“The land we bought was literally ‘the site from hell.’ Architecture for Humanity’s design fellow managed to design classrooms that we will be able to replicate on any site. I really think it could be the best built school in rural Uganda.”

Architecture for Humanity began with a very simple idea: to provide professional design services to communities in need. Mass global urbanization, coupled with a lack of schools, medical clinics, low–cost housing and blighted public space present a tremendous opportunity for building professionals to not only “give back,” but to become active partners in the development process.

Rather than assume we were experts, Co–founder Kate Stohr and I deliberately set small goals and took each project in steps, learning from one to the next. It took us nearly six years to complete a dozen structures. Then, in early 2005, we began to grow faster. As of 2011, when this book was written, more than 2 million people live, learn, heal or work in the 2250 buildings built by our design and construction professionals. Nowadays we are involved in design, development, construction management, construction financing, and implementation of small–scale urban planning projects.

Top image: The Homeless World Cup Legacy Center in Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil opened in 2010 as part of the 2010 Homeless World Cup and is now operated by Instituto Bola Pra Frente. It is one of many projects designed and developed by Architecture for Humanity with funding from Nike. Photo: Daniel Feldman/Architecture for Humanity

Above image: The Nadukupam Vangala Women’s Center in Tamil Nadu opened in April 2008 for three women’s self–help groups. Today social enterprises are run from these one–room centers. Photo: Purnima McCutcheon/Architecture for Humanity

As the organization developed, we learned a lot about what it takes to implement this work and adapted our model as we’ve grown. In 2012, we plan to build in over 25 countries, tackling issues related to poverty alleviation, climate change, conflict resolution and long–term disaster reconstruction efforts in Haiti and Japan. We have had great successes and some failures, but most importantly we learned what it takes to get the job done. What follows is a brief account of the past decade: how things changed and the challenges we faced. While we can’t cover every project, we want to thank our army of dedicated building professionals for coming on this journey with us.

Lesson 1: Unless You Build It, It Doesn’t Matter.

On December 26, 2004, a powerful magnitude 9.2 earthquake ruptured the seabed, triggering a tsunami that devastated the region. Like many of the architects in our network, Samir contacted me to see if he could get involved. As he had been working alongside a number of Sri Lankan architects and had nine months in country, he was the perfect candidate to spend a few months figuring out how and where we could support the recovery effort.

Sounds harsh, but it’s true. In the eyes of a community, be it recovering from disaster, living in systemic poverty or ravaged by blight and neglect, visions and designs for a project are simply a dream. A well–rendered set of images, an exquisitely built model or a prototype structure is a great start, but it isn’t the solution. Communities want results. When you live and work alongside the end user of your structure, they demand it.

The most important thing we learned from the 2004 South East Asia tsunami was the need to work simultaneously on local and virtual levels. This was the birth of the Architecture for Humanity Design Fellowship Program, a “tour of duty” with a small living allowance for professionals to work alongside local architects and engineers.

Our work primarily focused in India and Sri Lanka, and while dozens of designers were involved, the programs were anchored by three talented design professionals: Purnima McCutcheon, Susi Platt and Samir Shah. It began with Samir. On the day of the tsunami he happened to be living in Sri Lanka on a Fulbright scholarship to study the vernacular building of the island.

A 2011 map of Architecture for Humanity offices and building sites around the world. More than 2 million individuals live, learn, heal or work in structures built or funded by us. In 12 years we have worked in 44 countries and opened four regional offices. Image: Architecture for Humanity

East Asia Tsunami Reconstruction

On the virtual side of things Worldchanging Co–founder Alex Steffen and I spoke about trying to build one small, sustainable project in a huge tragedy—a civic or public building in a community overlooked by traditional non–governmental organizations. Our aim was to raise $10 000 USD in one month. Thirty–six hours after posting a small piece on Worldchanging.com, we surpassed that number and my inbox was filled with hundreds of requests for help and offers of support. By the end of our appeal we would raise over $70 000 USD. Between donations from family foundations, individual checks, local fundraisers and online giving we managed to raise close to $400 000. It was a huge sum to us, though it would have been a tiny amount to an established non–governmental organization.

From the beginning, our philosophy has been to partner with like–minded groups—the scrappy tugboat organizations as opposed to the lumbering oil tankers of development. Our first partner was Relief International, who we had supported in the rebuilding of Bam, Iran the prior year to the tsunami. With our ground team set up in Sri Lanka, we began a series of successful transitional schools on the eastern coast near the seaside village of Pottuvil.

Our Design Fellow Samir also partnered with a group of Sri Lankan architects in the planning of Kirinda, a small fishing community near Yala National Park. As we put our trust in this team, we soon saw the dark side of international assistance. By engaging the community, dealing with shifting government policies and involving important local religious institutions, we set up a strategic planning process for a five–year reconstruction. It wasn’t highbrow architecture, but it was solid grassroots development. A few months into the project all our hard work was negated as a private western real estate company bulldozed its way into the village with different ideas for rebuilding.

Unbeknownst to their foreign architect, who had been flown in for a weekend, the community rebuilding process was well underway and we were dealing with a bevy of issues including land negotiations, access to water, power and sanitation, and new economic corridors. The for–profit group decided that to “make a difference” they would build 50 homes right in the center of the new town development and, ideally, only for one ethnic group. Soon the team was under political pressure. I received a very aggressive call from one of the company’s executives telling me our “piss–ant do–gooder organization better clear out, or else.” I realized they would build whether we, or the community, liked it or not. There was no compromise and the project collapsed. Our team licked their wounds and simply relocated support north of the town to start work on another project. We learned that doing good and doing the right thing does not always align, and that the world of rebuilding is fraught with vested interests and duplicitous work.

LOCATION Ampara, Appirampattu, Hambantota, Sri Lanka; Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Tamil Nadu, India
DATE 2005–07
IMPLEMENTING AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
PROJECT PARTNERS League for Education and Development, Relief International, United Nations Human Settlements Programme
CLIENTS Appirampattu Panchayat, Palmyra, PBRC, Pinsara Federation of Community Development Councils, Prajnopaya Foundation
DESIGN TEAMS Jason Andersen, ARUP Associates, Rebecca Celis, Travis Eby, Lauren Farquher, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Malea Jochim, Kirinda UDA Team, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DESIGN FELLOWS Purnima McCutcheon, Susi Platt, Samir Shah
FUNDERS American Institute of Architects, Apartments Illustrated Inc., Artech Design Group Inc., Avatech Solutions Inc. The Boston Society of Architects, BPB Ltd., Butler Rogers Baskett Architects, The Caltech Y, Center for Universal Truth, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Do Something, EDAW Inc., Emerson Waldorf School, The Environments Group, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Harry Abrams, Inc., HOK Inc., International Interior Design Association, The Ken and Judith Joy Foundations, Kimura–Harrison, Konawaena Middle School, LEF Foundation, Network for Good, Northwood School, Pace Academy, Inc., Parallax, Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, Quaker Service Australia, Smith Group, United States Indonesia Society (USINDO), Wert & Company, Zyscovich Architects, and individual donors
COST $643 044 USD

FEATURED PROJECT Yodakandiya Community Complex
LOCATION Hambantota, Tissamaharama, Uddakandara, Sri Lanka
CLIENT Pinsara Federation of Community Development Councils
PARTNER United Nations Human Settlements Programme
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
COST $104 000 USD

Top left image: A child plays with the decorative steel window treatments in the nursery. The design is based on drawings by children of animals in a nearby preserve. Photo: Susi Platt/Architecture for Humanity

Top right image: The library was constructed from local materials and features locally inspired detailing. Photo: Eresh Weerasuriya/Aga Kahn Award for Architecture

Bottom image: Perspective drawing of the Yodakandiya Community Complex. Image: Susi Platt/Architecture for Humanity

Top image: The main Community Hall at the Yodakandiya Community Complex. Photo: Eresh Weerasuriya/ Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Above right image: Hand-carved wooden doors adorn the entry to the Community Hall. Photo: Susi Platt/Architecture for Humanity

Bottom right image: The first game on the new cricket pitch brought together local community groups. Photo: Susi Platt/ Architecture for Humanity

Hurricane Katrina Reconstruction Program

At the time we thought we were missing something, but many years later we found that an independent group had documented this story and published its findings in a book entitled Tsunami Box. The book described an effort that excluded the community and left a trail of economic disinvestment which forced families to leave their town. Quite often these stories never make the light of day.

