SAID Happenings

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

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    Public Interest Design Institute, Day 2

    Nov 15, '12 4:50 PM EST

    The following are project narratives from the second day of the Public Interest Design Institute in Cincinnati.  Take the SEED Pledge today!


    Design Thinking
    Ramsey Ford, Design Director and Co-founder of Design Impact

    Ford discussed an ongoing project for improving the Sarai cooking system, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and create safe cooking environments.  The current Sarai cook stove reduces particulate matter and carbon monoxide in indoor environments compared to traditional cook stoves, but the product’s reach hasn’t been wide.  Engaging with technical experts from partner ARTI and users of the stoves, a Design Impact fellow is working on a redesign that will work better, sell more, and have a greater impact.

    Ford described the design process of Design Impact, which begins with establishing goals and self reflection, and stressed the importance of integrating user insight, technical knowledge, and visual communication in the design process.  Showing a table made for the Sarai project, Ford described the process of establishing outcomes, goals, activities, and indicators.  Given the goal of reducing negative health effects of wood burning stoves, Ford had small groups of attendees create their own roadmap using this process.


    • Open your design process – it breaks down barriers between designers and the community.
    • Leverage other partners – find your experts and seek out advisors.  Design Impact projects are reviewed by a board with members from the business, design, and social services communities.

    More Information:


    Detroit Works Project

    Dan Pitera, Director of Design for Detroit Collaborative Design Center, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture

    The Detroit Collaborative Design Center develops neighborhood spaces, neighborhood strategies, and neighborhood catalysts.  In addition to discussing past projects, Pitera focused his lecture on the Detroit Works Project, an ongoing project that has already engaged 163,000 residents of to talk about their community and land use.  Through discussion of this and other projects, Pitera outlined several successful strategies to engage citizens, including:

    • encouraging people to thinking verbs not nouns (ex. ascending and descending are more powerful than referencing a stair),
    • photographing details of people’s environments and holding a scavenger hunt for people to find those physical spaces and identify them on a map or plan,
    • resisting the urge to be too prepared and encouraging spontaneity,
    • mapping “power” in a community to identify power and position of decision makers and influencers,
    • filming people’s stories as part of an oral history project, and
    • establishing a Roaming Table several times each week that travels to public spaces for ambassadors to engage in one on one discussions with community members.

    Of the 163,000 residents reached by the project, 30,700 have been meaningful interactions, defined by Pitera as opportunities to exchange ideas rather than simply inform or receive feedback.


    • Two-way interactions provide more productive results in a community than simply informing citizens or seeking feedback on an issue.
    • Designers should resist the urge to design for as long as possible - spontaneity and idea sharing in community engagement are valuable means of exploration.

    More Information:


    Manufactured Migrant Housing

    Bryan Bell, Founder of Design Corps, Co-founder of SEED

    Bell became interested in migrant housing after his sister sent him pictures of housing conditions she documented as part of her work with Legal Services.  Leaving the traditional architecture office environment, Bell received an AIA grant to study housing for farmworkers.  He subsequently accepted a housing developer position with Rural Opportunities in Pennsylvania under the terms that he could practice design outside his 40-hour weeks and, after two years, if they saw value in design, Bell could change the job description accordingly.

    In his study of migrant housing, Bell discovered problems of accountability in the traditional bullpen and crew leader model and problems of disparate values between migrant subgroups of single men and families.  He addressed these issues in the design of manufactured housing, which proved to be socially and economically feasible.  Bell engaged in discussions with farmers to better address their needs; for example, Bell included porches with sinks and storage to reduce insecticides brought into the houses and limited house sizes to five men to increase accountability and promote durability.


    • Advocating for design can create opportunities in a billion dollar sector such as migrant housing, solving social issues without increasing economic costs.
    • Consider the community you’re trying to engage, and meet them where they’re comfortable talking.  Bell couldn’t talk to workers around farmers, but he often set up booths at flea markets and exchanged farmers’ survey responses for food or drink.

    More Information:

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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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