Most architectural practice is similar to the practices of physicians and lawyers, in that professionals work mainly with clients - wealthy individuals, corporations, institutions, and governments-who can afford to pay professional fees and who receive, in exchange, highly customized responses to their specific needs.  In architecture, this form of practice has led to the design and construction of many visually powerful and functionally successful buildings, but it also greatly limits the number and types of people served by the profession....architects directly affect only about 2 to 5 percent of all that gets built, which hardly makes a dent in the requirement that we, as licensed professionals, attend to the public’s health, safety, and welfare.  Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism, Thomas Fisher

It has been common in the medical and law professions to provide pro bono services to individuals, communities, and organizations for decades. However, it has only become a more common effort in the architectural community in the last 10 - 15 years. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of architects like Bryan Bell, the founder of Design Corps, and John Cary, an advocate of public interest design, the notion of serving those in need has now become a major sector of the design community.

However, there has still been a challenge to convince both clients and donors that design will be the most valuable use of funding. A common thought is that organizations shouldn’t invest time or money into well designed facilities as this shifts the focus from their primary work and doesn’t ultimately advance their mission. However, good and thoughtful design can do precisely that.


Part of the focus at Inscape Publico is to provide design services that will help non-profit organizations to realize their mission. Whether it is to design housing or renovate a non-profits’ offices, the value of design is found in the excited soul, sense of wonder and comfort and reprieve that is created in the well designed space.

REPAIR THE WORLD: design by Inscape Publico

John Cary says it well in the Power of Pro Bono. “When planned with their ultimate users in mind, spaces become more than bricks and mortar and glass and steel; they become incubators for serving, working, learning and loving. This is what architecture is all about - providing spaces that empower people to live their best lives.”

Over the past year Inscape Publico has created designs for Repair the World, Children’s Defense Fund, Arlington Food Assistance Center, HIPS and Mi Casa to name a few. Providing services for these projects, Inscape Publico has demonstrated the value of design to these organization. 

Having the ability to implement powerful design, each of these organizations have the opportunity to better serve. 

- Post by Michelle Bove

IS IT TIME FOR DC TO TRY SOMETHING NEW? The Role of Architecture in Housing and Community Development


Original Sketch by David Adjaye

“This is why I do architecture. I’m just beginning to realize that what I build can influence the way people behave in these spaces.”

David Adjaye

Architect, Sugar Hill

Broadway Housing Community

is working to upend every existing paradigm and stigma that surrounds the underserved citizen’s need for a place to call home. And architecture is playing a big role in their most recent community development. BHC is responsible for the development of one of the most anticipated innovations in low income housing in our nation’s history. The Sugar Hill development in Harlem is a $89 million dollar triumph for affordable housing. Architectural criticism aside, this development is full of social and financial successes and learning moments in public interest design.

Hiring the world-class architect, David Adjaye, to design a housing development whose ROI lies almost solely in tax credits and goodwill is heroic. Even with the lessons learned with the creation of Cabrini Green, design still remains a low priority in quality affordable housing.

Historian Devereux Bowly Jr. wrote in his 1978 book "The Poorhouse”, “the decision was made from the beginning that emphasis would be placed on housing that was well-constructed, easy to maintain, but architecturally undistinguished.” We know now that, “...housing projects are almost universally viewed as failures that devour human lives and tax dollars.”

Allotting all 124 units to underserved families (20 percent formerly homeless) with zero market rate apartments to balance costs is herculian. Affordable housing has never been a priority in the U.S. In fact, there are no concessions in the US for permanent affordable housing. Investment contracts with special loans are set for 15 or 30 years of rent control. After which, developers and owners are free to charge market rates or better. This is what’s happening currently in DC. Part of the reason affordable housing seems to be coming to a head all at once is because the statutes from the 80’s are running out one after the other. The potential influx of cash is just too much to resist. So what we are left with is a housing crisis that disregards the needy with no end in sight, unless, of course, we get creative.

The supportive housing model of BHC incorporates “medical and mental health care, vocational training and job placement, substance abuse treatment, benefits counseling and training and assistance with independent living skills” all without leaving home. As BHC founder Ellen Baxter says, “she could get hit by a truck and the communities would go on fine without her.” It’s the residents that create the communities and truly embrace one another.  People to whom mainstream society turns a blind eye and treat like troubled children who can’t have nice things for fear that they will break them. The tenants have time and again proven that through trust and with the support of BHC and Ellen Baxter, they are more prone to create and flourish than to break.

