08/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Design Goes to the White House

Today Michelle Obama will host a luncheon at the White House as part of the National Design Awards. Introduced in 2000, this is an official project of the White House Millennium Council and hosted by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

The Cooper-Hewitt and its parent, the Smithsonian, are making design accessible by hosting a series of free talks on the Mall this morning, moderated by White House officials. Fashion designer Francisco Costa will talk about the influence of materials in his work; Boym Partners and Steve Duenes (New York Times) will talk on visualizing design; and Jeff Han of Perceptive Pixel and Andrew Blauvelt of the Walker Art Center will speak on the future of interactive design. Also,one of my favorite design teams SHoP Architects will throw down with Oaklands' ever amazing landscape architect Walter Hood on transforming community. If you can't be there, you can watch it live via Web stream.

My group, Architecture for Humanity, won last year but the announcement was made to late to be honored at last years' White House event. While noted for our work in responding to natural disasters and systemic issues of poverty, the award represented far more than that. The recognition really honored the transformative work of thousands of individuals and dozens of local chapters from around the world who are committed to working together through the power of design to improve the lives of others.

A great example of this is yesterday's announcement on our classroom of the future competition. More than 10,000 architects, designers, engineers, students and teachers from 65 countries collaborated over six months for one goal -- to improve the learning environment of their schools. The designs include a sustainable outdoor classroom for children in inner-city Chicago, learning spaces for the children of salt pan workers in India, safe spaces for youth in Bogota, Colombia and a bamboo classroom in the Himalayan mountains. With a majority of these designs costing less than $30,000, it shows that good design truly is for all.

I guess it must be noted that given that Francisco Costa is a recipient. Mrs. Obama will be dressed in Calvin Klein. Like every good parent, mine called this week worried I'd show up in a dirty t-shirt and jeans. So in honor of going for my citizenship this year I'll be wearing Joseph Abboud. Even some of us fashion challenged are having to raise the bar in this design focused administration.