A lot of people when they hear talk about architecture or really just talking about one aspect of architecture, which is building design or something in the built environment. However, there’s a lot of other aspects of architecture, which I personally wasn’t aware of when I started my architectural career. Something called public interest design really caught my attention. And what that is is basically architecture for people who may not have the means to necessarily afford it, but more like architecture for the public. So as architects in Michigan, we have a ability and we also have, moral obligation to design for not only the people that, you know, would hire us for a custom home or something of that nature, but also the people in the community, the people that run nonprofits that support other aspects of the community and things of that nature.
One element that I really love about public interest design as architects in Michigan is there’s a lot of support for it nowadays. Where in the past, it really wasn’t a thing. We’ve, that the profession has become more willing to change with what the community needs instead of what the people who can pay us want.
We’re finding that people really appreciate the idea of public interest design, but it’s hard to necessarily get into or actually do projects like that for some firms because they, they don’t fully understand it or they don’t have the desire to do pro bono or low bono work or things like that. But low bono or pro bono work isn’t necessarily the only way to do public interest design work. A lot of the time it is funded by grants and donations for specific projects.
So the architect can make up their feet in, in that way or the group that is getting, the project or the dark Tekton is working with wood, be able to pay some part of the fee themselves. and also supplement it with maybe a grant or something like that. There are actually a lot of opportunities for public interest design as architects in Michigan because there are a lot of grants out there that nonprofits are going after and there’s a lot of grants out there for things like communities design and improving these spaces that have been neglected in the past.
An example of community design would be maybe taking on a project for an urban garden that helps out the community adjacent to it or even working with a nonprofit maybe at a lower cost where grants supplement the cost of the design. As architects in Michigan, we do not want to make our design work necessarily free, but we want to make sure our clients understand the value of the design work. Even if it is supplement supplemented through grants or other funds or even if we’re charging less for a specific client, we still want them to know the full extent of the cost of the work. This helps architects everywhere. Not necessarily just architects in Michigan, but it helps people understand the value of what what an architect brings to the table,
which is lost on a lot of people. They think we just take these, take what they want and you know, draw a floor plan or something like that. However, there’s, there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes of a design and a lot of considerations that an architect is taught to take in, take in from the outside world, whether it be the community, the site, anything like that and bring it all together to make sure that we are ethically designing and designing for the client at hand, which will not endanger or cause harm to the public or the community because of that project.
There is a program that is paired with AIA, which is the American Institute of Architects, which is called the one plus program and basically these ties into public interest design or community design because it’s the American Institute of architects is telling all its members, hey, you have to, it is, it is a ethical obligation for an architect to provide some community service with their knowledge and skillset. it’s basically saying that architects in Michigan need to give a little bit of free work basically to their community or to some, you know for any like that, which is really interesting because there’s, there’s a lot of support for that type of design work, especially when it’s supported on a national level like AIA. So it’s really pushing people and architects and designers to think about maybe a community group or a client that really would benefit, not, not just benefit the client, but also benefit the, the area around the client or the people around the client or a large constituency group. It would benefit for giving away discounted work or working for someone for free.
As architects in Michigan our firm does the one plus program at least if not more, which is why it’s called one plus. It’s not just called one. Which basically is saying that it’s 1% of your time or 1% of your, yeah, your firm’s time for nonprofit work.
our firm has done a lot of work with nonprofits in the community. Most recently Whaley’s Children’s Center and their techs for attendees fundraiser. We provided some work for them to help them fundraise for this project. We’ve done work with a church and the northern end of Flint that it structure collapsed and we worked with a large group of design professionals to organize the rebuilding of that structure even though they, and they became more of a community center rather than a church. So that was very interesting to see the public support, that type of project in architecture school. I really went in just thinking about building design, not about the people that design or architecture impacts, which is a crucial, crucial part of the profession. I mean, we’re designing these buildings for people. We’re not designing them just to sit there and look pretty for nobody.
So, and a lot of those people can’t afford architecture. So how do we impact everybody with architecture? I mean, everybody’s are impacted by architecture every day. I mean, you drive down the road and he looked at all the buildings or you try not to, but whether or not you realize it at the built environment is impacting you in different ways. And that’s why architecture is for everybody, not just for the people who have the means. Especially when it comes to more urban design or you have more people in the city are people in one area usually get a more community groups that get together. There’s a lot more involvement in the area and where a public interest design can really shine because you’re bringing something to an area where it’s really going to impact a lot of people in a small space.
Architects in Michigan really love public interest design and are excited too. Keep pushing public interest design into the world and provide these design services for everybody, not just for one group of people.