Structures for Inclusion: Epicenter in New York

Jack Forinash (Epicenter Co-director) and Charlotte XC Sullivan (Epicenter Board Member) recently presented at the Structures for Inclusion 14th annual conference held this year in New York City. Epicenter was selected by Design Corps to present during the Lunch Kucha session, which set a format of 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide.

Within the audience, Christian Ayala and Ashley Ross (Epicenter alumni and New Yorkers) joined in support of Epicenter and spread out to attend the sessions on “public interest design.”

Bryan Bell of Design Corps, founded 1991, is the leading promoter of the field of public interest design (think “public health” or “public interest law” as professional comparatives). Bryan shared his own professional story with the attendees; after graduating from architecture school, Bryan pursued an path working as a designer for a rural nonprofit organization in Pennsylvania that focused on migrant housing. He utilized USDA Rural Development funds to design and build decent and well-intentioned housing for the migrant farm workers. Later in his career, he worked for Samuel Mockbee and Coleman Coker, assisting with the infamous un-funded project for a local Catholic nun in Meridian, MS that is often cited as a spark for Mockbee to start the Rural Studio. Bryan oversaw fifteen or so thesis projects at Rural Studio after founding Design Corps, an organization devoted to establish pathways and metrics for architects and designers working with underserved communities.

Following the SFI Conference over the weekend, Jack attended on scholarship the Public Interest Design Institute for the next two days. Here, real world case studies were presented by architects and designers in the field of public interest design. Conversations involved how to start a project, best practices for community engagement, and how to measure results. The SEED (Social, Economic, Environmental Design) Network, established by Design Corps, seeks to become both a tool and measuring stick for so-called public interest design projects. The training ended with a test, resulting with Jack becoming SEED certified.

Our thanks goes to Bryan Bell and Marie Schacht for hosting and providing scholarships, the presenters (notably John Peterson of Public Architecture), to the fellow participants of the conference and training, to our alumni in New York that hosted Jack and joined in for the conference, and to our own funder, the Union Pacific Foundation which funded the travel and accommodations expenses.