Social Design Insights is a weekly podcast of conversations with leading designers who discuss innovative projects and practices that use design to address pressing social justice issues. The podcast is hosted by Eric Cesal and Emiliano Gandolfi, and produced by the Curry Stone Design Prize. Learn more.


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our sound engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Taryn Turner, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation, for pulling everything together.
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Episode 1
Teddy Another Model
Teddy Cruz & Fonna Forman

Reimagining the Border, Part 1

Part 1
Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman of Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman discuss their practice at the Tijuana/San Diego border, and how design transcends politics.
How do Designers enter the world of policy? Can Designers be Policy-Makers?
How can Design empower communities?
Episode 2
Teddy Model
Teddy Cruz & Fonna Forman

Reimagining the Border, Part 2

Part 2
Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman of Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman continue their discussion of design & politics at the San Diego/Tijuana border.
How does design decriminalize a border? Can Designers position themselves against anti-immigrant rhetoric?
Can Designers provide language which can bridge communities?
Episode 3
Mark Lakeman (City Repair)

The Street As a Revolution

Mark Lakeman of the City Repair Project discusses motives and methods for igniting neighborhood change, street by street.
How does Guerilla Practice become Policy?
Is the U.S. Exporting Sprawl to Developing Countries?
How has the CRP philosophy played out in the streets of Portland?
Episode 4
el trebol
Arquitectura Expandida

Engaging Community, Engaging Practice

Arquitectura Expandida discusses its approach to working in informal communities alongside (and sometimes around) government.
How do Architects Engage Informal Communities?
How do you engage with the Government?
How do you convince a community to build something?
Episode 5
Kuvas SC, Seville 1997_credit Santiago Cirugeda
Santiago Cirugeda (Recetas Urbanas)

Flirting with Illegality

Santiago Cirugeda - Spain’s 'Guerrilla Architect’ - explains how he challenges urban authority and makes neighborhoods work for everyone.
How did Recetas Urbanas get it's start?
How is Your Practice Shifting to Deal with Larger, Systemic Problems?
What do you do went public agencies won't let the public use public buildings?
Episode 6
Breaking Ground + Jonathan Kirschenfeld

Fighting for Dignified Housing

Part 1
Jonathan Kirschenfeld and Brenda Rosen share their thoughts on the right to housing, and methodologies for doing supportive housing well.
Is the Right to Housing Real?
Setting Aside Clichés, What Does Homelessness Look Like?
What is the Difference Between “Supportive” Housing and “Affordable” Housing?1
Episode 7
JKA - Bronx Park East Facade (Rodrigo Pereda)
Breaking Ground + Jonathan Kirschenfeld

Fighting for Dignified Housing

Part 2
Jonathan Kirschenfeld and Brenda Rosen share their thoughts on the right to housing, and methodologies for doing supportive housing well.
How Can Housing Rehabilitate a Neighborhood?
What’s the Difference between a Community Facility and a Residential Property? Why is that Important?
Can Doing Good Work Inadvertently Encourage Gentrification?
Episode 8
Asian Coalition for Housing Rights

Growth, Equity & Asian Cities

The Asian Coalition for Housing Rights is a large broad­based coalition of like­minded groups fighting for housing advocacy throughout Asia; they share with us their strategies.
What Are the Main Issues Confronting Asian Cities?
What is a ‘ParaArchitect?’
How do you Ensure that New Housing is Done Well?
How Does an Architect Work with Other Disciplines?
Episode 9
2017 Curry-LacatonVassal9.1 SMALL copy
Anne Lacaton & Jean Phillipe Vassal

Add, Transform, and Reuse!

Lacaton & Vassal Deconstructs Their Widely­ Acclaimed methods for the Re­adaptation of Modernist housing blocks in France.
Through the Lens of ‘Less is More,’ What are the Important Challenges Facing Architects Today?
How do you Create an Inclusive Community with Disparate Populations?
How Must Housing Evolve to Accommodate the Needs of Evolving Society?
Episode 10
1. PublicArchitecture-ScrapHouse-exterior-4cropped
Project H + Public Architecture

Emily Pilloton and John Peterson Argue for Design as the Great Equalizer

Part 1
John Peterson and Emily Pilloton share their practices and discuss how design can subvert structural inequality
What are the origins of Project H?

Windsor Farmers Market in Bertie County North Carolina 2010. One of the first projects completed by Studio H, the project was designed and built entirely by high school students.