By the end of Samir’s tour of duty we had started a number of schools, built 50 homes and received non–governmental organization status in the country. He was followed by Design Fellow Susi Platt. Given our experience in Kirinda, we decided to change our way of working. Rather than commute to project sites while working out of major cities, we felt that to expedite projects, our architects would need to live in the community in which they would work. Not in a nearby hotel, but in a rented room in the heart of the town, spending 24/7 with our clients and becoming part of the community themselves. This physical presence rapidly accelerated our pace, allowing us to take on more ambitious requests.

Perhaps our greatest impact happened in partnership with United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN–HABITAT) and the village of Yodakandiya, where 218 families had been relocated from the sea to a small inland lake. UN–HABITAT had planned and was building all the homes, but there was no central gathering space, school or medical clinic. Susi and I met with community leaders in their tiny one–room tin roof center. We worked hand–in–hand with the community to design and develop a complex that included central community space, medical clinic, library, computer room, organic gardens, kindergarten and cricket pitch. All on a budget of less than $100 000 USD.

LOCATIONS Biloxi, Jackson, Waveland, Mississippi, USA; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
DATE 2005–08
CLIENTS 500 individual homeowners, Calhoun McCormick Studio, City of Biloxi, Greater Little Zion Baptist Church Field School, Guardians Institute, Willie Mae’s Scotch House
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
PROJECT PARTNERS AIA New Orleans,Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, Gulf Coast Community Design Studio of Mississippi State University School of Architecture, Art + Design, Hands On Gulf Coast, HandsOn New Orleans, Hope Community Development Agency, Heritage Conservation Network, Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association, Preservation Trades Network, Tulane City Center, Warnke Community Consultants
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT Sherry–Lea Bloodworth, Marvin Cabrera, Laura Cole, Joyce Engebresten, John Dwyer, Michael Grote, Kelsey Ochs, Kimberley O’Dowd, Stacy Sabraw
DESIGN FELLOWS Thomas Calhoun, Eric Cesal, Melanie De Cola. Ben Gauslin, Nicole Joslin, Nadene Mairesse, Matt Miller, Brandon Milling, Sola Morrisey, Tracy Nelson, Maureen Ness, Nicole Nowak, Shana Payne, Elish Warlop (hundreds of volunteers)
DESIGN FIRMS Brett Zamore Design, CPD Workshop, Huff & Gooden Architects, Loci Architecture, Marlon Blackwell Architect, MC2 Architects, Rockwell Group, Studio Gang
CONTRACTORS George Boatner, Cox & Carr Construction, Express Constructors, John Holbrook, Herbie Holder, Walter Hopkins, House Calls Construction, Southern Steel Buildings
FUNDERS American Red Cross; Autodesk; Blinds.com; Boston Society of Architects; Ceasarstone; Chris Madden Inc.; Daltile; Duo–Gard; IBM; Isle of Capri Casinos; Gulf Coast Community Foundation; JamesHardie; Kohler; LEF Foundation; McCormick Tribune Foundation; MortarNet USA; Myrtle L. Atkinson Foundation; New York Foundation for Architecture; Nourison; Oprah’s Angel Network; Polshek Partnership; Senox Corp.; The Planning Center; The Salvation Army; State of Mississippi, University of Arkansas; and many other donors

CONSULTANTS Arup USA, Black Rock Engineering, CSF–PE Service Consulting Engineers, Forensic Engineering Solutions, Paul Hendershot Design, Hudson & Smith, Quality Engineering Services, Reno & Cavanaugh, Tatum Smith Engineering, Williams Engineering
COST $4.4 million USD (includes $3 million USD revolving loan fund)

Top image: In 2005 severe flooding lasted for days after Hurricane Katrina caused wide-spread damage to buildings, leading to mold, rot and structural damage. Photo: Jocelyn Augustino/ Federal Emergency Management Agency

Bottom left image: After the hurricane, houses were inspected, the markings cataloguing the number of deaths remained for more than a year, in some cases. Photo: Cameron Sinclair/Architecture for Humanity

Bottom right image: Many people were forced to abandon their homes in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo: Cameron Sinclair/Architecture for Humanity

Top image: Willie Mae’s Scotch House, a historic restaurant in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward, experienced severe damage. Architecture for Humanity made a $10 000 USD grant to the Heritage Conservation Network to restore the building and provide an economic boost to the neighborhood. Photo: Jason Perlow/www.offthebroiler.wordpress.com

Bottom left image: The restaurant’s interior was stripped by volunteers before being renovated. Photo: Pableaux Johnson/
Architecture for Humanity

Bottom right image: Willie Mae’s Scotch House reopened in May of 2007 and remains a beloved landmark to many loyal customers. Photo: Jason Perlow/ www.offthebroiler.wordpress.com

Susi lived and breathed this facility, pouring a year of her life into building the complex. During the process she worked alongside local engineers and contractors, brought construction training into the community, hired dozens of villagers, involved local elephant migration experts, helped start small businesses, empowered the local community federation and integrated rainwater catchment systems and new building methodologies. In a bold move, she brought together nearby Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim villagers, combatants in the country’s recent civil war, to play cricket on the newly built field. She got quite a colorful nickname by the community after kicking down a newly constructed wall that was poorly built by one of the sub–contractors. To the outside world, she was building a few structures, but for the village, she was building its heart. The complex, funded in part from hot chocolate sales by high school students, would go on to be the only tsunami project shortlisted for the prestigious 2010 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Seven years later, it is still active and used for anything from after–school programs to weddings.

Not all our projects worked, we also failed in unexpected ways. For Susi and I, our biggest regret was the Pottuvil Women’s’ Cooperative Bakery. After building transitional schools in the area, we were approached by a number of mothers who had lost their husbands. Widowed, and with children to raise, they were selling “shorties” (afternoon snacks) as a means of income. As we held weekly meetings under a mango tree, the idea blossomed of creating a baking cooperative and allowing the women to start a business to stabilize their incomes.

While Susi worked on a design she organized site visits to other bakeries, began sourcing equipment and found a small storefront to set up. This took months of planning and development. Then something strange happened. A couple of the women received threats and were warned against starting this business. First the threats were insinuated, then as the project progressed, they became very pointed. Within weeks the entire project collapsed. The women lost confidence, and, to our shock, our local partners walked away.

What we came to find out was that we ignored the obvious. The other bakeries in town were run by one person. Despite the need to create jobs, this was encroaching on his turf. This project was the anomaly in our work. While the thanks of hundreds of beneficiaries fades in your memory, you never ever forget the disappointment of a failed project.

Top left image: The Biloxi Model Home Fair gave families a chance to learn about 12 home designs and talk to the architects before selecting a design team. Photo: Tracy Nelson/ Architecture for Humanity

Bottom left image: Audrey Robinson and her son Andre celebrate being chosen to participate in the Biloxi Model Home Program, 2006. Photo: Sherry–Lea Bloodworth/Architecture for Humanity

Bottom middle image: Karen Parker at the dedication of her home, designed by Brett Zamore Design, in East Biloxi, Mississippi, 2008. Photo: Sun Herald

Bottom right image: The Tyler Residence in East Biloxi, Mississippi uses metal siding and operable shutters to improve its resilience. Photo: Marlon Blackwell Architect

Top right image: The Tran Home by MC2 Architects includes a wraparound porch. Photo: Leslie Schwartz/ Architecture for Humanity

We also did work in India with Design Fellow Purnima McCutcheon. After completing a number of community centers with the League of Education and Development and the Pitchandikulam Bio Resource Center, an off–grid, solar–powered, eco–training center, we began building a series of weaving cooperatives. These small one–room structures were built from stabilized soil block and cost between $3000 and $6000 USD each. They were built to house small women–owned businesses. At one facility the members of a women’s group noted the lily pads that adorned a nearby lake. The designers positioned the women’s center to overlook the lake and integrated the flowers into metal windows. Thoughtful design details won’t transform a community, but they do bring joy. Visiting several years later, it was immensely satisfying to see women teaching each other to read in one of our buildings, the only formal structure in sight.

