Design-Build Montana

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2014 International Workshop on Public Interest Design


  Portland   >  Montana

Disaster Relief            Design-Build


Recovery Course Description

This summer the Center for Public Interest within the School of Architecture at Portland State University will be offering a two part course in disaster relief, mitigation, and reconstruction, which will also provide an opportunity to participate in a two-week design-build project in Lame Deer, Montana. This hands-on workshop will give students/participants the opportunity to apply some of the lessons learned in the seminar to help the Northern Cheyenne tribe rebuild after recent wildfires. This intensive course will run June 23rd-July 13th, 2014, with approximately one week spent in Portland, Oregon for the seminar component and 2 weeks spent working on site in Montana. The goal of this course is to introduce students and design professionals to issues of disaster relief, so as to prepare them for service in their careers in this currently underrepresented arena. The CPID sees this as a crucial issue to be addressed, as all indicators suggest that our society will be confronted with an increasing number of natural disasters due to environmental degradation. CPID is particularly well-positioned to offer this course with long-term partners in Portland and the US representing some of the international leaders in disaster response and relief, including Mercy Corps, KPFF Engineers, CH2MHill, and the groundbreaking contributions of distinguished Visiting CPID Fellow, David Perkes, whose work in the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast after Katrina has been heralded as a model for how design can lead the way towards greater resiliency. Faculty of the CPID will provide background and guide the seminar based on their experience in BASIC Initiative education projects and professional consultancies in disaster relief in Haiti, Africa, India and Latin America among others. These partners, as well as visiting designers working in disaster relief around the world, will participate by offering daily seminars that will help to build a critical understanding and the capacity of the participants.

The design-build project associated with this course builds on two decades of work by the BASIC Initiative in American Indian housing with one of their most important partners,  the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Lame Deer, Montana.  Utilizing several building methods, including straw bale construction, students of this design-build course will learn how to apply the knowledge learned in the seminar toward the reconstruction of structures for elders in the community lost to wild fires. Students will also take on initiating the dialogue and conceptual design of a school for the Northern Cheyenne, which when completed will provide the environmental education necessary for the Cheyenne to deal with their changing environment. In addition to learning skills in building and design through this hands-on effort, students will be immersed in the cultural richness of the community, camping near the site and attending the annual pow-wow held on the reservation, one of the largest of its kind in North America.

Professionals interested in attending the week-long seminar are not required to participate in the design-build portion of the course.


This course will be taught by PSU faculty members Sergio Palleroni and Todd Ferry. Professor Palleroni brings with him decades of experience in public interest design and disaster relief efforts as an architect, teacher, and former architect and program director for the UN and World Bank in reconstruction projects. He currently teaches the UN-sponsored disaster relief course for the European Erasmus Mundus program. As a co-founder of the BaSiC Initiative in 1988, he is also a long-time leader in design-build education and public interest design. Todd Ferry has over a decade of experience working with underserved populations and has been active in leading and participating in progressive design-build projects around the world.


This 4-credit course (Arch 4/510) is open to both graduates and undergraduates. 

For professionals or post-graduates there is an option to take the first component of this course as a one-week professional course for1 credit (PSU) and continuing education credits. Please contact us for registration through this option.

Professionals and post-baccalaureates have the option to take the course  for continuing education credits, and/or a 1-credit  course. Please contact us at CPID if interested in pursuing this option. 

Both the 4-credit three week seminar + design/build course, and 1 week seminar option retroactively count towards our anticipated graduate certificate in Public Interest Design (more information forthcoming in Fall Term 2014).

Download application here (pdf).

For more details, please email