How do designers respond to the needs of their community?

Public Architecture helped to develop an anchor strategy for University of Texas Rio Grande Valley that aligns with priorities of low-income communities and encourages equitable regional development throughout South Texas.

Episode 11
1. Completed thesis projects by Girls Garage participants
Project H + Public Architecture

Emily Pilloton and John Peterson Argue for Design as the Great Equalizer

Part 2
We continue our discussion with John and Emily about what role design can play in challenging rising economic and social inequality.
What does the future of social design look like?

Girls Garage participants with a sign that reads FEARLESS that they welded as a group.

Tell us about the Girls Garage?

Completed thesis projects by Girls Garage participants.

Episode 12
1. Social landscape vs Natural landscape, Marinilla´s Educational Park by Rodrigo Dávila
El Equipo Mazzanti

Why All Architecture is Social

Giancarlo Mazzanti shares his thoughts on transforming Medellin and how great architecture can bring neighborhoods together.
What’s the most important question to answer when engaging a community?

Pies Descalzos School, Shakira´s foundation in Cartagena by Sergio Gómez

How do we bring the lessons of the Medellin transformation out into the world?

Santa Marta´s park renovation, canopy by Rodrigo Dávila

Episode 13
1. Escuela Nueva Esperanza 001-©Francisco Suárez
Al Borde

How to Design a School for $200

David Barragan of Al Borde discusses how design can empower a community to become their own designers & builders.
How did you find a common language between the designers and the community?

Al Borde at work. Each project begins with an extensive consultation and the building of relationships within a community.

How do you translate the wisdom of the field into pedagogy?

Esperanza Dos, Under Construction. All of the Esperanza projects were made using materials local to the village, and expertise cultivated in partnership with its residents.

Episode 14
1. Rwamagana ECD&F, 2015 SMALL
Active Social Architecture

Combining Ancient Traditions and Contemporary Social Design

Active Social Architecture is a Kigali-based architecture practice that designs and builds contemporary re-elaborations of vernacular Rwandan architecture.
How do you initially frame a project?

A celebration: handing over an open-air kitchen module to the community.

What are the most important findings in your research?

Interior view of a pre-primary classroom. Much of ASA's work focuses on the exploration of space, void, shape & color. It's their belief that the organization of space can itself be a tool of education, providing stimulation from the earliest ages.

How do you implement a project in remote conditions?

Aerial view of Mugombwa refugee camp, South Province, Rwanda. Active Social Architecture has worked extensively with communities affected by flooding in rural Rwanda.

Episode 15
1. 2015 Indonesia Brickmakers_Photo by Lola Gomez
Build Change

A Homeowner-driven Approach to Rebuilding After Disaster

Dr. Elizabeth Hausler of Build Change details a homeowner-driven approach to rebuilding after disaster.
What initially brought you into the field of disaster reconstruction and resilience?
Lola Gomez

Brickmakers at work in Indonesia. Addressing disaster requires intervention at all levels - often the best way to ensure sustainable recovery is to make sure that a community can make their own materials.

Why do we have so much trouble preparing for disasters which we know are coming?
Build Change

Build Change's Nepal staff explaining a housing retrofit. Build Change's model looks to strengthen existing structures in place, where possible. Even buildings undamaged in an earthquake can represent a future hazard if not addressed.

What strategies do you employ to disseminate the lessons which you’ve learned through your work?
Build Change

Here, Build Change leads a community awareness training program at a school in Port au Prince. Community education is critical to prevention, and features heavily in Build Change's ethos on disaster and resilience.

Episode 16
1. Women Center 01
Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

Design, Development and Disaster Mitigation in Pakistan

Yasmeen Lari details the growth of resilient architecture and sustainable development in Pakistan.
How can designers be smarter about preparing for disaster?
What is the strategy to rebuild when communities are under future threats?
How do we counteract the risks created by rapid development?

Yasmine Lari, visionary architect and founder of the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

Episode 17
Students of class one on the boat school, pose for a photograph, after the end of their classes. The floating boat school moves from one area to another and goes to the children for giving education as the children don't go to the traditional school because of lack of communication during flooding, Billdohor, Natore.Billdohor, Natore.
Mohammed Rezwan

Mitigating Climate-Based Disaster Before it Strikes

Mohammed Rezwan of Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha details his designs for floating communities.
How did Shidhulai get it’s start? What was the initial inspiration?

