Launch Slideshow

Sergio Palleroni and Margarette Leite of of Palleroni Leite Design Partnership.

Palleroni Leite Design Partnership Projects

Palleroni Leite Design Partnership Projects

  • Sergio Palleroni and Margarette Leite of of Palleroni Leite Design Partnership.

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    Sergio Palleroni and Margarette Leite of of Palleroni Leite Design Partnership.

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    Ty Milford/Aurora Select

    Sergio Palleroni and Margarette Leite of of Palleroni Leite Design Partnership.

  • Palleroni Leite Design Partnerships Angel Lane Community Center in Houston will anchor a Habitat for Humanity development for Hurricane Katrina survivors.

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    Palleroni Leite Design Partnerships Angel Lane Community Center in Houston will anchor a Habitat for Humanity development for Hurricane Katrina survivors.

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    Courtesy Palleroni Leite Design Partnership

    Palleroni Leite Design Partnerships Angel Lane Community Center in Houston will anchor a Habitat for Humanity development for Hurricane Katrina survivors.

  • In June 2010, Margarette Leites students built a 700-square-foot house using cellulose-and-resin SwissCell panels.

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    In June 2010, Margarette Leites students built a 700-square-foot house using cellulose-and-resin SwissCell panels.

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    Courtesy Portland State University

    In June 2010, Margarette Leite’s Portland State University students built a demonstration house using cellulose-and-resin SwissCell panels.

  • Students from Portland State University working on the 700-square-foot house.

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    Students from Portland State University working on the 700-square-foot house.

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    Courtesy Portland State Universi

    Students working on the 700-square-foot building, which could potentially serve as a model for post-disaster housing.

  • Portland State University students constructed the home using recyclable,cellulose and resin panels.

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    Portland State University students constructed the home using recyclable,cellulose and resin panels.

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    Courtesy Portland State Universi

    Portland State University students constructed the home using recyclable,cellulose and resin panels.

  • One of BaSiC Initiatives Gulf Coast projects, A House for Patty, features interiors free of paints and other manmade finishes, at the request of the owner.

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    One of BaSiC Initiatives Gulf Coast projects, A House for Patty, features interiors free of paints and other manmade finishes, at the request of the owner.

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    One of BaSiC Initiative’s Gulf Coast projects done after Hurricane Katrina is known as A House for Patty.

  • Many of the materials are salvaged from hurricane-damaged buildings in the region.

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    Many of the materials are salvaged from hurricane-damaged buildings in the region.

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    The home features interiors free of paints and other manmade finishes, at the request of the owner.

  • Exterior shot of A House for Patty.

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    Exterior shot of A House for Patty.

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    BaSiC lifted the house 14 feet off the ground to meet flooding regulations and opened up the middle to take advantage of naturally cooling breezes.

  • BaSiC lifted the house 14 feet off the ground to meet flooding regulations, and opened it up in the middle to take advantage of naturally cooling breezes.

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    BaSiC lifted the house 14 feet off the ground to meet flooding regulations, and opened it up in the middle to take advantage of naturally cooling breezes.

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    Many of A House for Patty’s materials are salvaged from hurricane-damaged buildings in the region.

  • BaSiC Initiative participants in the Katrina Furniture Project program included Jim Adamson, Peter Spruance, Sandor Pratt, and BaSiC director Sergio Palleroni (from left).

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    BaSiC Initiative participants in the Katrina Furniture Project program included Jim Adamson, Peter Spruance, Sandor Pratt, and BaSiC director Sergio Palleroni (from left).

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    BaSiC Initiative participants in the Katrina Furniture Project program included Jim Adamson, Peter Spruance, Sandor Pratt, and BaSiC director Sergio Palleroni (from left).

  • The Katrina Furniture Project involved the Gulf Coast community in an effort to make furniture out of materials retrieved from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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    The Katrina Furniture Project involved the Gulf Coast community in an effort to make furniture out of materials retrieved from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    The Katrina Furniture Project involved the Gulf Coast community in an effort to make furniture out of materials retrieved from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

  • Katrina Furniture Project.

