Perkes co-writes report on architectural processes


David Perkes, director of MSU's Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, is co-author of the recently released "Wisdom from the Field: Public Interest Architecture in Practice: A Guide to Public Interest Practices in Architecture." PHOTO: Megan Bean | Public Affairs

The more they get together, the happier architects and their public-service clients will be, according a new report co-written by a Mississippi State University architecture professor.

David Perkes, director of MSU's Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, is one of four authors who recently released "Wisdom from the Field: Public Interest Architecture in Practice: A Guide to Public Interest Practices in Architecture." The study is a result of a $100,000 Latrobe Prize awarded to the group by the American Institute of Architects in 2011.

Based on detailed interviews with 50 organizations from Washington state to Rhode Island, Perkes' section, "The Partners' Perspective," highlights ways architects can apply public interest practices to achieve the practical needs of organizations.

Though geared toward architects, interns and students, the full report also may be beneficial to community developers, municipal officers, funding entities and non-profit organizations, among others, Perkes said.

"Public interest work doesn't happen without partners, and I chose to develop the partner section of the report because I knew that I could highlight the value of collaboration," he said. "I have a good understanding of the importance of partners from our own work in the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, as well as work the College of Architecture, Art and Design has been doing for years in the Carl Small Town Center."

Established in response to 2005's massive Hurricane Katrina, MSU's Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is a professional service and outreach program of the university's College of Architecture, Art and Design. It, like the Carl Small Town Center, provides design services, landscape and planning assistance, and educational opportunities and research to organizations and communities. For more, visit and

Perkes said his research suggests six major consistencies that foster positive working relationships between architects and public service organizations. They include practical knowledge of the partner's work, design expertise that advances the partner's mission, a flexible practice approach, community design skills, effective collaboration and community commitment.

"I identified some practical skills that an architect can focus on to be successful at public interest work, and I certainly learned a lot and found specific examples that I have been able to use to teach architects about how they can be more useful to partners," he said.

In putting together so comprehensive a document, Perkes credited the expertise and hard work of his three colleagues. They include Roberta M. Feldman, University of Illinois at Chicago professor; Sergio Palleroni, senior fellow for the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University in Oregon; and Bryan Bell, executive director of the Raleigh, N.C-based Design Corps.

Perkes also expressed appreciation for support provided by the AIA, and the research team continues working together to create other publications for the national organization.

"We have hundreds of hours of interview information, of which we were only able to use a fraction in the AIA report," Perkes said. "As a team, we see our research as the beginning of an archive of case studies of key practices that are setting the direction of public interest work.

"We expect to continue to take a role to promote and educate around this topic," he said.

The full report is available at

Leah Barbour | Public Affairs

Return to Memo

Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: November 4, 2013Facebook Twitter