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Help Shape Architecture for Humanity's Rebranding

Nonprofit organization Architecture for Humanity has launched a rebranding campaign, calling for public input to help create its new name. After working to transition “from a group of chapters to a collectively mobilized and collaboratively led network,” the new version of the organization has a similar mission, but with a focus on “consensus building, professional development, and support for local groups to develop innovative business models while driving humanitarian design services.” Thus, the rebranded AFH will utilize its new image as a “banner to rally under,” putting an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and incorporating anyone outside the architectural profession who can help with the mission.

Design Like You Give a Damn: The Legacy of Architecture for Humanity

In the introduction to Architecture for Humanity’s 2006 book Design Like You Give a Damn, founder Cameron Sinclair recounts a story from the early days of the organization. Half-joking yet deadly serious, he describes the day when, while still running Architecture for Humanity from a single cell phone around his day job at Gensler, he was contacted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees who told him that Architecture for Humanity was on a list of organizations that might be able to help a potential refugee crisis in Afghanistan should the US retaliate in the wake of September 11.

“I hope it’s a long list,” says Sinclair. “No,” comes the answer.

“We’d like to think it was because we had already become a voice for humanitarian design - an unexpected touchstone in the movement for socially conscious architecture,” writes Sinclair of the incident. “The sad truth is that until 1999, when our fledgling organization got started along with a handful of others, there was no easily identifiable design resource for shelter after disaster.”

Now, after their sudden and rather unceremonious demise, Architecture for Humanity has left architecture a very different world from the one it entered almost sixteen years ago.

Dear Martha: An Open Letter to the Pritzker Prize Committee

As the Pritzker Jury begins its deliberations for the 2015 Pritzker Prize, this is a critical time of year for shaping the landscape of architectural debate for the coming year and beyond. The following is an open letter to Martha Thorne, the Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize, from Conrad Newel, author of the popular blog Notes on Becoming a Famous Architect.

Dear Martha,

I have to hand it to you and all the people on the Pritzker committee, you guys are a very crafty bunch. Just when I thought I had you all figured out, you have now - even though only slightly - succeeded in confounding me.

From my 2011 analysis of the Pritzker, I figured that your potential pool of laureates was always a very predictable bunch. In fact anyone could look at my data and predict with reasonable certainty that the next laureate would most likely be an Asian or Caucasian male starchitect from Europe, The USA, or Japan. I further pointed out that none of your laureates have done much in the way of humanitarianism, despite the fact that the mission statement of the Pritzker also asks that the recipient should be making significant contributions to humanity. I maintained that this part of the mandate has been consistently overlooked.

Architecture For Humanity Closes San Francisco Headquarters

Update: on February 26th 2015, Architecture for Humanity released a statement officially announcing their bankruptcy proceedings. View the full statement at the end of this article.

As reported by SFGate, on January 1st Architecture for Humanity laid off all staff and closed its Head Office in San Francisco. Although there has been no official statement from the organization, the news has been widely circulated, with Architecture for Humanity founders Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr issuing a statement saying that they are "deeply saddened" by the news, and urging the organization's other chapters around the world "to continue their much needed work."

Architecture for Humanity Announces Completion of Haiti Initiatives

Architecture for Humanity has announced the end of their program in Haiti, effective from January 2015. The charitable organization, which has its headquarters in San Francisco, set up offices in Port-au-Prince in March 2010 in order to better help the people of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Through almost five years in Haiti, they have completed nearly 50 projects, including homes, medical clinics, offices, and the 13 buildings in their Haiti School Initiative. Their work has positively affected the lives of over 1 million Haitians, with their schools initiative alone providing education spaces for over 18,000 students.

Read on after the break for more on the end of Architecture for Humanity's Haiti program, and images of their completed schools

École Elie Dubois. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity École La Dignité. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity St. Louis de Gonzague Chemisry & Physics Building. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity École Ceverine. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity

Winners Announced for Architecture for Humanity Vancouver’s “NEXT BIG ONE” Competition

Architecture for Humanity Vancouver Chapter has unveiled the winners of "NEXT BIG ONE," an open call for design solutions to high-magnitude earthquake and tsunami events that plague cities around the world. Project teams were challenged to propose a solution that "can mitigate natural disasters while simultaneously providing community permanence."  