I recently overheard an older homeless woman saying that jail was better than the shelter. She said jail was clean, the food was terrible but you could shower and it was clean. Is this the best we can do in one of the most expensive and wealthy cities in our country? Broadway Housing Community’s supportive housing model in NYC has been testing and proving their innovative methods for over 30 years. Is it time for DC to try something new?

“I don’t mind the great outdoors it’s just the awfully hard concrete” “Too bad I can’t borrow on my sorrow till I get back on my feet”

“Thank you, Lady”
Carl Wynter

- Post by Keisha Banks




A confluence is the coming together, meeting, or gathering at a specific point. In Pittsburgh the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers form the Ohio River that gives life to cities like Parkersburg, WV, Cincinnati, OH, and Louisville, KY as it winds its way west to the Mississippi River.

Pittsburgh is also home to another confluence that happens at 6022 Broad Street. It is here where the efforts of Inscape Publico and Inscape Studio meet, creating the home for Repair the World’s new community center. Repair the World is a Jewish faith based organization that believes volunteers are the backbone of all social movements and are one of the most powerful vehicles for social change. Inscape Publico’s design vision for a Pittsburgh community center was developed by Inscape Studio into the technical drawings needed to obtain a building permit and construct Repair the World’s new home in the East Liberty neighborhood of the Steel City.

The doors to the Pittsburgh community center opened this past July and welcome all to the hub for Repair the World’s mission of volunteerism and service. Repair the World has a model, similar to AmeriCorp, where young adults are mobilized to positively impact communities through actively participating in programs to improve the quality of life in in the neighborhoods in which they live. The Pittsburgh volunteers, occupying the spaces designed by Inscape Publico, are working on issues such as education inequality, elderly care, hunger, refugee resettlement, and youth development. Partner organizations include Higher Achievement, Assemble Pittsburgh, East End Cooperative Ministries, Neighborhood Learning Alliance, Jewish Family & Children Services, and Circles Greater Pittsburgh.

It is a privilege to partner with organizations like Repair the World to create architecture that surely impacts the lives of individuals in communities throughout the US. Besides the center in Pittsburgh, Inscape designed the recently opened community centers for Repair the World’s Detroit, Philadelphia, and Baltimore locations. We believe that architecture has the power to inspire. Our design for Repair the World Pittsburgh is a testament to and an instrument for the people who inhabit the spaces we shaped.


Returned to Haiti this week for the official "inauguration" of the BBBC Expo in Zorangé, just north of Port-au-Prince. Went directly from the airport to meet the contractor at the site the day before, since reports from our partner Relief International's local staff indicated there was much yet to be done. Despite a delayed construction process up to this point, after a long day and early morning of hard work, we got our house prototype looking great for the big day. VIP's in attendance included Haitian President Michel Martelly, their Minister of Tourism Patrick Delatour, former President Bill Clinton, and Wyclef Jean, among others. Although the official group only visited a handful of the sixty prototypes this week, we were honored by the attention President Martelly gave our house at a previous visit to the Expo. There were quite a few attendees representing a wide variety of organizations checking out all the prototypes; we made some interesting contacts and received a lot of compliments on our house. We're hoping to be one of the ten or so winners selected who will build approximately 40 houses each as part of a 400 unit "exemplary community" to be constructed at a site near the Expo, and while the Expo is open for the next three weeks we'll be taking advantage of having the prototype available to show as we (Inscape Publico & Relief International) pursue development partners, grants and other funding sources to build communities of these houses at other sites. Very excited to have a great-looking prototype built! Check out more photos on our flickr site here.

On the Boards: A New Dawn - Ayiti Marmont Clinic

Schematic design is wrapping up on the Medical Clinic located in Marmont, Haiti that we are designing for Project Medi-Share. In recent weeks, we’ve taken an initial concept design provided through a charette with GW University students and members of the local architecture community led by OPX, and adapted it to a new site. Our process was thorough, with many layers of trace paper overlapped and covered in hand-sketched iterations drawn during our design meetings. We arrived at a courtyard scheme that features separate functions in individual, small buildings clustered around a central outdoor space. With some feedback from our collaborators, we are moving forward to complete schematic design.

One challenge, personally on this project, has been the odd experience of designing not only at a site I’ve never seen, but in a country I’ve never visited. It is certainly a good exercise in visualization. The other overall challenge is the critical importance of quality construction in a country, so recently ravaged by an earthquake, where building trades are not strictly regulated and rarely have the money or know-how for new construction technologies. This challenges us to think creatively about designing with simple materials and connections that will be familiar to local contractors and will also ensure the longevity of the structure. Those system and connection choices will be made in the coming weeks as we begin design development. All in all, it is an exciting project to take on and I look forward to visiting the site in Haiti soon!


