Design

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    Public Interest Design Institute, Day 1

    Nov 15, '12 2:38 PM EST

    The Public Interest Design Institute (PIDI) came to Cincinnati this past weekend, bringing nearly 50 professionals, faculty, and students together for training in public interest design focused on the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) metric.  SEED serves as a network, design process, and evaluation standard.  Each presenter at PIDI engaged in projects that embodied the SEED process; a brief narrative of each follows.


    Rural Poverty: Bayview Rural Village
    Maurice Cox, Director of Tulane City Center

    Working with a multidisciplinary team and local community members, Maurice Cox led a renewal of the Bayview Rural Village.  A plan for a maximum security prison to be located in the heart of their village mobilized community leaders to transform a collection of rundown rental homes without indoor plumbing into a dignified rural village.  Starting with an EPA grant to address drinking water issues, Cox began with quick wins like trash cleanup to get the community to engage in long term planning.

    After engaging with the community for 6 months and researching rural housing typologies, Cox and community leaders presented three potential plans for development.  With media exposure from the NAACP, the community secured multiple grants to make their multi-million dollar development a reality.  Rundown rental houses were demolished, and 30 new lease to own homes with large shared porches were built; with the Nature Conservancy, the community now controls all 160 acres of land and can therefore determine their own future, and they have plans for future development of community spaces and landscaping.


    • Developing trust within a community, meeting them in their community, and talking about their interests is vital.  Having a strong community leader can help spur change from within and maintain momentum.
    • “Nothing about us, without us, is for us.” – South African slogan

    More Information:


    Grow Dat Youth Farm
    Emilie Taylor, Design Build Manager of Tulane City Center

    Grow Dat is an atypical project for TCC, building on relationships established from past project partners.  Grow Dat is a project based on the scarcity of jobs for New Orleans teens and inadequate access to healthy food.  The 19-week program creates a healthy and supportive work environment for high school youth from diverse backgrounds; through after school and summer curriculum, teens learn farming and cooking skills and develop their leadership potential and communication.  This program necessitated a site and associated building for farming, preparation, sale, and learning.  Multiple organizations provided support: City Park provided a four acre site of an old golf course near the interstate, and the Container Store provided shipping containers as a basis for the built form.

    Through team building exercises, Tulane students engaged with the high school students and Grow Dat team.  Upon completion of the project, which was challenging for TCC in its first use of steel in a design build project, the project team and community members celebrated their success.  The project was supported by many non-traditional donors, and although the project was a little over budget, TCC felt so strongly about the program that it was worth the overages to deliver this project for the community.


    • Learning when to step away from a project can be difficult; public interest design projects engage clients and communities in strong relationships not always typical within the architecture practice.
    • Grow Dat overcomes a frequent shortcoming of not tracking post occupancy numbers; data collection is a practice embedded within the Grow Dat program and helps to provide real evidence of the program’s success.

    More Information:



    Roche Health Center
    Michael Zaretsky, Assistant Professor, University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID)

    Roche Health Center is a project through the non-profit Village Life Outreach Project, which has committees for health, education, and life in both Tanzania and Cincinnati.  Initially engaging medical students, nurses, and engineers on issues of healthcare and clean water, VLOP came to the architecture school to design a healthcare center in rural Tanzania.  While the ratio of population to doctors is 390:1 in the United States, the ratio is 50,000:1 in Tanzania, and travel times to clinics are often prohibitive.

    Zaretsky involved SAID students in several studios and seminars to design the healthcare center, consulting ARUP, emersion DESIGN, and other colleges at UC for expertise.  Scrapping prototype plans from a Dar Es Salaam architecture company that did not address community needs, the team engaged the community in discussions of their vision for the healthcare center.  This engagement informed the design of the health center, especially concerning material selection and construction methods, and community members learned new skills to build the center.  After its completion, Roche Health Center conducted 492 outpatient visits, delivered 14 babies, provided antenatal care for 76 women, and immunized 148 children in nine months.  Beyond these numbers, surveys indicate that users appreciate the Roche Health Center for its proximity, good service, and strong sense of community ownership.


    • How do you design with fallibility?  Projects like this help designers learn from their mistakes.
    • Designers often have an impulse to return to vernacular construction, but the community really desired a new masonry construction.
    • Setting up a framework for measurement and evaluation early in the project makes it easier to report project results.

    More Information:


    Day 2 stories to follow in a separate post.  Take the SEED Pledge today!

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About this Blog

This blog will provide a recap of events - lectures, gallery openings, major reviews, etc. - at the University of Cincinnati's School of Architecture and Interior Design. Most entries are written by graduate assistants at SAID; other authors will be noted by post.

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