The Public Interest Design Program (PID) at the University of Texas at Austin is a summer program that is supported by the Center for Sustainable Development within the School of Architecture. The primary aim of the Public Interest Design Program is to connect students from a myriad of disciplines interested in the relationship between public service and the built environment to projects that address real community needs. Through rigorous exploration of how each of these terms affects design, PID challenges students to develop theoretical and practical skills to respond to the ethical complications of engaging the public and its spaces.
Public Interest Design emerged out of a call for the design professions to directly respond to the needs of underserved communities. Specifically, PID attempts to raise the question of equity within the design professions and the extent to which the design professions -- from architecture, landscape architecture, and planning -- apply expertise to issues of everyday life. Equity, one of the three fundamental factors of the triple bottom line of sustainability, is frequently ignored and poorly understood by the decision makers and stakeholders in the design process. In light of rapidly depleting natural resources, famines, natural disasters, and political tensions, it is critical to create sustainable communities that are healthy, prosperous and equitable places where people can live, work, and socialize.
By developing local projects, PID employs the tools of community-based design as a platform for addressing social and physical specifics of place while simultaneously contributing to the larger national discussion about the experience the public brings to architecture and planning discource and practice. PID thus operates in dialogue with communities within Austin, Texas, as well as with other similar emerging programs.