Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies

Collaborations: MFA CD Blog

Follow Two CD Student’s Summer Blogs

Sharon Devora at Esalen

Inspired by a summertime of outdoor play at Gazebo ParkSchool at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California—PNCA MFA Collaborative Design student Sharon Dvora reflects on child-inspired learning through a design ecology lens—visit www.sharondvora.com

Katie Mays at University of Texas


I’m spending my summer in Austin at the Public Interest Design program at the University of Texas. During this eight week program, we’re exploring the role of the architect having agency over the built environment, and the potential impacts possible with greater consideration towards social good. Public Interest Design, as an emerging field, more intentionally focuses on equity concerns addressed in the triple bottom line. This movement within architecture is developing, and seeks to define a role of architecture along the same vein as public health: how can design transform and elevate our public experience? These hard questions are just beginning to be addressed. But I’ve enjoyed the summer as part of this important conversation, and look forward to integrating my experience into further studies and practice.

One of the reasons I was drawn to the PID program was the relatively limited scope of their definition of design. For this brief period, it was nice to establish clear parameters of our scope of inquiry; limiting the conversation to the built environment allowed for a deeper look into the practice related to the Public Interest, and the challenges and opportunities of creating a movement within an established profession.

As the program was structured, half of the students completed a design/build project in Austin, and half the students traveled to San Francisco for two weeks to a research externship as an evaluation of the impact of built “public interest” design projects. I was part of the extern group, and evaluated the impact of Parklets as they relate to urban planning, architectural practice, and community identity in San Francisco. Now I’m back in Austin, compiling our research into a professional report that will be published by Public Architecture, as well as the Center for Sustainable Design at UT.

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