Panel A – Public Interest Design Education


  • Lisa Abendroth, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Moderator
  • James Wheeler, University of Minnesota
  • Randy Lanou, NC State University
  • Jose Gamez, UNC Charlotte
  • Mary Hardin, University of Arizona
  • Michael Zaretsky, University of Cincinnati
Lisa M. Abendroth is a Professor of Communication Design at Metropolitan State University of Denver where her research focuses on issues of social equity toward marginalized audiences. Working across disciplines, she practices, evaluates, and writes about design that addresses underserved people, places and problems. She is a founding member of the SEED Network and co-author of the SEED Evaluator design assessment tool. Abendroth is a 2013 recipient of the SEED Award for Leadership in Public Interest Design. Along with Bryan Bell, Abendroth is co-editor of the Public Interest Design Practice Guidebook: SEED Methodology, Case Studies, and Critical Issues (Routledge, 2015).
James Wheeler, After Hurricane Katrina James worked at the Gulf Coast Community Design Center. He now teaches Public Interest Design at the University of Minnesota as Visiting faculty  where he teaches: Workshops: Exploring Uncertainty: Community Design + Public Interest Architecture; Community Design + Build; Exploring Uncertainty: Community Design + the Citizen Architect; Public Interest Design: Community-Based Projects. James is also a Board Member of Design Corps and past President of the Association for Community Design.
Randy Lanou will present two projects, the Floating Lab for the Durham Public School System and the Turning Point for the North Carolina Museum of Art.  Both projects were created  by students in the NC State CoD Summer Design-Build studio taught by Ellen Cassilly, Randall Lanou, Erik Mehlman, and Scott Metheny. The Floating Lab is indeed floating on a pond at the Hub Farm and serves as a science classroom and laboratory for Durham schoolchildren. The Turning Point is in the sculpture garden at the NCMA, is adjacent to the greenway, and overlooks the pond. It serves as a place for rest, gathering, contemplation, photos, and proposals.
José Gamez is an Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and the Director of the City.Building.Lab, which serves as the public outreach arm of the School of Architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  He is currently a Provost’s Faculty Fellow and he has been a Research Fellow at both UNC Charlotte’s Institute for Social Capital and Urban Institute.  His research explores the role of community-engaged scholarship in public interest design.  His has published in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Places: A Forum of Environmental Design, The Journal of Urbanism, and The Journal of Applied Geography.  He has also authored essays that appear in the edited books Writing Urbanism: A Design Reader, Expanding Architecture: Design As Activism, Charlotte, NC: The Global Rise of a New South City, and Latino Urbanism: The Politics of Planning, Policy and Redevelopment. Presentation Abstract: In 2008, a colleague and I wrote an essay that sought to establish a theoretical ground for publically engaged design.  In that article we proclaimed that “an architecture of change” was needed.  This requires that schools position themselves as venues of socio-political action.  Academic worlds are such by definition; they are liminal spaces through which people pass.  As such, they offer unique lenses through which the operations of power can be addressed such that new publics, new spaces, and new forms of knowledge can emerge.  Publicly/politically engaged design can illustrate that social and the physical are interdependent; and they can have transformational impacts upon both all involved as well as knowledge itself.  In these ways, this public interest design overcomes dilemmas that often plague studio-based curricula while enabling architectures of change.
Mary Hardin is Professor and Associate Dean. Mary began teaching in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin in 1984, and also taught at Arizona State University before joining the University of Arizona faculty in 1997. She specializes in design-build studios and the materials and methods of construction. Her research interests include affordable housing design, energy and water conserving technologies for affordable housing, and the adaptation of rammed earth production methods for low cost housing. She obtained her professional degree at The University of Texas at Austin, and is a registered architect and licensed residential contractor. Professor Hardin has received national awards for teaching, design-build project delivery, affordable housing policy initiatives and collaborative practice, as well as state AIA awards for her project designs.
Michael Zaretsky, is an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Interior Design in DAAP and the Director of the MetroLAB Design/Build program. He is also a licensed Architect and a LEED Accredited Professional. He is deeply engaged in research, teaching and practice in Public Interest Design, Humanitarian Design, Design/Build, Sustainable Design and Passive/Bio-climatic Design strategies. Presentation Abstract: In summer 2015, our MetroLAB Design/Build Studio worked with a local public market and local residents to identify goals for the future development of Pleasant Street, a complex, four-block road that spans between the public market and a newly redeveloped public park. As we attempted to equally engage all residents in the design process, we discovered that there are complex social dynamics at play that must be explored and understood in order to engage all residents and support those who may not often be heard in a traditional development process. Those with money and power had supported a community engagement process until the opinions of others diverged from their own.



James Wheeler

Randy Lanou

  • Project 1- Turning Point: NCMA requested open air multi-purpose space to be inserted into landscape. Students designed and built cantilevered platform to be used by all
  • Project 2 – Floating classroom: Design/build project for Hub Farm project
  • All projects are for non-profits in community
  • Teach students hands-on experience
  • Work with non-profits to develop project
  • Suggested reading “Toxic Charity”

Jose Gamez

  • City Building Lab is re-finding, re-tooling architecture schools – it is the “refocused and rebooted public outreach and research arm” of the Master of Urban Design Program
  • Mission is to “think and do” – to “pursue sustainable urban design strategies as agents of innovative inquiry and positive change”
  • Addresses complex issues of cities through research and public engagement
  • Since 2008, CBL has worked with 6 neighborhoods

Mary Hardin

  • At UA, there is a synergy of PID opportunities – UA has required part of graduation to include community experience/engagement
  • Drachman Institute and UA COAPA has focused on affordable housing Design/Build projects
  • Projects include: Residence 6 (2011-2012), Elser House, Residence 4 (2009-2010), Residence 3 (2007-2008), Residence 2 (2006-2007) and Residence 1 (2005-2006)
  • Energy monitoring is extremely impressive and well documented in projects

Michael Zaretsky

  • MetroLAB engages local communities to design, construct, research and evaluate innovative project that support built environment in Cincinnati
  • “Don’t make promises”
  • “Lessons are learned everyday”
  • “We found that residents liked the process more than the product”
  • Students must be trained in community engagement before ever stepping foot in the community
  • Project presented was “Pleasant Street Pedestrian Project”
  • Worked with community to determine what was wanted/needed in Pleasant Street community
  • Final design is a parklet to be built in Spring 2016