Public Interest Design Institute Kansas City

Published October 25, 2013

At a Public Interest Design Institute conference in September, Jill Kurtz was able to present Rebuild South Sudan’s project, in Jalle, South Sudan, to community designers in Kansas City. Having the opportunity to connect with designers and community transformers is very important: They get to see a working example of innovation impacting Jalle, South Sudan. Also, the more connections that can be made the more people will become aware of and involved with the project.

The conference was a two-day affair and was a joint effort by Design Corps; Kansas State University College of Architecture, Planning and Design, The University of Kansas School of Architecture Design and Planning, and the Kansas City Design Center. Jill and others laid out exactly what it means to work in partnership with a community. They laid out a step by step process of working with a community as a design partner and taught on how to leverage other partnerships and assets to address project challenges as well as many other important issues.

When it comes to construction, each continent, country, and community present their own unique challenges and South Sudan has more than most. Some of the issues specific to Jalle, South Sudan are trying to ship materials to the build site, ensuring the safety of livestock close to the construction area, and the biggest design hurdle is the fact that the entire region is a floodplain. For several months each year the entire area floods and turns into mud. Overcoming any type of challenge requires creativity, passion, and determination. Many individuals attending the conference were able to relate to the types of challenges facing Rebuild South Sudan.

Before breaking ground, Rebuild South Sudan spoke with leaders in the Jalle community, gleaning knowledge of what works in this remote region of the world. Working in partnership with the community is essential to Rebuild South Sudan and will help ensure long term success. In a joint effort with Jalle community leaders and Engineers without Borders, they synergistically designed a unique building that works for the needs of the community, helps combat the environmental challenges, and will last for many years to come. Jill hopes that the Kansas state students interested in community focused design will be able to take what they learned at the conference and apply to their studio work and connect more with their communities.

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