AIA 2013: Citizen Architect

Cameron Sinclair at the 2013 in Denver © ArchDaily

“When you build a beautiful building, people love it. And the most sustainable building in the world is the one that’s loved.” – Cameron Sinclair, Co-founder of

Cameron Sinclair is a man who sustains his passion for helping improve the world, one project at a time, by tapping into the skilled enthusiasm of like-minded architects from all over the globe. Since the co-founding of his non-profit organization with Kate Stohr in 1999, Sinclair and his interdisciplinary teams of citizen architects have provided shelter for more than two million people worldwide.

Under his leadership, Architecture for Humanity’s infectious mantra has inspired thousands to join its cause every year, allowing the organization to expand at an unbelievable rate and become the exemplar of public interest design. Considering this, it is no surprise that Sinclair was selected to be the keynote speaker on day two of the 2013 AIA National Convention.

Keeping the momentum from yesterday’s inaugural speech, where TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie shared his success story of “doing well by doing good,” Sinclair urged architects to hold close the true value of their profession.

Learn what Cameron Sinclair believes to be the ‘true value of architects’ after the break.

Cameron Sinclair at the 2013 AIA National Convention in Denver.

Starting with an image of a ravished, post-Superstorm Sandy shoreline in New Jersey, Sinclair asked the audience, “What do you see?”

“Quite often, when you’re in an area that’s been hit by natural disaster, post conflict, or is amidst a blight of systemic poverty, people see despair [...] but when architects go there, they see an opportunity to change, they see an opportunity to resurrect a community. This is the value that we [architects] have that can truly transform a nation and transform a profession.”

Maria Auxiliadora School / Architecture for Humanity

From health and safety to resiliency and legacy, humanitarian-based design has the value to provide communities – of all scales – social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

To do this, Architecture for Humanity has established local chapters in communities of need throughout the world that offer technical expertise and professional design services at the ground level. Rather than importing skilled laborers and goods into an area of conflict, the passionate members of each chapter educate, train and empower local citizens and leaders to lead the reconstruction and change in their communities. This moves beyond temporary, first-responder aid and provides each community with the strength and tools they need to forever change their world for the good.

Homeless World Cup Legacy Center / Architecture for Humanity

As Sinclair described: “What makes architecture really incredible is we don’t just design solutions, we build them. And when you build a solution, to the community, it’s transformative.”

You can watch the full lecture from day two of the AIA National Convention in Denver, here. If you would like to just see Sinclair’s speech, fast forward to 1:20. 

Other social advocated honored in the second keynote presentation include the civil rights pioneer, public servant and award-winning architect Harvey B. Gantt, FAIA with the Whitney Young Jr. Award; practitioner, author and celebrated educator Robert Greenstreet, Intl. Assoc. AIA with the 2013 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education; and the 2013 Latrobe Prize winning project: “The City of 7 Billion.” 

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "AIA 2013: Citizen Architect" 22 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=392777>
  • Scott Smith

    Tell that to the Tsien’s.