Panel 5 – Activist Architecture Firms

These firms have a standard practice but are also producing new models for public interest design of exceptional quality. The panelists will discuss what public interest practice means to them and how they do it.


  • Erin Sterling Lewis, InSitu Studio, Moderator/Presenter
  • Terry Oden, Desmone Architects, SEED Honorable Mention
  • Marc Turkel and Kate Bedford, Leroy Street Studio
  • Beau Frail, Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, AIA Austin
Erin Sterling Lewis is a native of Illinois and grew up in Mississippi. She earned a BArch from the University of Kentucky in 2002. Before founding in situ studio, Erin worked for over eight years at Frank Harmon Architect PA. Erin is involved in various community outreach and volunteer programs. From 2004 to 2006, Erin served on the Raleigh Historic Development Commission. She served on the Raleigh Planning Commission from 2009 to 2015. In 2010, Erin joined the AIA North Carolina (AIANC) Board of Directors as the Young Architects Forum (YAF) Director and is now AIANC President-Elect. She is also chair of ACTIVATE NC, which is a statewide AIANC outreach initiative to strengthen the civic role in architecture and design. Erin occasionally teaches design studios as Professor in Practice and serves on the advisory board for the NCSU College of Design School of Architecture. Presentation Abstract: Affordable housing, let alone well-designed affordable housing, is severely lacking in Raleigh, NC. Designers in our community are passionate about the issue, but do not always have the opportunity to address it within their practice. Design competitions can create those opportunities. Participation in Building Trust International’s 2012 HOME Competition and AIA NC Activate’s 2015 Tiny Home Community Ideas Competition were examples of our small architecture firm taking a position on affordable housing design to start a conversation.
Terry Oden, Ohio native, now permanent Pittsburgh resident, Terry Oden has been with the firm since March of 2011.  As a Project Manager, Terry is responsible for the design and implementation of various building and planning projects.  Terry’s favorite parts of the design process are the early phases when the project really begins to take form. Presentation Abstract: Located in Pittsburgh, PA the neighborhood of Carrick is undergoing a revitalization that plays upon the strength and stability of an existing dairy.  Through neighborhood involvement with a stakeholder’s group of civic entities, the design team has pursued interests in maximizing the value of its amenities through the creation of distinct dairy district.  The community planning process recognizes the neighborhood history, explores use of sustainable practices, and establishes an aesthetic and visual sense.  A market pavilion leads the way in its progression.
Marc Turkel, AIA, LEED AP, is Principal in Charge at Leroy Street Studio. Kate Bedford is Architect at Leroy Street Studio. Leroy Street Studio, together with Hester Street Collaborative and a partnership of community organizations, helped to create a pop-up park on an otherwise unused lot on NYC’s East River, a project called Paths to Pier 42. The lot and its surrounding land was the focus of the partnership’s greater long term objective: to gain community input for the creation of a comprehensive People’s Plan for a new park in the Lower East Side. Founded in 2002, Hester Street Collaborative grew out of Leroy Street Studio’s wish to work with underserved communities to plan neighborhoods & design public space. Ultimately, HSC has served as a powerful vehicle for community advocacy and engagement, through which we strive to understand and give voice to the public’s interest. HSC/LSS collaborations take us out of our comfort zone as Architects, to take a more active role in bringing Architecture to the people.
Beau Frail is a committed advocate and leader of community-based and public interest design in Austin, Texas. Frail serves as the Chair of the community outreach component of his local AIA Austin chapter, the DesignVoice committee. Beau is a Project Designer at Michael Hsu Office of Architecture and was recently honored as one the recipients of the 2016 AIA Associates Awards and the Texas Society of Architects Associate Member of the Year Award. Frail received his Master of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin and his Bachelor of Design in Architecture from the University of Florida. Presentation Abstract: AIA Austin DesignVoice is a vehicle for accomplishing public interest design led by grassroots volunteers and architect activists. AIA Austin DesignVoice partnered with the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes to host the Tiny Victories design competition to provide architect-designed micro-homes for the homeless at Community First! Village. Community First! Village is an innovative model addressing homelessness through a master planned 27-acre community, which includes over 100 micro-homes. More than 50 designs were submitted to the competition and ultimately six were selected for construction. This collaboration leveraged the potential of community partnerships to serve our city’s most underserved citizens.



Erin Sterling Lewis

  • Affordable housing competition held by Building Trust International to address pressing housing issues
  • In Situ proposed Raleigh-specific proposal that included new zoning “RA-50”
  • Idea takes in to account shrinking size of residential parcels and use of left-over land to be used as “new” lot for building tiny homes
  • Idea would build density and community
  • Smaller houses closer to downtown amenities

Terry Oden

  • Desmone designed a farmer’s market for Pittsburg Carrick Dairy District
  • Designed on corner lot- will be a permanent farmer’s market for community- and additionally serve other functions for community use

Marc Turkel and Kate Bedford

  • Leroy Street Studios has continuously pursued community projects through HSC since 2001
  • Examples include: Pier 42:
    • summer 2013 LSS created temporary programs that gave residents access to pier and increased foot traffic in area not typically accessible
    • team engaged community through built model on wheels for flexible community engagement and community meetings
    • local schools helped create installations in 2014 including murals, painted flags and native plants
  • “Don’t assume you know what the community wants”

Beau Frail

  • “Tiny Victories” was developed by AIA Austin and the AIA Design Voice Committee to address housing issues in Austin- partnered with Mobile Loaves & Fishes to create Community First! Village
  • Goal is to provide homes for the homeless in need and create innovative solutions for affordable, efficient housing in Austin
  • Using RVs and tiny homes, the project is called “RV park on steroids”
  • Multiple tiny house prototypes were proposed and built on site
  • “Paving the way home, one small victory at a time”