RE_PURPOSE and the Public Interest
This session will explore the potential of expanding material re-use and re-purposing in public interest design
projects. An expanding field of participatory design practice, public interest design places emphasis on triple bottom
line objectives of sustainable design – ecological economic, and social consideration, the goal being to increase the
number of challenges a design project addresses, increasing the number of stakeholders and hence the value of
each project. Illustrative case study projects developed through PROJECT RE_ and designed by the Urban Design
Build Studio (UDBS) will be utilized to illustrate how building deconstruction, material harvesting, and material
repurposing can inform the design of products, structures, and systems that address issues of economic
development and the preservation of the environment. Principles of public interest design will be reviewed through
the assessment tool developed by the SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) Network, an enterprise that
has demonstrated success in connecting similarly-minded members of the general public with designers from the
fields of Architecture, Communication Design, Industrial Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, and Urban
Planning to accomplish work framed by community value and guided by ethics.
Bryan Bell is an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, NC State University. Bell holds degrees
from Princeton and Yale Universities, and was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
In 1991 he founded the nonprofit organization Design Corps with the mission “to provide the benefits of
design for the 98 percent without architects.” His current work includes research on the field of public
interest design and the SEED Network which Bell cofounded. His work has been supported with three
others by the Fellows of the American Institute of Architects Latrobe Prize of $100,000 to research
architecture in the public interest.
Bell has published four books in this field, has organized the thirty-three Public Interest Design Institute and
eighteen Structures for Inclusion international conferences. He was awarded a National AIA Award and
was a National Design Award finalist. He has received thirty grants including seven from the National
Endowment for the Arts. His work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale and the Cooper Hewitt,
Smithsonian Design Museum.
John Folan is Architecture Department Head at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
(FJSoA+D) at the University of Arkansas and Director of the Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS). John
founded the UDBS in 2008 to work with underrepresented communities on the development and
implementation of catalytic projects through participatory design processes. The work prioritizes public
interest, social justice and equity as a productive end. In 2011 John founded and assumed responsibility as
the Executive Director of PROJECT RE_ to expand the capacity of the UDBS through strategic partnerships
with other non-profit entities in addressing problems of regional significance at scale. His efforts through
PROJECT RE_ address physical and transactional needs in providing job skill development and the
promotion of entrepreneurial opportunities for under-represented populations; supporting simultaneous
aspirations of community restoration, resident empowerment, and material resource advocacy. John’s work
with the UDBS and community partners has been published widely and exhibited internationally with
dedicated installations at the 2016 XX Pan American Bienal de Arquitectura Quito, Ecuador and the 2014
Hong Kong/Shenzhen (UABB) Biennale. The work has also been recognized with numerous American
Institute of Architect (AIA) Design Excellence Awards, AIA/ACSA Collaborative Practice Awards, AIA/ACSA
Housing Design Education Awards, and three Design Corps SEED Awards for excellence in Public Interest
Design. In 2018 the Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS) was named the American Institute of Architects
(AIA) Impact Practice for sustained ability to span a wide range of design disciplines that are tied together
by a common goal to design and create a better world through innovative, scale-able and measurable
solutions. Prior to his appointment as Architecture Department Head at FJSoA+D, John was the T. David
Fitz-Gibbon Chair at Carnegie Mellon University and Co-Director of the Drachman Design Build Coalition
(DDBC) at the University of Arizona.
Learn more about the conference here.