Panel C – Public Interest Design Education


  • John Folan, Moderator/Presenter
  • Ellen Cassilly, NC State University
  • David Hill, NC State University
  • Katie Wakeford, NC State University
John Folan is the T. David Fitz-Gibbon Professor of Architecture, Director of the Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS), track Chair of the Masters of Urban Design (MUD) Program, and member of the Urban Laboratory faculty at Carnegie Mellon University.  Registered as an Architect since 1995, John has created the Urban Design Build Studio, a rigorous two-semester-plus-summer-sequence of courses. The program allows for the unique community collaboration between PROJECT RE_, Construction Junction, and the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh.  Prior to joining the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in 2009, John was a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Arizona. While on the faculty at Arizona he was a founding member of the Emerging Materials Technology (EMT) group. He also co-founded and served as an executive board member of the Drachman Design Build Coalition (DDBC); a university affiliated, non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to the design and construction of environmentally specific, energy efficient, affordable housing prototypes.
Ellen Cassilly, Ellen’s architectural design experience began in 1983, she began working in the Triangle in 1992 and in 1999 she became the principal of her own firm in Durham. She focuses on creating projects that contribute to vibrant urban neighborhoods that minimize sprawl, while prioritizing modern and sustainable spaces. Throughout her career, Ellen has collaborated with architects, artists and clients to design and build single- and multi-family homes, commercial, religious and educational buildings. She is adept at listening to different perspectives and assimilating them into appropriate design solutions. Ellen co-teaches the architectural design/build studio at North Carolina State University in the College of Architecture. She also volunteers time with Durham Area Designers, Downtown Durham Inc. and the Durham Rotary. She is actively involved with various mentorship programs in the Durham Public Schools and NCSU College of Design.
David Hill, North Carolina’s coastal communities are vulnerable to threats from long-term sea level variations and powerful Atlantic storm forces. The NC State University Coastal Dynamics Design Lab (CDDL) initiated Pro-Active Recovery Community Structures (PARCS), a design concept that creates public amenities and housing for day-to-day use that can rapidly transform into post-disaster staging and recovery sites. This presentation illustrates the CDDL’s community-engaged research and design work with the Town of Beaufort, NC. The studio developed multiple design scenarios for adaptive, multifaceted public facilities that build and restore community life before, during, and after disasters strike.
Katie Wakeford teaches in the Public Interest Architecture (PIA) program at NC State University. She is co-author of “On Making and Becoming a (Citizen) Architect,” an essay in the Companion for Architecture Design and Practice: Established and Emerging Trends (New York: Routledge, 2016). She is co-editor of both Bridging the Gap: Public-Interest Architectural Internships (Raleigh: Lulu, 2011) and Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism (New York: Metropolis Books, 2008), a collection of essays on design in the service of the greater public good. She is a LEED Accredited Professional. Presentation Abstract: The NC State Public Interest Architecture (PIA) program integrates architectural coursework with internship experience in architectural offices through design work on community partnership projects. The co-requisite public interest studio and seminar coordinated with work in local offices inform each other and enhance learning. This program has the potential to be a replicable model for architecture schools that want to contribute to the public well-being through community and professional partnerships while providing students with vital learning opportunities.



Ellen Cassilly

Design Build team at NCSU College of Design

  • The Leaf, Durham Central Park
    • Design-build project, Summer 2011
      • Constraints: impervious surface restrictions, crime problem
      • Gathering space
      • Steel framework – had to weigh prefab v. site-built options
    • Barn at Benevolence Farm, Alamance County, Summer 2014
      • A shaded structure for farming support, produce sales, performances
      • Perhaps built a year too soon – they still do not use the space as it was intended

David Hill

Coastal Dynamics Design Lab

  • Inter-disciplinary studio
  • Work with new technology, engage students and community
  • Design for the 1% of the time (disaster) AND the 99% of the time (regular) – designs have to be adaptable
    • Connect social, economic, and environmental issues
    • Suggest solutions, inspiration
  • Outcomes are often not what they expect – the city and community interprets problems and solutions differently
  • Present back to community what we think we know

John Folan

Urban Design Build Studio

  • Develop appropriate, affordable, replicable strategies
  • Shift from traditional academic cycle (6 semesters and 1 summer)


  • Collaboration between Urban Design Build, Construction Junction, Trade Institute of Pittsburg
  • Address urban decline cycle – Edge effect to vacancy
  • Provide high and low-tech job skill training
  • Develop prototypes – allow for investment, entrepreneurial model
  • Students work with previous incarcerates
  • Architect and laborer experience each other’s work

Katie Wakeford

  • Grew out of Georgia Bizios’ efforts with Home Environment Design Initiative
  • Program integration: studio, seminar, internship
    • Studio and seminar are co-requisites – gives some flexibility in scheduling
    • Students receive fellowship
  • Residential in focus, primarily due to scale and ability to dive in more deeply within time constraints

Questions &Answers

1. How do you identify who you will work with?

  • Cassilly: Whoever we work with has to have the money.  The architects involved in Design-build are active in the community – finding projects isn’t an issue.
  • Hill: Building relationships is essential.
    • Read social cues – what do people want and need?
    • Eventually you want them to come to you
  • Wakeford: Build relationships, and invest with time.  Work with partners who want to work with students.

2. How do you deal with challenges of scheduling and timeline?

  • Hill: So many things have to align
    • The rest of the world does not follow our academic schedule
    • Money and pace of studio drives a lot
  • Wakeford: Having a co-requisite class helps
    • Often we hire students or interns after the semester is over to continue work or bring it to fruition

3. Have you done any student-led design-build? You can assign more responsibility to students.

  • Hill: We are always looking to do this, but it is helpful to have a bit of a safety net built-in.  We are eager to get students in front of other people
  • Folan: Our role as educators is to be the custodians of students – to make sure they don’t take on more than they have the ability or experience to do.

4. How does this transition to professional life?

  • Cassilly: It’s helpful to step back and think about issues on a broader level.  In some cases the students do the “prep-work” or provide a spark of inspiration so a community can take on the work with a professional.