In 1885, with only $3,000 in the bank, the "American Committee" in charge of building a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty ceased work, after both president Grover Cleveland and the US Congress declined to provide funds for the project. The project was saved by a certain Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, who used his newspaper to spark a $100,000 fundraising campaign with the promise that everyone who donated would have their name printed the paper.
The base of the Statue of Liberty is perhaps the first ever example of crowdfunding in architecture as we might recognize it today, with a popular media campaign and some form of minor reward. But in recent years, crowdfunding has taken on a whole new complexion. Last week, we asked our readers to tell us their thoughts about a specific example of crowdfunding in architecture: BIG's attempt to raise funds for the prototyping of the steam ring generator on their waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen. But there are many more examples of fundraising in architecture, and each of them deserves attention.
On one hand, there are charitable projects such as James Furzer's crowdfunding campaign to make his homeless shelters a reality, or a.gor.a Architects' attempt to rebuild their temporary dormitories for Burmese refugees after the original incarnations burned down. Moving up the scale a little, websites such as Spacehive were founded specifically to help people fund local public space projects, connecting them to local residents who might be willing to fund an improvement to their own environment.
A little more ambitious are projects such as New York's +Pool or Rotterdam's Luchtsingel, both large-scale civic-minded projects which used a Kickstarter-style "rewards system" to encourage people to donate. Interestingly, both projects required small repeated elements of the design (tiles in the case of +Pool, cladding boards for the Luchtsingel) to be sold as blank space for people to have their name engraved, almost hearkening back to Joseph Pulitzer's strategy of printing donors' names in his paper.
Finally there's the case of Prodigy Network, whose system of crowdfunding is very unlike anything you might find on Kickstarter. More akin to an investment plan with a very low entry barrier and a very large number of investors, they've had success in funding Bogotá's tallest skyscraper, but were met with a few more challenges when they attempted to replicate the model in New York.
Again, we want to know what you think. Are all of these models valid attempts to harness the power of crowdfunding, or are some a better use of the crowd than others? Does the requirement for the Luchtsingel and +Pool to alter their design in order to offer rewards show a limitation of the crowdfunding system? Is a platform like Spacehive a welcome exercise in local democracy, or is it simply allowing local governments to shirk their responsibilities? Let us know your thoughts on all of these questions in the comments below, and we'll feature some of the best in a future article on crowdfunding in architecture.