A jury comprised of leading architects and professionals from Architecture Research Office (Stephen Cassell), Perkins + Will (Susan Gushe), Bing Thom Architects (Eileen Keenan), Scott & Scott Architects (David Scott), and the City of Vancouver (Doug Smith) evaluated the projects. Entries were evaluated based on three key criteria: the exemplification of innovation in disaster design, promotion of community resiliency before and after disasters, and compliance with multi-hazard parameters for worst-case disaster scenarios.

Entry No. 626137 - Safety Arena. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity Vancouver Chapter Entry No. 626514 - Revive the Moat. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity Vancouver Chapter Entry No. 626139 - Modular Landscapes. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity Vancouver Chapter Entry No. 626536 - Aqua Estate. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity Vancouver Chapter

Make It Right Unveils 5 New Designs for Housing in Fort Peck Reservation

Make It Right, the organization founded by Brad Pitt to provide housing to those in need, has unveiled 5 designs for their new initiative in the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. The designs - by GRAFT, Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative, Architecture for Humanity, Method Homes and Living Homes - are inspired by cradle-to-cradle principles, will be LEED Platinum rated and have been developed alongside community consultation with the Sioux and Assiniboine tribes of Fort Peck.

The organization is planning to build 20 new homes on the reservation, as well as developing a sustainable masterplan for the entire 3,300 square mile reservation, with construction planned to start later this year.

More on the development of Make It Right's Fort Peck initiative after the break.

Method Homes' Design. Image Courtesy of Method Homes Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative's Design. Image Courtesy of Make It Right Architecture For Humanity's design. Image Courtesy of Make It Right GRAFT's Design. Image Courtesy of GRAFT

Shigeru Ban's "Kooky" Architecture: Just What the World Needs?

British writer Tim Abrahams finds Shigeru Ban's architecture "kooky, Middle Earthy, Hobbity" – an opinion which earns him the title of "idiot" in the eyes of newly appointed Architecture for Humanity Executive Director Eric Cesal. In an article for the Boston Review, Stephen Phelan uses the pair's opposing opinions to illustrate the Pritzker Prize winning architect's perceived failures and successes. Read his very engaging take, here.

Architecture for Humanity Turns Fifteen, Names New Executive Director

Architecture for Humanity, the non-profit responsible for propagating designers and designs around the world that "give a damn," has named its latest Executive Director. After co-founders Kate Stohr and Cameron Sinclair announced their decision to step down in September of last year, the organization began a global search for the person who would replace them. Today, the Board of Directors has announced the appointee: Eric Cesal, an experienced designer and author of the memoir/manifesto Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice who first joined Architecture for Humanity in 2006 as a volunteer on the Katrina reconstruction program and later established and led Architecture for Humanity’s Haiti Rebuilding Center in Port-au-Prince from 2010 to 2012.  

Spotlight South Africa: Three Designs Instilling Dignity & Defeating Stigma

Mamelodi Pod, a home and temporary soccer club with solar electricity and rain water harvesting. Image Courtesy of Architecture for a Change
Mamelodi Pod, a home and temporary soccer club with solar electricity and rain water harvesting. Image Courtesy of Architecture for a Change

How do you undo centuries of inequality? How do you overturn an inequality so ingrained in a culture that it manifests itself physically - in the architecture of its homes and in the misshapen nature of its cities? 

This is the question post-apartheid South Africa has been struggling to answer for the past twenty years. And while the government has made many concerted efforts, for far too many the situation has remained largely the same. 

However, there are currents of change afoot. Many who have been marginalized are now working to defeat the stigma and legitimize their communities, and they are enlisting architects to the fray. From an organization in Capetown that aims to transform the role of the South African designer, to another in Johannesburg that uses design to legitimize informal architecture, to a project in one of the most violent townships in South Africa that has transformed a community, the following three projects are making a difference for the users who have the most to gain from their designs and design-thinking. All three represent not only the power of design to defeat stigma and instill dignity, but also the power of communities to incite these projects, make them their own, and enable them to thrive.

Sustainable Design-Build Projects from Seven Universities Around the World

Interdisciplinary teams from the University of Sao Paulo, Delft University, and five other post-secondary institutions are currently exploring sustainable innovations in design, materials, and building systems thanks to the support of Pillars of Sustainable Education – a partnership between Architecture for Humanity and the Alcoa Foundation. The collaborative effort was founded as a way to “educate the next generation of architects, engineers, and material designers while supporting real-world design-build projects that positively impact both the environment and the local community.” Months into the project, the schools’ proposals are turning into reality as students collaborate with NGOs. To learn about what each school is working on, keep reading after the break.

