Design Issues Series

Engage. Explore. Discuss.

GBBN’s annual Design Issues Series (DIS) is a collaborative exhibition between all US GBBN offices. Each year the goal of (DIS) is to step back, take notice, and represent a specific topic in a new light and foster lively and creative public discourse. By overlapping architecture and community, (DIS) seeks to grow a culture of design.

(DIS) 2017: Pre Fab Lab


Why Pre Fab Lab? To remain diverse, vibrant and resilient, cities must be affordable. Technological advances in prefabrication are revolutionizing the design and construction of buildings. Quality control, efficiency, and sustainability make modular prefabrication an increasingly popular method of delivering affordable housing that is both innovative and attractive.

How it started: We’ve been exploring prefabrication’s possibilities for over a decade. In 2004 we partnered with Vanke, one of the world’s largest real-estate companies, to help them create a prefabrication strategy that could address China’s high paced housing demand without sacrificing quality. In Pittsburgh, we’ve been working with Tree Pittsburgh to design a prefabricated, modular headquarters that is on track to attain net-zero energy. The Edge on 4 in Louisville and the St. Ambrose Apartments in Cincinnati are both prefab housing developments.

Inside the lab: Over the course of 2017, we held charrettes with developers, fabricators, and community stakeholders. The charrettes examined prefabrication from three angles: the module, site strategies, and the technical innovations driving fabrication, sustainability, and logistics.

The exhibit: We shared our research and results at lively exhibits in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and at an interactive panel in Louisville. We welcomed colleagues, industry peers, and members of the community into our offices to learn about prefabrication and modular design’s potential for creating mixed-income housing that combines sustainability, flexibility, shared amenity spaces, and cutting-edge design.

Download DIS 2017 Book

(DIS) 2016: C'mon Space, Whatcha Gonna Do For Me?

C’mon Space, Whatcha Gonna Do For Me? was designed to push our Common Space research even further by installing temporary, interactive displays in the public spaces around our office buildings in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Pittsburgh.

In 2014, GBBN launched an extensive study that led to our Common Space research. We built upon that during our 2016 Design Expedition to Toronto, where we observed and documented a wide variety of common spaces.

Our goals for DIS 2016 were to advance our Common Space research, engage in collective observation, and process our data in a fun, imaginative way for the DIS exhibit in each office.

C’mon Space officially kicked off on PARK(ing) Day in September 2016 with pop up installations providing lounge seating in parking spaces adjacent to each of our buildings. After Park(ing) Day, we moved seating pieces onto the sidewalks outside our offices and continued our observations for another month. Through photography, time-lapse video, sketches, diagrams, and written narratives, the exhibitions summarized our research findings and presented both the successes and failures of common space.

Each office put a unique spin on engaging the public: Pittsburgh’s installation included a working piano; Louisville created seating and a punching bag booth from shipping pallets; and Cincinnati crafted a cube using chain link fencing and plastic cups that could be arranged in three different shapes: Cube, shelter, and seat. Each installation was an opportunity to observe and document the way pedestrians interacted with the materials.

(DIS) 2015: The Digital in Design and Making


Our inaugural DIS exhibition shared the many ways GBBN leverages digital technology in design. We gathered existing content to clearly describe the narrative of digital and making in each architectural project. The exhibits included sketches, video, digital, and physical models, images, and mock-ups from all three U.S. offices.

The images and artifacts in this exhibition only begin to scratch the surface. Delivering architecture is a monumental process. From client to architect to consultant to contractor to fabricator, each phase of the project requires passionate people to recognize the importance of the experiential quality of space and performance in the built environment. Digital tools allow the team to visualize the potential of each project by testing various options and conditions as we craft thoughtful design solutions.

Download the Gallery Guide