During this period Kate and I relocated to Bozeman, Montana as I was teaching at a university there. In our office above the Cateye Cafe, we had assembled half a dozen volunteers to help with fundraising, program management and drawing up projects. Since it was difficult to turn around drawings on the ground we in–sourced the CAD work to Montana, letting the teams on-site focus on community engagement and development.

In total, in response to the 2005 South Asia tsunami, we built eight transitional schools, two kindergartens, four community centers, six women’s cooperatives, 50 homes and an inspiring community complex that became the heart of a new village. We advised on housing and a teacher–training center in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and gave seed funding to a couple of small projects in the region. We learned that a grassroots approach to design and construction, working directly with the beneficiaries and hiring them to be a part of the process, created social cohesion and incredible trust between all the stakeholders.

As architects we are given an incredible opportunity to work in partnership with clients to transform a family, a community and sometimes a city. Given this opportunity, it is then our responsibility to work as hard as possible to see the concept through. The best way to do that is to be present. By working on the ground, design fellows can develop and refine construction documents, create real–time budgets and timelines, garner necessary approvals, help select contractors, oversee the construction process, garner a certificate of occupation and make sure all the stakeholders have been actively involved.

In July of 2005 I was in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka to review our programs. I woke at 5 am and walked along the shoreline where I met a man sitting by the water’s edge. I sat down beside him and, in broken English, he described losing 17 family members, six months of endless paperwork, land issues and burials. He was sure his daughter was the only one left—until his mother–in–law showed up. He looked at me with a straight face and exclaimed, “I didn’t like her before the tsunami and now I have to live with her!” We laughed. We sat together sketching out a “granny flat” in the sand. A simple house with a separate structure for an extended family member. Dawn broke. He gave me a long hug and went on his way. It was a poignant reminder that despite tragedy we are all dealing with the same basic issues, whether it’s finding a way to live with your mother–in–law or starting your own business with your friends. Design is a tool that helps us do more than just survive, it helps us live.

Far left image: Mold abatement teams including Architecture for Humanity volunteers remove mold from homes in Biloxi, Mississippi. Photo: James Wheeler/ Architecture for Humanity

Left image: With funding and staff support from Architecture for Humanity, the project board at the Hope Community Development Agency tracked rebuilding efforts in East Biloxi, Mississippi. Photo: Alan Richardson/ Architecture for Humanity

Bottom left image: The Red House in John Henry Beck Park is one of only a few surviving historic structures, in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was renovated by Architecture for Humanity, the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and students from the University of Minnesota College of Design into a police substation and a community meeting room. Photo: Gulf Coast Community Design Studio

Right top image: In addition to the Red House, a new pavilion was built to host social gatherings at John Henry Beck Park. Photo: Cameron Sinclair/ Architecture for Humanity

Right below image: The renovation of the John Henry Beck Park was completed in 2007 and included new playground equipment in partnership with KaBOOM!, Home Depot, Playground Systems, Hands On Network and Architecture for Humanity. Photo: Cameron Sinclair/Architecture for Humanity

Lesson 2: Innovation Is Only Valuable If It Is Shared.

By late 2005 we had become a ragtag global network of pragmatic architects, designers and builders. With a number of projects finished, one of the biggest headaches we had to manage was multiple projects on multiple sites, with various stakeholders and differing reporting requirements. Administrative work was run out of our headquarters, and it quickly became a logistical nightmare. On a weekly basis we would get burlap sacks stuffed with drawings, poorly faxed contracts and hundreds of construction photos emailed to us. A team would work for weeks to come up with a solution that had already been designed in a prior disaster. To make matters worse, we were doubling in staff every six months and had begun responding to the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake and Hurricane Katrina, as well as running a construction program in South Africa. Growth was creating unwanted bureaucracy. Trying to stay on top of versioning issues and program management was more than a full–time job. Then one day it all changed.

Football for Hope Program

CURRENT LOCATIONS 20 locations in Africa
DATE 2008–present
IMPLEMENTING AGENCY streetfootballworld
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
COMMUNITY PARTNERS Association des Jeunes Sportifs de Kigali Espérance, Association Malienne pour la Promotion de la Jeune Fille et de la Femme, Delta Cultura Cabo Verde, Grassroot Soccer, Grupo Desportivo de Manica, Iringa Development for Youth, Disabled and Children Care, Kick 4 Life, LoveLife, Mathare Youth Sports Association, Play Soccer, South African Red Cross, South East District Youth Empowerment League, Special Olympics Namibia, United Action for Children, Whizzkids United
DESIGN FIRMS ARG Design, Architectural Engineering Services, Bartsch Architects, Bureau d’Etudes Quarc, Constructs LLC, DCAD, John Edgar, Emerging Services, Jose Forgaz, Andrew Gremley, Lakes Consortium, Nina Maritz, MMA Architects, M. Youseff Berthe, Pharos Architects, Phinduze Architects, Studio 610, Wasserfall Munting Architects
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT Marvin Cabrera, Eugene da Silva, Joyce Engebretsen, Kevin Gannon, Satu Jackson, Gretchen Mokry, Kelsey Ochs, Kimberley O’Dowd, Kate Stohr, Jonathan Thompson, Gaurav Vashist
DESIGN FELLOWS Jhono Bennett, Thomas Calhoun, Alma Rosalio Ruiz Delgado, Killian Doherty, Ifeoma Ebo, Elisa Engel, Paulo Fernandez, Michael Heublein, Alina Jeronimo, Nathan Jones, George Kinuthia, Christine Lara, Delphine Luboz, Thembe Mekwa, Luvuyo Mfungula, Unathi Mkonto, Isaac Mugumbule, David Pound, Ana Reis, Oana Stanescu, Axel Stelter, Mark Warren
ENGINEERING Baeletsi ty Ltd., BerteCo, Eyethu Engineers, Mike Gumbi, Henry Fagan and Partners, Richard Ngenahayo, Peter Wanjau, ZMCK Consulting Engineers
CONTRACTORS Alpages, Drucon Building and Roofing, EFS Construction, E–Marks Construction, Enterprise Bengaly, Gravity Contractors, Lesotho Steel, Samwilco Construction

CONSULTANTS AECOM, AKT Consultants, Sierra Banbridge, Barker & Barton, Ben Behm, Kobus Carstens, Francis Hillman, Moutanbou Michael Fru, Green Architecture Ltd., Gumbi & Associates, JSmart, Lesotho Quantity Surveyors, Mapsurveys (K) Ltd, Froudouard Ngayaboshya, Richard Ngendahayo, Dr. Alfred Omenya, Gerd Scheuerpflug, Bamba Souleyman, SVP Quantity Surveyors, Technisol
IN–KIND AMOD China, GreenFields, Mosaic Works, Yingli Solar
COST ESTIMATORS Barker & Barton Kenya, Davis Langdon, LDM, Lesotho Quantity Surveyors
PROJECT TYPE A community center and a youth football pitch
AREA 170–300 sq m/1830–3229 sq ft
$1.3 million USD (as of Dec.2011)

Above image: The opening of the first Football for Hope Centre in Khayelitsha, in 2009. The center was designed by ARG Design, with Design Fellows Oana Stanescu and Christine Lara. Photo: Kate Stohr/Architecture for Humanity

Bottom image: Children meet Lucas Radebe, former captain of Bafana Bafana, the South African national football team, at the Khayelitsha Football for Hope Centre. Photo: Kate Stohr/Architecture for Humanity

Left image: A map showing the 16 completed or in-construction Football for Hope Centres in Africa. Image: Architecture for Humanity

LOCATION Khayelitsha, South Africa
PARTNER Grassroot Soccer
PHASE Opened December 2009
Photo: Kimberley O’Dowd/Architecture for Humanity

LOCATION Baguineda, Mali
PARTNER Association Malienne pour la Promotion de la Jeune Fille et de la Femme
PHASE Opened October 2010
Photo: Mike Heublein/Architecture for Humanity

