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Daily Journal of Commerce: PSU launches Center for Public Interest Design
Author: Lee Fehrenbacher, Daily Journal of Commerce
Posted: May 24, 2013

Read the original story here in the Daily Journal of Commerce. 

In a market-driven economy, the needs of architects’ clients don’t always align with those of society at large. Often, they conflict.

“That’s become a big issue of discussion in the profession,” said Sergio Palleroni, a professor atPortland State University‘s School of Architecture. “How do we as a profession begin to address the larger societal needs? We don’t always get that client that says, ‘I want to do something for society. Here’s $100 million.’ ”

Thanks to an anonymous gift of $1.5 million, however, PSU is launching a new department within the School of Architecture to try and answer some of those questions. Palleroni, director of the Center for Public Interest Design, said the idea is to discover and teach ways that architecture can go beyond aesthetics. As the center’s website states, it is “where sustainability and the needs of communities intersect.”

Palleroni said a good example is the Bud Clark Commons building, which provides low-income housing and homeless services, but also an attractive facade that adds to the neighborhood’s vitality.

“The best public design promotes the idea that we should invest more in things that promote public good because they also look good and can be something to be proud of,” he said.

A growing number of firms, Palleroni said, are discovering successful business models for implementing community sustainability. Also, some architects, rather than waiting for clients to buy into their ideas, are becoming developers themselves.