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 was founded in 1999 by Sinclair and Stohr, focusing on working with communities in need such as those affected by national disasters. Over 15 years, the organization grew to have more than 60 chapters outside San Francisco. In September of 2013, Stohr and Sinclair stepped down as leaders of Architecture for Humanity's leaders, later appointing Eric Cesal as the new Executive Director.
In his article for SFGate, John King emphasizes that there was no single person to blame for the closure, saying instead that the problem for Architecture for Humanity was "one that’s inherent to socially ambitious nonprofits — finding ways to keep interest and funding coming when the newness of its mission wears off." He quotes the Programs Director of the San Francisco office Margie O'Driscoll, who commented "The travesty isn't that the organization went over budget serving communities around the world. It is that humanitarian design isn’t considered a fundamental right. And that today, in San Francisco, it is easier to find funding for an app than to fund an organization which transforms lives in places most Americans don’t know exist."
In their statement, Sinclair and Stohr say: "Our hearts are with the staff and chapter members who worked so hard to build a wonderful organization that did so much for communities around the world. We made so many wonderful friends and will continue personally to support your work.
"We ran the organization and grew it from just a small circle of volunteers to an international organization with chapters in 25 countries. For more than 10 years, together we led the movement to bring social design where it is needed most. We built award-winning buildings, ran innovative programs, personally raised more than $5 million in annual funding, year in and year out, and established more than five community design centers that set the standard for rebuilding after disaster."
Amazing response from @archforhumanity chapter leaders around the world. Many emails to fight the impending close. Alas my hands are tied.— Cameron Sinclair (@casinclair) January 16, 2015
Finally, they encourage the organization's chapters to continue in spite of the closure of the headquarters, saying "We hope the profession will continue to design like a give damn--in whatever form that takes... And we urge the chapters to continue their much needed work."
In response to this, a number of chapters have made it clear that they intend to continue operations, with Architecture for Humanity London releasing a statement saying that "as an independent, established, financially stable, UK-based registered charity, AfH London is operationally unaffected by this news." Similarly, Architecture for Humanity's New York, Newark, Chicago, Vancouver and LA chapters have all published tweets implying that they intend to continue operations.
Statement released on February 25th, 2015:
This week, Architecture for Humanity will file for bankruptcy. While we are saddened by the organization’s closure, the mission of Architecture for Humanity is far from ending. Our affiliated international network of designers and allied professionals have resolved to carry on their work at the local level. Over 30 volunteer chapters on five continents, now self-governed, have recommitted to the mission and are emphatically and collectively forging a new path forward. We are overwhelmed by this response, and could not be more proud of those who volunteer their time and expertise to bring design services to where they are most needed within their local communities. We encourage you to keep in touch with the Chapter Network by subscribing to the their news feed here.
For the past fifteen years, the mission of Architecture for Humanity was so resonant because its values already deeply resided within its community. Nothing about the closure of an organization changes that. Please continue to carry out the mission of Architecture for Humanity through your own work and practice.