LOCATION Katutura, Namibia
PARTNER Special Olympics Namibia
PHASE Opened September 2010
Photo: Marcus Weiss/Studio One Photography

LOCATION Mathare, Kenya
PARTNER Mathare Youth Sports Association
PHASE Opened October 2010
Photo: Patricia Menadier/ Architecture for Humanity

LOCATION Maseru, Lesotho
PHASE Opened May 2011
Photo: Kick4Life

LOCATION Kimisagara, Rwanda
PARTNER Association des Jeunes Sportifs de Kigali Espérance
PHASE Opened December 2011
Photo: Killian Doherty/Architecture for Humanity

LOCATION Oguaa, Ghana
PHASE Opened December 2011
Photo: David Pound/Architecture for Humanity

LOCATION QwaQwa, South Africa
PHASE In tender
Image: George Kinuthia/ Architecture for Humanity

LOCATION Edendale Hospital, South Africa
PARTNER Whizzkids United
PHASE In tender
Image: Luvuyo Mfungula/ Architecture for Humanity

LOCATION Alexandra, Johannesburg, South Africa
PARTNER Grassroots Soccer
PHASE In development
Image: Unathi Mkonto/Architecture for Humanity

I was returning to Montana from Sri Lanka and on the drive back to Colombo I turned on my mobile phone, which had gone off a number of times. We were driving through Ratnapura when it rang yet again. I picked up the phone to hear a very polite English voice. “Hi, this is Chris Anderson. I’m calling because you’ve won the TED prize.” My first response was “Who’s Ted?” Chris corrected me. “The conference. The TED Conference. We are doing an event in a few weeks in New York, please come out and meet the other winners. We will be in touch about your wish.”

The TED prize confers a unique opportunity. Prize winners are granted one wish to change the world. The TED community helps make it happen. By the time we got back home I knew what to wish for: to create an open–source, collaborative project management website that would empower building professionals with design solutions to improve life.

On return to our office, Kate and I spent the next few months developing our idea for the Open Architecture Network. Coming from an online background, Kate was an incredible asset. We had first met when she worked at Pathfinder, Time Inc.’s first venture into the Internet, where she was a Web producer. In the following months we assembled a team of practitioners, tech professionals and community organizations.

Similar to our methodology of working with communities, we listened and learned about the needs of other groups, the things that mattered and the roadblocks faced in building in remote, austere environments.

Fascinated by the free culture movement being developed by Lawrence Lessig and Creative Commons (CC), we wondered if you could put a Creative Commons license on a building. So we did. This allowed architects to retain their intellectual assets and decide who could use their design. This meant that you could do a pro bono home design for a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina and, with a CC license, share that design with other nonprofits for free. At the same time, if a commercial company wanted to replicate the design, the designer could get paid a fee for each structure built. This would be the key to encouraging professionals, who would otherwise not share their intellectual property, to participate on the website.

We knew our TED wish was going to be incredibly complex and nerdy. Chances were it would be received with a thud. Our best decision was to create a wish that enhanced our mission and made it easier to do the work we were already doing rather than starting something new. It was vital for the survival and growth of Architecture for Humanity.

At the 2006 TED conference in Monterey, California, I presented our vision for an Open Architecture Network. Like a great party, you soon find that the folks who become your strongest allies are the same ones who end up in the kitchen long after the music has stopped. Almost all the support offered came from the San Francisco Bay Area, and thanks to an office space donation from Dr. Dean Ornish, we relocated to Sausalito, California. Hot Studio, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Autodesk, Amazon, Creative Commons, and others, donated services and support to develop and refine the system.

Left image: A soccer match at the Katatura Football for Hope Centre in Namibia, which was built in memory of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics. The architects of record were Nina Maritz and Wasserfall Munting Architects, assisted by Architecture for Humanity Design Fellows Jhono Bennet and Thomas Calhoun. Photo: Marcus Weiss/Studio One Photography

Left and right image: The Oguaa Football for Hope Centre in Cape Coast, Ghana, was built in 2011. It is run by the nonprofit PLAY SOCCER Ghana, an organization promoting health and leadership through sports. The center was designed by Joe Addo of Constructs LLC, and Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow David Pound oversaw construction. Photo: David Pound/ Architecture for Humanity

Left image: Architect Peter Rich gives a lecture at the Kimisagara Football for Hope Centre, in Rwanda. The center is run by Association des Jeunes Sportifs de Kigali Espérance, an organization working to bridge ethnic divides in Rwanda. Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow Killian Doherty designed the building and oversaw its construction. The center hosts events at night. Photo: Killian Doherty/ Architecture for Humanity

There is no such thing as a typical architect. However, over the years we have noticed a few recurring patterns in our designers.

They embody one or more of the following traits:

A wandering free spirit who connects deeply on a local level. They tend to be highly sensitive to needs of the building end user, the community as a whole, and the impact of the project on a regional level. Most likely to be found relaxing at Burning Man or living in a treehouse on an island in the Pacific.
Works solo. Fights for the client and doesn’t leave until it is done. Occasionally goes AWOL.
Nothing fazes them, cool exterior and a design purist. Every joint, detail and material selection has been thought through. They don’t say much but when they do, it changes everything.
A humble galvanizing force. Empowers the community to take ownership of every stage of the project. Makes sure the building is a catalyst to job creation on a local level. A selfless mentor to students and work colleagues.
When working in a particular country, we receive a huge amount of résumés from its diaspora. Someone with cultural understanding and deep ties to the area is an incredible asset to the team.
A designer with very specific expertise. From bamboo, to adobe construction, to understanding the impact of different types of sanitation systems. Most likely to be found in a bar talking about composting toilets.
Exceptionally sharp, has incredible street smarts and able to find solutions in the most unlikely places. Hand them a pack of chewing gum, 10 feet of steel wire, recycled cocoa sacks and some pliers. In 24 hours, you’ll have a operational medical clinic.

Above image: A graphic description of how Architecture for Humanity works, donated by Elefint Designs. Image: Elefint Designs

Bottom image: Design Fellows Mike Hueblein (L) and Isaac Mugumbule (R) share a laugh at the Cape Town, South Africa office of project partner streetfootballworld, in 2010. Photo: Kimberley O’Dowd/ Architecture for Humanity

Game Changers Grant Program

LOCATION Capao Redondo, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Ganhaizi, China; Guatemala City, Guatemala; Jharkhand, India; Kabul, Afghanistan; Mahiga, Kenya; Moreno, Buenos Aires, Argentina; New Delhi, India; New Orleans, USA; New York City, USA; San Pedro Apóstol, Oaxaca, Mexico; Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sao Paulo, Brazil
DATE 2009–12
PROGRAM SPONSOR Nike, Inc., Nike Sustainable Business and Innovation
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
PROJECT PARTNERS Associação de Moradores da Cohab Adventista 1, Ayuntamiento Municipal Constitucional de San Pedro Apostól, Bola Pra Frente, Corredores do Parque Santo Dias, Futbol para el Desarrollo (FUDE), George Washington Carver High School, Guatemala City, Habitat for Humanity China, Homeless World Cup, Liga FOS, Magic Bus, Municipio de San Pedro Apóstol, The Nobelity Project, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Organização Civil de Ação Social, Steve Rodriguez, St. Joseph Mahiga Hope Schools, Skateistan, Yuwa India
DESIGN FIRMS blaanc borderless architecture, Buró de Intervenciones Públicas, CaeiroCapurso, Casa Tierra, Convic Designs, Es como vivir afuera, Eskes Consultoria, Fábrica de Projetos, GRUBA arquitectura y diseño, Holm Architecture Office, Lompreta Nolte Arquitetos, Multiplex Systems, Steve Rodriguez, Juan Jose Santibañez, SITE Design Group, Urban Recycle Architecture Studio, VM Design Studio
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT Marvin Cabrera, Joyce Engebretsen, Michael Jones, Gretchen Mokry, Kelsey Ochs, alix ogilvie, Cameron Sinclair, Elaine Uang
DESIGN FELLOWS Andrew Burdick, Greg Elsner, Daniel Feldman, Gabriel Kaprielian, Keshav Kumar, Carla dal Mas, alix ogilvie, Preeti Sodhi

