ACD 2012 Reflections

The Association for Community Design held their annual conference from June 8 to 12 in Salt Lake City. Maggie Winter and myself attended the entire conference while Brent flew in on Friday to speak on a panel. The conference was a small gathering of leaders in the field of Public Interest Design from around the country.

photo courtesy of Association for Community Design

photo courtesy of Association for Community Design

The term Public Interest Design is a relatively new one. This was acknowledged in the first panel on Friday by David Perkes of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. The conference followed his exploration into the realities of this field. Perkes advised that we can talk all we like, but what are our actions saying? He placed an emphasis on discovering the real impact and implications of the work being done. However, using those impacts to seek acceptance and recognition of value from the mainstream profession seems to be the preoccupation of the moment. Awards, fellowships, and prizes are seeking to add to and establish that credibility.  There also seems to be a shift toward public interest designers feeling an obligation to improve their ability to be a resource for each other and non-profits with similar intentions, as well as providing resources to the public.

A panel with Anne-Marie Lubenau (of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence) and Dan Pitera (of Detroit Collaborative Design Center) summed up the topics of conversation throughout the conference with the questions they asked of the Rudy Bruner Award:

WHAT: What would we like to learn from each other?

HOW: How effective are the means of providing that information?

WHO: Who should know about it?

Public Interest Design is growing. It is seeking to become an example of practice beyond its current influence. Of course we want to make our type of practice a shining beacon of social justice for the architecture profession. These questions garnered a lot of debate as well as consensus, but I still feel as though people were holding back. Or, maybe we are still not asking the right questions.