School-boat inventor Architect Mohammed Rezwan’s idea was to ‘combine a school bus with the schoolhouse, and use the traditional wooden boat to create a floating space to bring primary education at the doorsteps’.

How would you describe the reach of your work?

A floating farm measures about 56 feet long (including the duck coop, vegetable garden and fish enclosures) and 16 feet wide, and made of recycled materials including steel and plastic cylindrical containers, fishing net, corrugated iron sheet, and steel sheet along with locally-grown bamboo

What are your most urgent challenges?

A teacher teaches Bangla to the students studying in grade III on the lower deck of a two- tier school-boat where a circular bench is introduced for the teacher and student bonding.

Episode 18
1. Copy of DSC00570
Geohazards International

Unifying First and Third World Strategies for Disaster Mitigation

Geohazards International shares their groundbreaking methods for disaster mitigation.
What’s the difference between hard and soft resilience?

Planning tsunami evacuation routes in Padang, Indonesia. Residents will have roughly 30 minutes to reach high ground by foot after a major earthquake triggers a tsunami.

How do you adapt local materials into safe seismic design?

Schoolchildren learn about the physics of earth shaking and safe construction as a part of training an entire community to better prepare for earthquakes.

Where, globally, does the greatest risk lie?

GHI and Bhutan engineers at the Trashiyangtse District Hospital that can be isolated after a disaster. Doctors, nurses, and staff are learning how to continue to offer medical care after a major earthquake to the growing population of its 20,000 residents.

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Episode 19
Sergio Palleroni

The Trajectory of Social Design, Pt. 1

Sergio Palleroni discusses his thirty year career in Social Impact Design
How did you come into a career in public interest design?
How did your early work fit within the design ethos of the time?

The Basic Initiative’s first completed school in Mexico, here being used by the local community as a site for a birthday party. Basic’s model is based on this kind of community intimacy.

What is the role of conversation in a designer’s process?

Palleroni in Montana discussing plans for straw bale housing with Native American Reservation clients.

Episode 20
9. 41_Druk_White_Lotus_School
Sergio Palleroni

The Trajectory of Social Design, Pt. 2

Sergio Palleroni outlines the lessons of his practice at a project scale.
The American Indian Housing Initiative

The American Indian Housing Initiative brought design students onto Cheyenne and Crow reservations in Montana to work on housing projects with residents.

How translatable are the lessons from each community where you’ve worked?

The Druk White Lotus School in Shey, Ladakh, in northern India.

Episode 21

Building Community a Block at a Time Pt. 1

Brent Brown of bcWORKSHOP tells us how they serve marginalized communities in the Rio Grande Valley.
How did you get your start in public interest design?

bcWORKSHOP begins every project with a conversation, working with communities to understand existing vulnerabilities; in this case, discussing drainage hazards in the neighborhood.

How did you originally start working in the Rio Grande Valley?

bcWORKSHOP begins a community engagement process.

How do you define a successful Project?

The Congo Street Initiative

Episode 22

Building Community a Block at a Time Pt. 2

Brent Brown of bcWORKSHOP tells us how they serve marginalized communities in the Rio Grande Valley.
What is “Precovery” Planning?

Organizing transportation mapping

How do Designers intersect with local government?
How do you draw attention to underserved communities?

bcWORKSHOP leads a community exercise asking residents to visualize their neighborhood and its resources.

Episode 23
1.1. Aerial View of Project Row Houses during Round 41 - Photo by Peter Molick
Project Row Houses

How do we make life into art, and vice versa?

Project Row Houses is a neighborhood­based nonprofit art and cultural organization working on grassroots development in Houston’s 3rd ward.
How did Project Row Houses come to be?

Founders Rick Lowe and Jesse Lott during an early renovation in 1993, right at the project’s inception.

How did Project Row Houses come to be?

Houston’s 3rd Ward has a rich built tradition, with a dominant shotgun house typology. However, decades of disinvestment had taken its toll.

Are the successes of Project Row House able to affect other communities?

Carlos Sandoval De Leon lectures as a visiting artist in the summer of 2015. Project Row House has brought an international cultural anchor point to Houston’s 3rd Ward. DeLeon’s work focuses on found objects, and trying to reinvigorate the commonplace and the everyday.

How do we see our own lives as art?

Rick Lowe at Project Row House

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