CONTRACTORS Boslika Building Contractors, California Skateparks, Jermo Engenheria, GreenFields, and many other building consultants
PROGRAM COST $2.1 million USD
GRANT AMOUNT $5000–$300 000 USD

Top image: A concept rendering of the Homeless World Cup Legacy Center in Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, designed by Lompreta Nolte Arquitetos and Nanda Eskes Arquitetura. Image: Daniel Feldman/ Architecture for Humanity

Bottom image: Since the 2010 opening of the Homeless World Cup, the local nonprofit Bola Pra Frente runs the center. Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow Daniel Feldman oversaw construction. Photo: Daniel Feldman/ Architecture for Humanity

Above image: A map of GameChangers sites around the world. Image: Architecture for Humanity

Kabul, Afghanistan
PARTNER Skateistan
PHASE Opened October 2009
Photo: Jacob Simkin/Skateistan

Mahiga Rainwater Court
Mahiga, Kenya
PARTNER St. Joseph Mahiga Primary and Secondary School
PHASE Opened October 2010
Image: Michael Jones/Architecture for Humanity

My Game Is Beautiful
Ruka Village, Jharkhaud, India
PARTNER Yuwa India
PHASE In construction
Image: Greg Elsner, Michael Jones/ Architecture for Humanity

Creation of Sports Infrastructure
New Delhi, India
PHASE In design
Photo: alix ogilvie/ Architecture for Humanity

Ooya Green Sports Park
Kesennuma, Japan
PARTNER Ooya Junior High School
PHASE In construction
Image: Tomoro Aida/Aida Atelier

Una Cancha Muchas Canchas
Guatemala City, Guatemala
PARTNER Buro de Intervenciones Publicas
PHASE Opened in October 2011
Image: Buró de Intervenciones Públicas

Manhattan Bridge Skatepark
New York City, USA
PARTNER Steve Rodriguez
PHASE In design
Photo: Preeti Sodhi/ Architecture for Humanity

Community Center for Youth and Sports
Moreno, Argentina
PHASE In design
Image: Urban Recycle Architecture Studio

Rural Sports Center
San Pedro Apóstol, Mexico
PARTNER Ayuntamiento Municipal Constitucional de San Pedro Apóstol
PHASE In construction
Photo: Joao Caeiro/CaeiroCapurso

Games in Lost Heavens
Gan Hai Zi Village, China
PARTNER Habitat for Humanity
PHASE In construction
Photo: Stef Chu/Habitat for Humanity

Project partner and New York City skate legend Steve Rodriguez, bottom right, talks to local kids about redoing the Manhattan Bridge Skatepark in New York City. Photo: Preeti Sodhi/Architecture for Humanity

A conceptual rendering of the Manhattan Bridge Skatepark ‘s renovation imagines the park as a vibrant public space used by many different neighborhood groups. Image: Jens Holm/Holm Architecture Office

The San Pedro Apóstol Rural Sports Center will be built using various forms of adobe construction, such as mud bricks and rammed earth. Local villagers will learn the techniques by helping to build the Center. Image: Maarten de Cock/CaeiroCapurso

Workers constructing the rammed earth walls of the Sports Center in October of 2011. Photo: Joao Caeiro/CaeiroCapurso

The first portion of the Rural Sports Center, a bamboo shade structure for meetings and lessons, was completed in October 2011. Photo: Joao Caeiro/CaeiroCapurso

Barrio La Limonada, in the center of Guatemala City, is home to the Una Cancha Muchas Cancha street pitch. The building density of the informal settlement made it difficult to identify a site for a new sports facility. Photo: Buró de Intervenciones Públicas

The project Una Cancha Muchas Cancha converts low–traffic streets into futsala, or impromptu football pitches through painted roads, movable goal post, traffic signs and speed bumps. Image: Buró de Intervenciones Públicas, GeoEye

A finished futsala street pitch, the first of two, opened in October 2011. Photo: Buró de Intervenciones Públicas

It turned out that Architecture for Humanity was the perfect guinea pig. We learned that remote design fellows had a hard time uploading files, teams needed to see CAD files online, we needed levels of privacy for projects in development, and early Web 2.0 technologies were buggy and fraught with continual updates.

We also wanted to address the needs of other aid and development groups. Like many industries, non–governmental organizations had become very specialized. One group would provide school construction, another, safe sanitation, and a third, access to water. The community is left to negotiate coordination between donor groups or, as is often the case, duplicitous work is created and therefore a waste of donor funds.

We needed to think about how multiple groups, partners or organizations could have a central node to share information and distribute updates to the numerous coordination entities that have sprung up to tackle this problem. We added in geodata for mapping projects and finding “response” deserts, places where no projects are taking place.

Additionally, securing funding proved incredibly hard. Foundations were interested in bricks and mortar over management and efficiency. We persevered, and with a motley crew of coders and developers were able to tweak the system to work.

In 2012, more than 7000 projects are shared by some 35 000 members on the network. We have hosted over a dozen international design competitions, created request for bid systems, built a mobile app, and even used the system to write this book. In 2011, we acquired Worldchanging. We are now merging the two sites under the Worldchanging brand and are working to expand the scope of the site beyond just buildings and to build a more robust system of project tracking, monitoring and evaluation. Expect big changes ahead. 

Lesson 3: Be the Last Responders.

In late 2005 Architecture for Humanity would be faced with its biggest challenge to date, a domestic disaster of biblical proportions. On August 29, Hurricane Katrina moved off the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into the coastal shoreline of Louisiana and Mississippi. Before we could decide whether to respond, hundreds of individuals began donating, dozens of local architects reached out either for help or to offer help. We began to mobilize. Learning from prior disasters we were very specific about our role, focusing on long–term reconstruction.

Architects working in post–disaster reconstruction are not needed just in the first four weeks, but for the following three to five years. We are the last responders. Hurricane Katrina was no different. Everyone rushed in. We also saw the results of the Anderson Cooper effect. Wherever the news media reported was where relief organizations would help. If primetime TV cameras didn’t show up in your community, chances are you were not going to get assistance anytime soon. So we decided to go where no one was going. At the time, we were experimenting with various models of construction management —embedding building professionals with our design fellowship program; giving grants to local architects; creating rebuilding manuals to promote safe building; supporting long–term design studios in the heart of impacted communities. The latter would turn out to be the most effective in our arsenal for empowering communities to rebuild.

This was not a new concept. The 1960s and 1970s saw the birth of community design centers across the United States. However, they were located in blighted communities, and we aimed to create a center that would serve a disaster zone for four or five years during the height of reconstruction. Think of these rebuilding centers as temporary operating theaters where professionals with a range of skills are in the trenches, supporting the local industry, to repair the urban fabric.

We couldn’t do it alone and we partnered with a local councilman, Bill Stallworth, who had started the East Biloxi Rebuilding Center (today the Hope Community Development Agency) in a local church. Inside this center, we funded and partnered with what would become the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio run by David Perkes and Mississippi State University. The design studio allowed for a wide range of services to be available to a broader constituency at a fixed cost. It supported micro–planning and volunteer participation in construction. Together with the Hope coordination center and its partners, we rebuilt more than 35 percent of East Biloxi in the three years after the storm.

Architecture for Humanity’s anchor project was the Biloxi Model Home Program. A series of seven homes designed by regional architects selected by the families that would live in each. The program explored new construction methods that improve structural integrity, sustainability, and cost efficiency, while working with homeowners to determine what is and isn’t affordable. We created a revolving loan fund to support the model homes and home repairs. The solutions devised through this process have directly influenced the design and construction of other new homes in the region and the work of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. From adopting driven wood piles as a standard foundation system to leveraging innovative financing instruments.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, government agencies, private non–governmental organizations and funders struggled to distribute funds to families in need. The primary obstacle was the lack of a local fiduciary agent. It took more than nine months to develop a forgivable loan program to jumpstart construction in East Biloxi. The revolving loan fund, developed by Architecture for Humanity with Warnke Community Consultants, recaptured between 20 and 90 percent of the cost of constructing new homes, freeing funding to assist more families and seeding a long–term economic development agency that we hope will serve East Biloxi for years to come. More telling still, the model of pairing community members with professional designers—and the strategy of locating a community design studio within a housing recovery center—was replicated across the Gulf Coast.

