Friday, October 14, 2005


One of the things that really caught my eye about Architecture for Humanity is that they have a book coming out entitled "Design Like You Give A Damn." But I'll talk more about that later.

Architecture for Humanity was founded in 1999 as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization to "promote architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises."

The organization uses competitions, workshops and educational forums to foster its work. It also partners with aid organizations and other entities to create opportunities for architects and designers worldwide to help communities in need. They believe that innovative, sustainable and collaborative design can make a difference in areas of the world where resources and expertise are scarce.

Past initiatives have included three international design competitions that enhanced the quality of life in the recipient communities. And several more of their projects are listed below.

Another initiative being carried out by Architecture for Humanity supports humanitarian-directed design through advocacy on a number of projects. To put this in layman's language it means that they have consulted with (and urged) government bodies and relief organizations to consider in greater depth the interface between societal and cultural issues and environmental factors into the design process. Some of these projects include: "mine clearance programs and playground building in the Balkans; earthquake resistant construction techniques in Turkey and Iran; school building in Calcutta; refugee housing on the borders of Afghanistan and responding to Hurricane Ivan, Emily and Katrina."

In addition to this Architecture for Humanity has also provided referrals and advice to a number of organizations, such as: the Oprah Foundation, the Kansas City Economic Development Corporation, Kids With Cameras, Habitat for Humanity, Common Ground, Planned Parenthood International, to name a few.

They also foster public appreciation for the many ways that architecture and design can improve lives by bringing media attention to this topic through exhibitions, conferences and forums in addition to normal press releases.

Architecture for Humanity has used Educational Workshops on Elementary and high school levels as well as on the university level. The organization says that on the university level, "architecture and design programs around the world have used our competitions and design criteria as a model for semester-long projects. In addition we have hosted student-led workshops focused on humanitarian-directed design at a number of universities." Their web site says that elementary and high school students have benefited from our design initiatives through after-school workshops.

Through its additional web site, Architecture for Humanity fosters the formation of local groups made up of individuals who want to "lend their time and talents to community groups and advocate for better planning and design in their communities." This initiative was begun only two years ago, but now over 1500 designers meet regularly to discuss and participate in design projects in cities such as New York, London, Atlanta, Boston, Belfast, Chicago, Dublin, Los Angeles, Sydney, Seattle, St.Louis, Toronto, Washington DC and many more. Interested persons can sign up on the web site. You can sign up for some local groups right from Architecture for Humanity's Home Page.

Given the character of this organization, it not difficult to see that it was co-founded by an architect with an interest in social, cultural and humanitarian design and a freelance journalist with a deep understanding of urban issues. The architect is Executive Director and Co-founder Cameron Sinclair and the journalist is Kate Stohr . Their full bios are linked to their names.

The organization recognizes that "At the heart of Architecture for Humanity is a core group of people who have generously donated their time and efforts to keep AFH running. With advocates around the world Architecture for Humanity is truly becoming a global organization that encourages designers to make a difference." And like any successful non-profit organization it has a "deep bench" of hard working Staff, Board Members and Advisors. I should also mention that they have a group of four "Design Fellows."

Architecture for Humanity has been getting noticed and proudly displays on its Home Page the following quote from Robert Ivy of the "Architectural Record":

"Architecture for Humanity represents the finest of the new breed of architectural leadership, employing architectural skills and directing them for the larger good. Committed, unapologetically architectural in name and mission, Architecture for Humanity stands up for people in need."

Some of Architecture for Humanity's projects, which I shall mention only briefly here and you can read in more detail at their web site, are:

Rethinking Tent City - This project is scheduled for late 2005 through 2006 and will "focus on a potential to achieve target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals to help improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Their Tsunami Reconstruction project began in 2005 and is ongoing. Since January 2nd of 2005 Architecture for Humanity has been partnering and supporting a number of groups in Tamil Nadu, India and Pottuvil and Kirinda, Sri Lanka on the rebuilding of civic and community buildings. This project is partnering with students from Montana State Universitys' Center for Community Design as well.

Now, back to where I started: Design Like You Give A Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises - to be published in early 2006 - is a book that will offer a history of humanitarian design efforts as well as provide a compendium of innovative architectural and design projects that have helped improve lives in communities around the world. One purpose of the book is "to be a resource for both designers and relief organizations involved in humanitarian development and reconstruction."

Other projects - that you will have to read about at Architecture for Humanity's web site are:

Kids With Cameras - The name of this project is fairly revealing.

Siyathemba - a project that challenges designers to create the perfect 'pitch' in Somkhele in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. And you'll never understand what this is about unless you visit the web site.

Rebuilding Bam, Iran - a 2004 project that helped to provide long term housing for thousands of residents left homeless by the tragic earthquake which left over 41,000 dead.

Mobile Health Clinics to Combat HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa - an ongoing project that began in 2002.

Transitional Housing for Kosovo's Returning Refugees - a project that ran from 1999 to 2000.

In addition to these projects, local groups also participated in projects in their various communities.

On their Home Page, Architecture for Humanity has a link titled: "People we Like." And there they list other organizations that believe are doing good work. Well, Architecture for Humanity is/are People I Like and I really think it would be worth your time to visit their place on the Internet and visit with People Who Give A Damn.

Architecture for Humanity

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