Public Interest Design

Public Interest Design Studios

Public Interest Design Incubator Affordable Housing + Sustainable Communities Design + Build Freedom by Design


Public Interest Design (PID) is a participatory and issue-based design practice that places emphasis on the “triple bottom line” of sustainable design that includes environmental, economic, and social challenges across the world. Public Interest Design seeks to broaden access of the benefits of design to all of the general public. By connecting the design process to global issues, Public Interest Design helps further establish the public value of design to a broader audience and provides designers with a larger platform to affirm the value of all the design disciplines.

The built and natural environments—including the spaces in which we live and work, the products we consume, and the messages we receive—has a powerful impact on how we function in society. Good design requires attention and sensitivity to social, economic, political, cultural and behavioral issues. The aim of all curricula at the College of Design is to develop the designer’s perception, knowledge, skills and problem-solving abilities in order to prepare students for a successful career—and life. Public Interest Design provides one area of study that links design education and professional practice with the knowledge and skills to address global issues.

The strength of Public Interest Design at NCSU extends back into the late 1960’s, and the College of Design has a recognized history of community-based service through the teaching legacies of retired professors including Angelo Abate, Peter Batchelor, Georgia Bizios, Randy Hester, Henry Sanoff, Richard Wilkinson, as well as current faculty including Robin Abrams, Tania Allen, Tom Barrie, Bryan Bell, Kofi Boone, Gene Bressler, Chandra Cox, Andrew Fox, David Hill, Sharon Joines, Robin Moore, Celen Pasalar and Art Rice.

The “Request for Collaboration” application process is provided by the School of Architecture (SoA) as a means of service to the general public. The goal is to find well-suited matches that mutually benefit the public and meet the educational, outreach and research goals of the SoA. Services vary and may include the visioning, design, planning and/or construction. While the mission of NC State University combines education, research, and outreach, each of the following opportunities have specific educational goals that must be met. Project activities and scope must meet the students’ learning outcomes for each project.


Public Interest Design (PID) Incubator Studio

Public Interest Design IncubatorDirector: Bryan Bell, Associate Professor of Architecture

The goal of the Public Interest Design Incubator is to engage the public to understand challenges, develop partners, and create design responses. The course will explore methods of how design can address the critical issues faced by communities. Students will be actively develop a real community-based project by engaging the public to understand challenges, developing partners and proposing design solutions. Design assignments will cover incubating a project from initial community contact through programming and schematic design. Assignments will integrate form throughout the process, including the design, construction,  and installation of a small design/build project as a catalyst.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Leverage stakeholders assets to address project challenges through available and appropriate resources;
  • Develop a public interest design project through programming and schematic stages;
  • Use a rapid iteration and  a team brainstorming process to design collaboratively and with a community as a partner;
  • Research the need of a community and then analyze the potential social, economic, and environmental impact of a design project.

PID: Application for Request for Collaboration


Affordable Housing + Sustainable Communities

Director: Thomas Barrie, AIA, Professor of Architecture

Affordable Housing + Sustainable CommunitiesThe mission of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Initiative (AH+SC) is to provide educational resources for government, non-profit and community leaders, students and the general public, and innovative and applicable solutions to the housing and urban challenges that North Carolina communities face. Traditional research and applied research through community-based demonstration and service-learning projects are potent means to produce substantive, applicable and measurable outcomes. The education of qualified practitioners and future leaders in the profession remains central to its mission, and therefore the integration of professional education and research is essential.

For more information, visit the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Website.




Design + Build Studio (D+B)

Design + Build StudioThe School of Architecture has a long-standing design build program. Each summer student teams, led by experienced faculty, design and build a project for community clients. During the intensive studio students experience and understand the design-make-design cycle, address client parameters, learn design development and construction documents phases, integrate universal design principles, respond to multiple contexts, integrate landscape and architectural design, learn collaborative design skills, and physically build a permanent project.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this studio, students will:

  • Experience the design-make-design cycle.
  • Address client parameters.
  • Develop schematic design to design development and construction documents phases.
  • Integrate universal design principles.
  • Respond to the context of the site.
  • Integrate landscape and architectural design.
  • Collaborate a large team with a common goal and describe the benefits and challenges of collaboration.
  • Divide tasks to successfully complete a collaborative project.
  • Design, detail, and build a permanent project.
  • Determine and assess performance measures

D+B: Application for Request for Collaboration


Freedom by Design

Freedom by DesignFreedom by Design, the American Institute of Architecture Students’ (AIAS) community service program, utilizes the talents of architecture students to radically impact the lives of people in their community through modest design and construction solutions. The leadership team serves as the liaison between the client and student body, and works throughout the year to schedule weekend design charrettes, organize the fundraising and permitting logistics, and prepare for the build days.