While we were involved in the repair and building of 60 homes in New Orleans, together with our partners we managed 10 times that amount in Biloxi, Mississippi. If you want to be the last responder, you also need to bring your own capital to the table.

Classroom Upgrade Competition: 2009–2010

LOCATION 342 entries from 65 different countries
DATES 2009–present
END USERS Students and teachers around the world
CHALLENGE LEAD Architecture for Humanity
CHALLENGE SPONSORS 50x15, Bezos Family Foundation, Google SketchUp, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Irvin Stern Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts
EDUCATION PARTNERS Curriki, Global Nomads Group
SCHOOL BUILDING PARTNERS Blazer Industries, Building Tomorrow, Modular Building Institute, Rumi Schools of Excellence
CHALLENGE PARTNERS The Aspen Institute, Autodesk, The Collaborative for High Performance Schools, Council of Educational Facility Planners International, DoSomething.org, Dwell, Ethos, Global Green USA, Indian Architect and Builder, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Design Lab, U.S. Green Building Council, The Third Teacher, SMART Technologies

Top right image: A proposal for the Corporacion Educativa y Social Waldorf in Bogota, Colombia. Photo: Wolfgang Timmer, Fabiola Uribe, T. Luke Young/Arquitectura Justa

Bottom right image: A Google map of the competitions sites. Out of the competition came many projects and partnerships. Image: Architecture for Humanity/Google Maps

Top image: Architecture for Humanity managed the reconstruction of Ceverine School for Save the Children. The school, located outside Maissade, Haiti, opened in March 2011. Photo: Tommy Stewart/ Architecture for Humanity

Top right image: The Bottle School, in Laguna, Philippines, modified a design from the Open Architecture Network. Photo: Kristel Gonzalez/My Shelter Project

Middle right and bottom images: Recycled bottles were used as infill and provide natural light. Photos: Illac Diaz/My Shelter Project

FEATURED PROJECTS Maria Auxiliadora School
LOCATION Calderones, Ica, Peru
DATES 2010–11
PROGRAM SPONSOR Happy Hearts Fund and ING School Reconstruction Program
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
DESIGN TEAM Diego Collazos (Architecture for Humanity); Arturo Novelli (Edificaciones America)
AREA 500 sq m/5382 sq ft
COST $112 000 USD
BENEFICIARIES 78 primary school students

Top image: The completed Maria Auxiliadora School in Calderones, Ica, Peru consists of a renovated older building and a newly built classroom block. Photo: Diego Collazos/ Architecture for Humanity

Bottom left and right image: Before (TOP) and after (BOTTOM) renderings of the proposed addition for the Maria Auxiliadora School. Image: Diego Collazos/ Architecture for Humanity

FEATURED PROJECT Francisco Perez Anampa School
LOCATION Tate, Ica, Peru
DATE 2010–11
PROGRAM SPONSOR Happy Hearts Fund and ING School Reconstruction Program
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
DESIGN TEAM Diego Collazos (Architecture for Humanity); Arturo Novelli (Edificaciones America)
AREA 557 sq m/5995 sq ft
COST $193 000 USD
BENEFICIARIES 160 primary school students

Top image: Children play in the new schoolyard of the Francisco Perez Anampa School, completed in 2011. Photo: Diego Collazos/Architecture for Humanity

Bottom left image: The Francisco Perez Anampa School was damaged in the 2007 Ica, Peru earthquake. Photo: Diego Collazos/ Architecture for Humanity

Bottom right image: A parent helps rebuild the school. Photo: Diego Collazos/ Architecture for Humanity

Lesson 4: It Is More Fun to Partner

Since our inception we’ve worked with youth sports groups and looked at how physical space can produce social change. Early on we distributed footballs to engage communities. We donated several balls to Balkan Sunflowers in Kosovo, in 2000, then again two years later in Kenya through a program called Who’s Got Balls?

After hosting a competition to develop mobile health clinics for sub–Saharan Africa, we held a two–week workshop at the Africa Center for Health and Population Studies in Somkhele, South Africa. During that event we investigated how to dock clinics in the community, and the idea arose to use youth football (soccer) fields as anchor points. So in 2004 we launched Siyathemba, a design competition to develop a soccer facility for girls.

The competition was a great success with hundreds of entries, but implementation turned out to be a lesson in perseverance. The selected design by Swee Hong Ng was refined with East Coast Architects and we spent much time trying to sort out land rights, building use, and commitment from the client. When we won the INDEX: Award in 2005 we directed half of the prize money to the project. Unfortunately our original local partner organization went through an internal upheaval. Land surveys revealed shallow graves, including those of young children, on the site where we hoped to build a field. Then, the tribal chief who had originally offered the land passed away. After years of raising funds we had no land, no partner and no contracts in place. Then, in 2007, the original director of the Africa Center, Dr. Michael Bennish, offered an alternative option to partner with a local school less than 10 minutes away. His organization Mpilonhle would use the sports field to dock their mobile medical facilities. After years of development, the idea had come full circle.

With funds from INDEX and The Woolworths Trust we built phase 1 of the project at Silthukukhanya High School. With little funding for a typical on–the–ground design fellow we placed our trust in Dr. Bennish and East Coast Architects to see the project through. The site analysis showed the school had no water source. Together we made the decision to use half of the funds to dig a well, nixing the changing room structure but leaving enough for the field and solar lighting. By the spring of 2008, despite all the hurdles and heartache, the Silthukukhanya High School field opened, complete with a mobile medical station. The project showed the importance of sticking to a tight schedule. A small investment in a design fellow on site, saves much more by keeping the project on track. We thought that was it. Fours years of hard work for a simple field. Boy, were we wrong.

Midway through the project we got two phone calls, one from streetfootballworld, and the other from Nike. The former asked if we were interested in partnering on facilities with specific community–based groups throughout Africa. This project would also be a partnership with the FIFA World Cup. The second call, from Ziba Cramner at Nike, was about building innovative social programs around sports.

In a short time we became deeply involved in the sports for social change movement. With FIFA and streetfootballworld we established a regional office in Cape Town to design, develop and build a series of non–governmental organization–led youth football facilities. This multi–year, multi–site, multi–client program gave a platform for dozens of architects to engage in community building. Out of this program came a range of diverse structures called Football for Hope Centres. There were centres in South Africa, with Grassroots Soccer; Namibia, with the Special Olympics; Rwanda, with Esperance; and Ghana, with PLAY SOCCER Nonprofit International.

Post–Conflict Reconstruction

PROJECT NAME Gaza Alternative Repair Strategies
LOCATION Gaza, Palestinian Territory
DATE 2010
END USER Nonprofit groups working in Gaza
IMPLEMENTING AGENCIES American Friends Service Committee, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
PROJECT TEAM Gretchen Alther, Mohammed Eila, Joyce Engebretsen, Nicholas Escalante, Danna Masad, Gretchen Mokry, Amal Sabawi, Ayman Saidam, Ahmed Saleh, Anand Sheth

Top image: A boy stands next to a damaged wall in his home in Gaza City, on the Gaza Strip. Many residences were damaged during the 2008/2009 conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Photo: American Friends Service Committee

Bottom left image: A residential building in Gaza City is marked with shells. Scarce building supplies means damages often go unrepaired. Photo: Dr. Mohammed Eila/ Ministry of Environmental Affairs Gaza Strip

Bottom right image: A man walks through the debris in a home that was destroyed in Gaza City. Photo: Dr. Mohammed Eila/ Ministry of Environmental Affairs Gaza Strip

Gallery above: Excerpts from the Gaza Repair Strategy Manual aimed to support non–governmental organizations and community agencies seeking sustainable approaches to rebuilding. Image: Architecture for Humanity

We launched the Football for Hope Program with our partners in 2008. Communication was a challenge. We triangulated conference calls on three continents. Miscommunications led to unnecessary delays. We decided to share an office with streetfootballworld in Cape Town. Having our partners a desk away made problem solving and collaboration much more efficient. Likewise, we had problems maintaining design standards between projects. Originally, our design fellows went straight to the job site, and designs often went through several revisions before all parties were happy. We decided it was more effective for new recruits to spend a few months in Cape Town getting immediate feedback, while arranging site visits and client meetings as needed to ensure local input. Then, they moved on–site as construction began. The project has shown how close collaboration can foster replicable, scalable change.

