Humanitarian Seminar at UNM-Taos

sustainability flyerOne rainy May day, I walked in to Taos Cow to meet up with two fellows — one a professor from the University of New Mexico-Taos Green Technology Program and the other his student, Patrick. Patrick O’Bryan contacted me after seeing my documentary at Taos Shortz in March, and asked if I would share my film at an upcoming seminar hosted by UNM-Taos Sustainability Institute. The Professor’s name sounded familiar. I could not put a face to the name, yet I still had a premonition that I knew this person. Taos is a small place, and individuals with similar interests run within the same circles.

The dots started to connect. Five years ago, I had just completed my bachelor’s degree in architecture and was uncertain about how I would integrate my education with my non-profit work experience. A college friend, also from Taos, put me in contact with a local designer/builder and we arranged a meeting. I met the builder at Taos County Economic Development Center and toured the construction site. We talked about design process, construction and various unrelated projects. We also conversed about his personal experience, passion for design, and he lent me a book that his Dream Tree Project had been published in — “Good Deeds, Good Design: Community Service through Architecture.” The builder was Professor Mark Goldman.

The book Mark lent me became my guide through graduate school. As a result, my thesis revolved around sustainable urban development, public housing capital funding, public interest design, design build, and cooperative design studios. I was engaged in and persistent with my educational motives, admiring the various social design organizations and aspiring to find a way to bring architecture to the general public. This dream quickly fell into the distance upon graduation due to student loan obligations and remnants of recession.

Once a dream, always a vision, “Good Deed, Good Design” remains a part of my everyday practice as an architectural designer. I have been fortunate to attend national architecture conferences and to follow social design activists from lecture to lecture. I am a student for life. Luckily, that is my professional purpose and our story has come full circle, as the Humanitarian Design Seminar comes to Taos this weekend. Mark, thank you for lending me your great book for five years and for bringing this hands-on conference to Taos! I am honored to be a part of this history in the making.

Architects, designers, builders, humanitarians — let’s continue to collectively put Taos on the map for pushing forward innovative sustainable design and come together for this Humanitarian Design Seminar hosted by UNM-Taos Sustainability Institute on August 5-8, 2014.

Keynotes speakers include Bryan Bell, editor of “Good Deed, Good Design” and co-founder of DesignCorps; Illac Diaz, Southeast Asia social entrepreneur-environmentalist; and Mike Reynolds, Taos’ leader of sustainable design and Earthship creator. The event includes four days filled with lectures, workshops, tours, SketchUp training, and a sustainable social film night. The event will be held at Bataan Hall, 120 Civic Plaza Drive, Taos, New Mexico 87571.

More details about the UNM-Taos Sustainability Institute Humanitarian Design Seminar, August 5-8, can be found online at or by calling conference organizer and UNM-Taos Director of Development, Louis Moya at (575) 737-3737.


Click here to read Jessica’s previous LiveTaos piece, about her return to Taos and her documentary “Going Home HomelesS,” also included below.