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    Katrina Furniture Project.

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    Katrina Furniture Project.

  • Katrina Furniture Project.

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    Katrina Furniture Project.

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    Katrina Furniture Project.

  • The Gulf Coast community offered its help with the Katrina Furniture Project.

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    The Gulf Coast community offered its help with the Katrina Furniture Project.

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    Courtesy BaSiC Initiative

    The raw materials for the Katrina Furniture Project came from buildings that were ruined or damaged during the storm.

sergio Palleroni is no stranger to post-disaster reconstruction. As a freshly minted architecture school graduate in the early 1980s, he jumped on an opportunity to help with rebuilding efforts in earthquake-damaged Nicaragua. A few years later, he moved to Mexico City to assist with recovery work after the 1985 earthquake. “That was one of the two best reconstruction efforts ever, the other one being [post-1945] Japan,” he remembers. “In Mexico City, 250,000 housing units were built in two years.”

These and other early experiences with underserved communities led Palleroni to notice a void in American architectural education. In 1995, he co-founded a design/build program at the University of Washington called BaSiC Initiative, along with Steve Badanes and David Riley. BaSiC now works all over the world to improve local conditions through design and construction. The program is currently housed at both Portland State University (PSU) in Oregon, where Palleroni is an architecture professor and a senior fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, and the University of Texas-Austin. It has helped dozens of in-need communities, including the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina. Among its undertakings there were the Katrina Furniture Project, which transformed building materials salvaged from post-Katrina wreckage into furniture, and A House for Patty, one of the first homes built in Biloxi, Miss., after the storm. More recent BaSiC projects include Druk White Lotus School in India (which sustained damage from this past summer’s floods but is still operational); a solar-powered bakery in Tunisia; and contributions to the Haiti Rewired construction manual. (More information on BaSiC can be found at www.basicinitiative.com or www.basicinitiative.org.)

Palleroni’s wife, architect Margarette Leite, is a BaSiC Initiative instructor, as well as a professor in the architecture program at PSU. She also serves as his partner in their Portland-based firm, Palleroni Leite Design Partnership (PLDP). One of PLDP’s latest projects is a community center for a neighborhood of families displaced from New Orleans by Katrina. The residents have made new lives in a Habitat for Humanity development in Houston, and Habitat hired PLDP to design a gathering place and activity hub for both adults and children.

In all of their work, Leite and Palleroni embark on a mission to thoroughly understand the cultural needs of the building’s end user. “It’s important to us that people explain to us what they’ve lost,” Palleroni says. “Telling us their stories acknowledges that need for normality. It’s a huge step for the architects to step into the lives of other people and find out what was most important and resolve that formally. I think the programming—the deep conversation with the client—is one of the two to three most important things you do in disaster relief.”

This type of in-depth research also makes up a crucial element of BaSiC Initiative’s projects. And it informs Palleroni’s teaching both at PSU and in courses on international humanitarian action through Erasmus Mundus, a graduate program overseen by the European Union. He emphasizes real-life, in-the-field experience, and encourages students to spend extra time understanding their clients’ needs. “I had this weird training that happened where I was, when I was,” he observes of his disaster rebuilding background. “How do we create that kind of training? We all realize it’s a growing need.”

In her academic work, Leite is particularly interested in tectonics and building materials. In June 2010, she and her students teamed with local company Pacific Green Innovations to build a 700-square-foot demonstration home using SwissCell cellulose-and-resin panels. She and Palleroni believe the lightweight material could be a good fit for disaster relief housing in Haiti and beyond.

Like Palleroni, Leite focuses on helping her students consider alternative career trajectories. “Rather than having architects always doing museums and libraries, we’re bringing in the idea that design can go much further than that,” she says. “We’re trying to get students to look at potential career paths where we can have a greater impact on all people, not just the wealthy."

 

Picking Up the Pieces