Two programs within the School of Architecture + Design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the faculty members directing them have been listed in the top 100 for public interest design among an elite group of leaders and influencers, including recognizable names like Bill Clinton and Brad Pitt. 

The CHICAGO STUDIO, and the design/buildLAB, both named in the Public Interest Design 100, are programs within the School of Architecture + Design that embody a hands-on, minds-on approach to education though real world design projects that benefit others.

The University of Minnesota College of Design, Tandus Flooring, and recently released the inaugural Public Interest Design 100, a diverse list of 150 men and women including architects, designers, communicators and leaders who are passionate about design and service.

According to the organization’s website, the list honors “the top 100 individuals and teams working at the intersection of design and service.”

Among this group of visionaries and influencers are Keith and Marie Zawistowski, assistant professors of practice who created Virginia Tech’s design/buildLAB and Andrew Balster, director for the School of Architecture + Design’s CHICAGO STUDIO.

John Cary, founder and curator of the Public Interest Design 100, said, “Our recognition of Marie and Keith Zawistowski's leadership of design/buildLAB and Andrew Balster's vision for the CHICAGO STUDIO simply provides a context or frame of reference for the movement that they’re a part of. What we love most is the trifecta of an innovative response to a long-standing community need, measurable impact and promise of the work, and a clear focus on design excellence, which Marie, Keith, and Andrew all so beautifully represent. Virginia Tech is one of only a few universities to make our list, and has the opportunity to put a stake in the ground and define itself as a center for high-impact, cutting-edge design for the public good.”


The Zawistowskis joined Virginia Tech in 2008 and are the co-founders and directors of the two-semester design/buildLAB, which engages students in a real-world architecture project from initial concept to final construction. The projects are selected for their potential benefit to a community, and students work with community members to assess their needs, design solutions, and build the final structure.

“The Public Interest Design 100 is a list of top individuals and teams working at the intersection of design and service,” said Keith Zawistowski. “Inclusion among this group is tremendous for the confidence of our students and evidence that they are working at the highest level of professionalism.”

The design/buildLAB has created significant, award-winning work such as the Clifton Forge Amphitheater, completed in 2012, and the Covington Farmer's Market in 2011.

Keith and Marie Zawistowski received the 2011 Grand Prize from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards for their course “Designing Practice,” described by the prize committee as “engaging students in the often ‘mundane’ subject of professional practice by introducing it as a design problem — an innovative means to make the subject relevant to students.”


Andrew Balster is the director of Virginia Tech's Chicago Studio. The program creates a neutral platform for the discussion of architectural and urban strategies, and the curriculum is guided through the collaboration of Chicago’s leading visionaries in an effort to generate potential innovations for the City of Chicago. This powerful mechanism directly integrates education and practice by embedding School of Architecture + Design students within some of Chicago’s leading architecture and engineering firms. Its distinctive structure and curriculum promotes a collaborative design process encompassing multiple points of view within academia, the profession, and the broader community.

Through his career experience and connections, Balster has created a network of firms and professionals who support the CHICAGO STUDIO students, building a virtual university campus of learning spaces within supporting organizations in the heart of Chicago.
Recent CHICAGO STUDIO projects have included creating a strategic plan to improve urban water, material, and social waste issues with innovative solutions to make city living more economically and environmentally sustainable. The students also worked on a vision plan for Chicago’s Uptown Entertainment District with the goal to promote and preserve the rich culture, community, and livability of the area.

“The Public Interest Design 100 represents leading professionals who see their work as an opportunity to design for the world, and not simply in the world. To be recognized for the work we do in this great city, gives the CHICAGO STUDIO further momentum to carry out our mission to generate potential innovations for the City of Chicago,” Balster said.



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