LEDC celebrated its 20th anniversary tonight at the OAS. The neo-classical building at 17th and Constitution with its two-story atrium was a wonderful venue for LEDC’s annual fund raiser. I sit as board chair at LEDC and being the son of an immigrant from Santiago, Chile, the services they provide have a special place in my heart. LEDC’s mission is to drive the economic and social advancement of low- to moderate-income Latinos and other DC area residents by equipping them with the skills and tools to achieve financial independence and become leaders in their communities. Inscape donated $500 to the gala.

In 2008 Inscape Studio designed LEDC’s new space in Wheaton, MD. The 2,400sf space serves thousands of Maryland residents providing services in small business development and lending, homeownership and foreclosure counselling, and affordable housing preservation. Also is in the space is a financial services center that works with that portion of the population without access to traditional banking institutions.

Inscape Publico will be providing concept design services for a new building in Wheaton. The new development will allow us to expand our services in an area that has seen a tremendous population increase over the past decade. LEDC will be launching a capital campaign in the fall of this year to raise the 3 million dollars needed to build the new facility. To learn more about LEDC and to donate to the organization, please visit their website.
- Greg


Stefan and I just got back from the BBBC site late this afternoon. Back at Maison Blanche with its proprietor “Daddy”. He’s another story for another day. Today was the inauguration of the housing exposition for the Building Back Better Communities project. The project is a program developed by the government of Haiti and being supported by the Clinton Foundation and the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank). Inscape Publico teamed with Relief International and is one of 40 finalists that have built their housing prototype. Eventually the best of these 40 prototypes will be selected to participate in a planned community to house 125 families.

Early this afternoon ex-president Bill Clinton and the newly elected Haitian president Michel Martelly visited the site. The two were greeted as rock stars, fitting for an ex-musician and our former first saxophonist.

Clinton was wearing a panama hat and through the scrum you could follow his movements around the site by tracking the straw hat floating above the crowd. It was great to see the two presidents at the site as they bring a much need voice to the project and the problem of homelessness in Haiti.

Clinton said he hopes that "all the technology deployed on this project will ever be available to all Haitians. That they no longer have to pay more for electricity, and that drinking water is no longer a rare commodity...

"- Greg


This evening I attended a rooftop reception and fundraiser to support

Mi Casa

hosted by the law firm Reno & Cavanaugh helped to support Mi Casa's mission to provide affordable housing to low and moderate-income households in Washington, DC and Baltimore. Inscape made a contribution of $250. Atop the roof at 455 Massachusetts Avenue, NW we were serenaded by a jazz trio while enjoying views of the US Capitol and the Washington Monument. A glass of white wine cooled the body on this warm early summer evening.


Inscape Studio

, Inscape Publico's sister firm, is collaborating with Mia Casa on the design and renovation of 60 units in NE Washington, DC. Pleasant Park Cooperative is composed of 60 two-bedroom townhouses situated around a series of courtyards. With Mi Casa's assistance and a DHCD loan, the tenants purchased and are developing their homes as a limited equity cooperative. It's a pleasure working with Mia Casa and the tenants of PPC on this important project.

- Greg


Architects create the spaces that we inhabit. I sit here inhabiting a second floor balcony at Maison Blanche, a guest house in Delmas, Haiti. Delmas is a suburb of Port au Prince, east and slightly north of the city. To my left, with views to the west and the bay of Port au Prince in the horizon, sits my colleague Stefan Schwarzkopf. Day is giving way to night. The sun dances on the water and dusk covers the city creating a sense of calm. This is Haiti, however, and underneath this façade is chaos.

From my vantage point Stefan is busy at his computer revising drawings of a housing prototype we’ve designed for a planned community in Zoranger, 30 minutes north of downtown Port-au-Prince. Bodies will one day inhabit the bricks and mortar, or more precisely structural concrete insulated panels, we’re orchestrating with our computer generated drawings. As I look east there are the remains of a concrete block structure. The roof porous but for tarps stamped


. People have gathered in the space provided to pray. Church hymns fill the early evening. The spirit of Haitians has survived. Keep going east along the dirt road and a banner spans your path.


Within the course of 100 meters the body, soul, and mind have come together.