Likewise, partnering with Nike’s Sustainable Business and Innovation team we set up a $1.1 million USD construction fund that would focus on supporting grassroots organizations. Unlike the highly–defined program for the Football for Hope Centres, this program was all about finding innovation in the least likely places. 

Over the years we’ve helped build skateboarding, basketball and football facilities all over the world, from Afghanistan to Guatemala. Nike has also supported rebuilding access to sports in post–disaster areas, and we are completing projects in Brazil, Chile, Haiti and Japan.

By committing to help other groups with shared goals, a simple project has become a robust practice for our organization. While creativity can lead to a single idea, innovation is adaptable and constantly learned. To date, more than 500 000 children currently use these facilities, and by 2014 that number will be closer to 1 million.

Lesson 5: Design Is an Economic Tool.

Another area that has become an emerging part of our work is our relationship with social enterprises and businesses. Too often non–governmental organizations fail to engage and support the local business sector, instead building only homes, schools and clinics. To rebuild holistically after a disaster it is imperative to have a series of strong economic anchors in the community. Quite often, these small business are the heart of the community. Without them you are putting the community at–risk to become a future slum beset by unemployment, violence and social ills. The number one request we get from clients is a job, often before housing. No one is looking for a handout.

We first learned this lesson in India. We were very preemptive in making sure social enterprises were using the buildings and creating revenue for the long–term maintenance of the structures. In the post–occupancy analysis of the Ambedgar Nagar Community Complex we found the library space was being used to store materials used by a women’s cooperative. Without a regular source of income, reading came second. We then began building a series of standalone women’s cooperatives that became hubs of microeconomic development. Designing even small spaces in a village that cater to commercial activity can change the face of the whole community. We had been working on economic development in post–disaster contexts, without really realizing it. It’s now become a core practice area.

Recent examples are the Hikado Marketplace in Motoyoshi, Japan (after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake) and Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans, Louisiana, which was restored by the Heritage Conservation Network with a grant from us (after Hurricane Katrina). Both eating establishments had been community nodes prior to the disaster; both have charismatic business leaders and dedicated clients. These were healthy businesses that needed support. The Hikado Marketplace was a $7500 USD investment that salvaged materials from homes set for demolition. The construction team consisted of local traditional carpenters and out of work fishermen. Instead of spending funds on community meetings or needs assessment surveys, we built an impromptu gathering space and a business. 

During a post–opening lunch at the marketplace a group of fishermen and our design team realized they could create a small microenterprise by building hammocks using the same technique that is used to make fishing nets. Word of mouth and social networking yielded 750 orders within three months. A month later we awarded construction funding to build a small workshop for the company creating 12 jobs. 

In Haiti the issue was even more extreme. Families living in tents, most working in the informal economy, watched and waited as the international community struggled to rebuild homes. Meanwhile, once active commercial areas were atrophying. Our team, which had a mandate to rebuild schools (an equally important need in Haiti), realized that if we did not rebuild businesses there would be no jobs for the next generation of students. Taking all the lessons learned from our previous work, we established a rebuilding studio that from the beginning set as its goal the economic revitalization of the metro Port–au–Prince area. It would be “the bank.” Connecting small and medium sized businesses, street vendors and entrepreneurs with construction capital. Rather than competing with local architecture and construction firms, we would create opportunities for local firms to fully participate in the reconstruction effort and use our leverage as funders to ensure safe construction standards.

Poverty Alleviation

LOCATION Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
CLIENT Razi Healthcare Design Studio
DESIGN FIRM (re)DO Hyderabad, India
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT Joyce Engebretsen, Satu Jackson
DESIGN FELLOW Sandhya Naidu Janardhan

Top right image: The formal development of the Nallakunta clinic elevation sets it apart from the neighboring informal economic activities. Photo: Sandhya Naidu Janardhan/Architecture for Humanity

Bottom left image: A woman receives treatment at the Uppal clinic branch in July 2010. Photo: Salone Habibuddin/Architecture for Humanity

Below right middle and bottom image: The rehabilitation of the doctor’s offices included new furniture, sanitary improvements and bright colors to give it a more professional appearance and feel. Photo: Sanhya Naidu Janardhan/ Architecture for Humanity

Lesson 6: Unleash Local Talent. 

Every two years we host an international design competition around a particular global theme. In 2007, it was access to technology. In 2009, we focused on improving education facilities. In 2011, we called on designers to re–envision abandoned and closed military sites. Previously we had invited designers to develop a solution for a specific site. In the 2009 challenge, because everyone has a school in need of upgrading, we decided to change the rules. This time we invited entrants to design for a site in their own community. Sure, it would be harder to jury. But, we said, they have a reason to enter.

Hundreds of teams developed thoughtful and innovative solutions. Better yet, entrants continued to work on their projects, whether they placed or not. One of the honorable mentions to the 2009 challenge served as inspiration to a school being built in the Philippines. In Uganda, we were busy constructing one of the finalist designs, when we learned during our annual forum, that another architect had downloaded the solution and had already built the design in nearby Kenya. The same design, slightly adapted, was being used to educate hundreds of children in two countries. The secret to a design competition’s success is not who wins or what is the first thing to be built. Every month we hear of a design team that finally saw their scheme come to life, or a town or city that has used our model to run a similar program. Going forward all of our competitions will allow architects to address an issue affecting the built environment in their own community.

Disaster Reconstruction

PROJECT NAME Centre de Reconstruction
LOCATION Port–au–Prince, Ouest, Haiti
DATES 2010–present
END USERS community members in Haiti
BENEFICIARIES 49 150 Haitians
SPONSOR ORGANIZATION Architecture for Humanity
SPONSORS Autodesk, Bezos Family Foundation, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Curriki, Global Nomads Group, Heath Ceramics, Innergey Power, Johnsonite, Nvidia Foundation, Students Rebuild
PROGRAM COORDINATORS Eric Cesal, Sandhya Naidu Janardhan, Martine Theodore, Frederika Zipp
DESIGN FELLOWS Stephane Cherduville, Kate Evarts, Darren Gill, Dave Hampton, Carl Harrigan, Schendy Kernizan, Jean Rene Lafontant, Lyndia Mesidor
VOLUNTEERS 70 and counting
CONSTRUCTION MANAGERS Stanley Joseph, Marie Elizabeth Nicolas, Jacques Nixon, Ulrick Pierre
ADDITIONAL SUPPORTERS Rolande Augustin, Sergine Francoeur, Yves Francois, Nicole Jeanty
PROGRAM COST $720 000 USD per year

Top image: A damaged building in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Photo: Eric Cesal/Architecture for Humanity

Bottom images: The Rebuilding 101 Manual laid out simple building techniques to ensure that new buildings were safely constructed. Image: Architecture for Humanity–Haiti

Left image: The Haiti Partners' Children's Academy in Bawosya was developed through an office fellowship with BAR Architects. Image: BAR Architects.

Left image: Ecole Baptist Bon Berger serves 2000 students near the slum of Cite Soleil. The reconstruction includes new athletic facilities. Image: Alison McCabe/Architecture for Humanity.

Left image: The École Elie Dubois School, all–girls vocational program, is located in downtown Port–au–Prince. The courtyard includes space for an outdoor market. Image: Dorothy Miller, TJ Olson, Jeremy Warms/ Architecture for Humanity–Haiti

Left image: The Rebuilding Center in Port–au–Prince. Photo: Karl Johnson/ Architecture for Humanity

Lesson 7: Unleash Local Talent. 