Architecture for Humanity Toronto Launches Lecture Series: "Incremental Strategies for Vertical Neighborhoods"

According to the most recent national census in Canada, almost half of Toronto residents are immigrants, one-third of whom arrived in the past ten years. To allow the city to adapt to this surging flow of immigrants, Architecture for Humanity Toronto (AFHTO) has called upon students and professionals from various backgrounds to rethink Toronto's urban fabric - and, in particular, its high-rise developments - by establishing a series of lectures and workshops entitled "Incremental Strategies for Vertical Neighborhoods."

At the inaugural event a few weeks ago, Filipe Balestra of Urban Nouveau* was invited to speak about his work and contribute to a design charrette inspired by the City of Toronto's Tower Renewal program. For more on Balestra and the event, keep reading after the break.

Architecture for Humanity NY Community Design Competition

Architecture for Humanity New York (AfHny) is accepting submissions for construction, interior design, landscape, and other design-related projects for the AfHny Community Design Competition 2014. AfHny will select one winning project that will be judged based on its alignment with AfHny’s mission, its perceived impact on the New York community, the submitting organization’s ability to fund the project, and proof of the organization’s ability to impact New York City’s neighborhoods based on past results. The winning project will receive a design competition hosted by AfHny that will result in several schematic design solutions developed by our membership base, which represents some of the top talent in the New York City design community. At the end of the design competition process, the winning organization will select their favored schematic design. 

Forever Home: Open Source Building Design Challenge

Architecture for Humanity Denver (AfH) and Open Tech Forever (OTF) are demonstrating that it is possible to build an open source, compressed earth block (CEB) house that meets the Living Building Challenge 2.1 standard.

Architects & AIA Respond to Devastation in the Philippines, Call for Immediate Help

On Friday, one of the strongest storms ever to hit land left 660,000 Filipinos homeless, with countless more desperately needing basic supplies to survive. 

In the wake of catastrophe wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Architecture for Humanity are calling for immediate help as survivors face severe shortages of food, water, shelter and medical supplies. 

Both organizations will be aiding local volunteers to help rebuild in the coming days and weeks. Through speaking with local stakeholders and construction professionals, they are working to begin understanding the on-the-ground situation to prioritize rebuilding needs and help affected regions build back better and stronger. Relief and reconstruction, however, cannot happen without your support. Learn how you can send aid to typhoon victims today after the break. 

Beyond the Tent: Why Refugee Camps Need Architects (Now More than Ever)

In 2013 alone some 1 million people have poured out of Syria to escape a civil conflict that has been raging for over two years. The total number of Syrian refugees is well over 2 million, an unprecedented number and a disturbing reality that has put the host countries under immense infrastructural strain.

Host countries at least have a protocol they can follow, however. UN Handbooks are consulted and used to inform an appropriate approach to camp planning issues. Land is negotiated for and a grid layout is set. The method, while general, is meticulous – adequate for an issue with an expiration date.

Or at least it would be if the issue were, in fact, temporary.

Why This Is the Year of the Architect

Last week, we noted how the American Institute of Architect's (AIA) participation with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), as well as it's many other initiatives, signify the organization's commitment to putting resiliency on the agenda. The following article, written by Brooks Rainwater, the Director of Public Policy at the AIA, outlines these efforts and emphasizes how architects are tackling today's most pressing global challenges.

Architects are increasingly demonstrating their ability to help solve large-scale problems in the areas of resilience and health. At the same time the continued ascendancy of social impact design has helped elevate the conversation and prescribed a needed emphasis on equity considerations, uplifting global populations, and the idea that design should be for and impact all people. 

With more than 1,000 global leaders convened in New York last week for the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting it is an ideal time to ask the question, how does design fit into the global conversation? 

AIA Puts Resiliency on the Agenda: "Resilience Is the New Green"

The AIA has decidedly found its latest buzz word: Resiliency. 

Just this week at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, former-president Bill Clinton announced the American Institute of Architects' participation in the 100 Resilient Cities Commitment: an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation to provide 100 cities with "chief resilience offers," responsible for developing and financing new, resilient urban infrastructures. So far, over 500 cities have requested to participate; on December 3rd, the Rockefeller Foundation will announce the winning cities

Along with Architecture for Humanity, the AIA will then train those cities' resilience officers, "architects in their communities," by creating "five Regional Resilient Design Studios that build on our profession’s collective expertise in helping communities recover in the wake of major disasters."

But the "resilience" doesn't stop there.