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

Collège Mixte Le Bon Berger. Image Courtesy of

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.

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.”

Founders of Architecture for Humanity Step Down, Launch Five-year Plan

“It’s great to see something you started evolve into an institution. We are excited about the future of the organization and plan to continue lending support in whatever ways we can.” Kate Stohr, co-founder

Architecture for Humanity founders, Kate Stohr and Cameron Sinclair, will step down after 15 years of leading the San Francisco based non-profit organization to focus on new ventures. Upon leaving, they have drafted a five year strategic vision, reiterating the organization’s purpose and needed areas of improvement. Matt Charney, Board President of , is confident that ‘Kate and Cameron’s vision and years of dedication leaves the organization in a solid place.” To further expand operations, board directors will begin an international search for a new executive director by the end of September.

Infographic: Architecture for Humanity

Since 1999, Architecture for Humanity has been putting Architects in service of those communities who need them most. After disaster strikes, AfH uses its expansive network of contacts to get well-designed buildings built – and fast. Today, AfH has built over 2,000 structures that have positively impacted about 2 million people worldwide.

Co-founders and Cameron Sinclair (you can find our interview with Sinclair here) also run design competitions, manage the Open Design Network, WorldChanging, and have published the best-selling books Design Like You Give a Damn and Design Like You Give A Damn [2]. Together, and with the Architects who work for them, they are redefining the role of Architecture and Design: to truly make an impact on our world.