From the Notebook of Sergio Palleroni

The idea of incorporating hands-on educational experience with socially responsible design is not a new one, but its cultural currency seems especially relevant today. “When we started this, there were just a few programs going—I could probably count them all on one hand,” says Sergio Paller­oni, the cofounder and director of BaSiC Initiative, a multidisciplinary design-build program that for 13 years has challenged students to use their education in the service of poor people throughout the world. “Now I can’t even tell you all the programs going on. Part of that is maybe it’s the flavor of the season. But these projects also provide a rich experience in all the things that make architecture unique. It’s not just about the pure things you do on paper. It’s about community relations, talking to the client, figuring out what the site is about.”

Palleroni is based at Portland State University, but the program has affiliations with more than a dozen schools and organizations nationwide. The projects tend to start in the architecture and engineering departments but, depending on the complexity of the task, can often include business and public-policy students. “When projects come in through the door, we try to filter them by deciding ‘Can we make an impact on them?’ We can’t contribute to everything. And, secondly, we ask, ‘Will they provide a good educational opportunity, for us and for the community?’”

More information on Palleroni and his work with BaSiC Initiative is available here.

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