Usa, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon DESIS Lab

For Admission

Starts: 16 May, 2016
Duration :
Instructors: Usa, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon DESIS Lab
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Name: Carnegie Mellon DESIS Lab

City: Pittsburgh, PA

Country: USA

Coordinator: Kristin Hughes

Hosting institution: Carnegie Mellon University, School of Design

Address: Margaret Morrison 110, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

Tel: +412 268 2828

Fax: +412 268 3088


Coordinator: Kristin Hughes, Associate Professor

Tel: +412 268 7098


Operations Manager: Darlene Scalese

Tel: +412 268 2828

Fax: +412 268 3890



The DESIS at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is situated within the School of Design in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. The lab was founded in November, 2011 after a realignment and repositioning of core values, inherit in many of our current on-going projects. The School of Design for many years has conducted classroom projects based upon social innovation and design for social and ecological good and the establishment of the LAB serves to formalize and expand these capabilities to all levels within the program and beyond.


  • Promote social innovation and social entrepreneurship through design through classroom based experiences and research projects to educate the next generation of designers to work on behalf of society and the environment
  • Propose new initiatives to be developed in partnership with other departments on campus, local/regional communities, non-profits and other stakeholders


The school is actively looking for ways to collaborate with other disciplines within the University, non-profit and corporate partners to fund research inside and outside the classroom. Previous projects have included software/app development of a crowd-sourced real-time arrival system that enables riders to co-produce the information they want and encourages more use of public transportation, co-creation of a center for teens in a low-income neighborhood, a project to revitalize an under-served community through the co-creation of a community garden, and a project that uses communication design to help refugees settle into new living situations in local communities.

Primary Research Areas

  • Community health and health literacy
  • Community diversity
  • Design for aging populations
  • Ecoliteracy education
  • Food Policy and social justice

List of projects and research

Latham St. Commons, Pittsburgh, PA


Carnegie Mellon University Faculty and Students
School of Design, School of Architecture, School of Public Policy, Sustainable Architecture, Information Sciences.

The Latham St. Commons project strives to build local economies by addressing the unmet basic needs of local residents. The Commons eponymously endeavors to meet these needs through a collective feedback and design process. The project site is a nearly vacant set of storage garages on the border of two ethnically and socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods. Here, the Commons has an opportunity to bridge the racial and social divides that perpetuate blight, poverty, and inequality. The Commons intends to accomplish this prodigious task in measured parts, not unlike the gridded layout of the garage structures themselves. Inspired by the structure’s original partitions, the Commons will feature different program cells, each operating under the intersection of sustainable utilization of physical space, positive community interactions, and enhanced access to nutritious food. Below provides an overview of our primary research questions:


  • Utilizing an existing roof surface as a rooftop garden for food production contributes to a sustainable urban strategy;
  • Engage low-income communities and communities of color in the creation of regional food supplies and ensure they benefit from resulting job creation or economic benefits;
  • Integrate regional food supply chain improvements with other infrastructure needs (e.g., combined transportation and food supply networks, combined green infrastructure and food supply, etc.)
  • Elevate the discussion around food supply and safety, framing it as an infrastructure issue on par with the delivery of water or energy;
  • Engage local communities in the design and implementation of regional food systems;
  • Build learning networks related to regional food supply chain development and food justice.
  • Integrate regional food supply chain improvements with other infrastructure needs (e.g., combined transportation and food supply networks, combined green infrastructure and food supply, etc.)


The Octopus Garden, Pittsburgh, PA


Powered by the community with a varied of projects driven by Carnegie Mellon University, School of Design, faculty, communication design students and community partners.

The Octopus Garden is a transformed vacant lot where undergraduate communication design students, architecture students, and the community at large have an impact on the identity, shape and function of a community. The Octopus Garden is located in Pittsburgh’s Friendship neighborhood. Over the course of the years the garden has become a place where students of all ages have identified opportunities and designed solutions that address the alarming disconnect between community, nature, and the process and appreciation for growing food. Every year the garden offers a variety of hands-on spring/summer experiences designed to embed these principles into the every day thinking of our participants, their families and community members.