We never dreamed that the organization would scale. Our biggest success happened partly due to an off–the–cuff joke. When Architecture for Humanity consisted of a laptop and a cellphone I would receive emails and calls from around the world about setting up a branch of the organization. Explaining that our limited resources couldn’t allow us to do it, I’d often joke they should organize some like–minded individuals at a coffee shop or bar and start an informal “drinking for humanity” group. Whether it was the name or the permission for self–organizing, the idea took off, and before long architects and community leaders stopped chatting over beers and started developing their own potential projects.

In the last six years we saw huge growth at this local level. Our independent chapters expanded to over 100 locations and hundreds of pro bono projects have been developed and implemented. In most cases, projects exemplified the ideals that we were trying to achieve, from sustainable classrooms in Dhaka, Bangladesh; equipment lending libraries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; homeless shelters in London; to developing disaster preparedness plans for New York City. It has been amazing to arrive in a city like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania or Auckland, New Zealand to meet dozens of design professionals deeply engaged in the shaping of their cities and responding to the needs of overlooked communities.

Occasionally we ran into hurdles with chapters that were either stepping outside of our mission or, in some cases, competing with another chapter in the same location. As a result we began to formalize these associations. This allowed us to strengthen our relationship with chapter members, further develop an online network and host an annual forum, Design Like You Give a Damn: LIVE!

While this saw a dip in our numbers, it helped us reorganize and develop a stronger network for chapters to communicate, collaborate and run programs. In 2011, we began a chapter grants program, distributing small funds for local projects. In years to come we will probably find that the true legacy of the organization will be the hundreds of projects completed by our chapters.

FEATURED PROJECT Hikado Marketplace
LOCATION Kesennuma–shi, Motoyoshi–cho, Miyagi, Japan
DATE 2011
CLIENT Atsushi Hatakeyama, market owner
DESIGN AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
DESIGN FELLOWS Autumn Ness Taira, Yuji Taira
COST $7500 USD
BENEFICIARIES 450 displaced families

Top image: The renovated Hikado Marketplace, completed in June 2011, is the only place for lunch for the people living in nearby relief camps. Photo: Autumn Ness Taira/ Architecture for Humanity

Bottom left image: A local carpenter’s toolbox. The marketplace was rebuilt using traditional Edo carpentry. Photo: Autumn Ness Taira/Architecture for Humanity

Bottom right image: Timbers salvaged after the tsunami were joined together without nails by local master carpenters. Photo: Autumn Ness Taira/Architecture for Humanity

PROGRAM NAME Pakistan Flood Rebuilding Grant Program
LOCATIONS Khairpur, Nodo Bara, Goth Angario Jati, in Sindh Province, Pakistan
PROGRAM PARTNERS Architecture for Humanity–Karachi, The Heritage Foundation (Pakistan), Karachi Relief Trust
PROJECT COORDINATORS Mahboob Kahn, Mariyam Nazir, Frederika Zipp
COST $60 000 USD for three villages

Top image: One of 29 housing units built in the village of Swaleh Satho Goth Angario, in the Province of Sindh, Pakistan, after the 2010 Pakistan Floods. New housing was built by Architecture for Humanity–Karachi chapter and Karachi Relief Trust. Photo: Architecture for Humanity–Karachi

Bottom image: The Google Map displays the locations of the Green KaravanGhar bamboo relief houses constructed by the Heritage Foundation. GPS data allows individual donors to see their funds being used well. Image: The Heritage Foundation/Google Maps

Lesson 8: There Is No Such Thing As a Typical Architect.

I wrote earlier about our design fellowship program, but it’s important to note the value and quality of our design work comes down to our people. Take a highly skilled, motivated and talented professional, partner them with a strong and dedicated community leader, fund them to live and work on the ground, allow them to challenge each other and watch a true partnership grow. It is really that easy . . . and complicated. Our clients select an architect or designer off a shortlist in our network, and, depending on the scope of work, we then partner them with locally licensed professionals. A tour of duty can range from 6 to 18 months and is usually tied to a specific building or community group.

Each designer brings a particular aesthetic and approach to the work while working under the guidelines set out in our design fellow manual. After a brief training program at our headquarters, they head out into the field. Partnering them with the right client is the key to a successful project. A prime example is Eric Cesal, a PhD MacGyver–Grassroots Leader hybrid (see design fellow personality types on page 27). After a couple of tours of duty with us on the Gulf Coast, he established and now runs our office in Haiti. His on–the–ground experience with long–term reconstruction was vital, making him a perfect candidate for running a rebuilding center.

Economic Development

PROJECT NAME Commercial Corridors
LOCATION Port–au–Prince, Haiti
IMPLEMENTING AGENCY Architecture for Humanity
PROJECT MANAGEMENT Eric Cesal, Henri Dupont, Sandhya Naidu Janardhan, Kate Stohr, Martine Theodore, Gaurav Vashist
DESIGN FELLOWS Kate Evarts, Darren Gill, Stacey McMahan
DESIGN TEAM Abbey Kurlinkus, James Lutz, Amanda Pederson, Kaitlin Schalow, Cody Stadler, Emerson Stepp, Brent Suski
CONSULTANT ShoreBank International
LOAN FUND $1 million USD
BENEFICIARIES 30 small business owners in Port–au–Prince and the communities they serve

Top image: The markets of Haiti continue to do business in the shadow of damaged buildings. Photo: Abby Kurlinkus/ University of Minnesota

Bottom images: A diagrammed street map provides detailed information about traffic, street congestion, and the use and condition of each building along one of Port–au–Prince’s earthquake–damaged economic corridors. Image: Brent Suski/University of Minnesota

Above image: Aerial view of series of economic corridors surveyed to identify targeted areas for small–business reconstruction. Image: Eric Cesal/ Architecture for Humanity–Haiti

Above image: The North Pole proposal seeks to develop a new mixed–use district north of Port–au–Prince to relieve congestion in the city. Image: Architecture for Humanity–Haiti

Lesson 9: Have a Sense of Humor.

When someone introduces their project earnestly and philosophically, I can sense they haven’t really connected with the community. Chances are the community didn’t really connect with the project either. For all the blood, sweat and tears shed over the course of a project, the one thing that prevails is laughter. I could write books on the small, comical things that happen on a daily basis on the ground. Communities shattered by natural or man–made disasters are unbelievably resilient, and are filled with hope and love for one another and those working alongside them.

We tend to take ourselves way too seriously, and that becomes an unnecessary hurdle when working on the ground. There is nothing more amazing than sitting around a table, breaking bread together and telling stories of mishaps, misfortunes and the downright comical. If working in this environment is challenging, then getting to discover what makes us unique is incredibly rewarding. 

Lesson 10: Design Yourself Out Of a Job.

Part of our goal in building a sustainable model for our long–term rebuilding centers is to eventually transform them into local economic development corporations. Staffed and run locally, these centers are proof that our services have a lifespan and that we need to constantly look for ways to make ourselves redundant. Often when a building opens, we know it has been successful given the size of the party, the number of speeches and, more importantly, the local community directing their thanks to one another rather than us. This is a very humbling moment for the architect on a project. Perhaps the most emotional is the moment that you have to say goodbye. And for the success of the project you do.

Our philosophy for the organization is no different. Having worked on the idea of Architecture for Humanity for the past 15 years, I’ve had the honor of watching an idea grow to a living organism with over 100 dedicated staff members and design fellows; from enlisting a handful of building professionals to creating a network of thousands; from building a couple of structures, to transforming communities and truly building change from the ground up. If we believe in creating sustainable models, then the organization should reflect that in its growth. 

As founders, Kate and I continue to strive to develop internal procedures and mechanisms that can run and evolve without the original creators at the helm. We know it is soon time for us to go. So, over the next several years, we will work ourselves out of a job. This will allow Architecture for Humanity to be transferred to those who have worked so hard to shape it into the organization it has become: our staff.

As I write, hundreds of people are building on four continents, technology teams are refining our project management and evaluation tools on Worldchanging, and architects are working together with communities to build new holistic towns and civic structures. We are excited by the upcoming challenges, new projects, and the continued growth of local chapters (especially the renegade ones). 

Our Growth + Impact

Top left image: The Alternative Masonry Unit project, designed by Architecture for Humanity volunteers, in Oakland, California tests methods for making sundried bricks. Photo: Nathaniel Corum/Architecture for Humanity–San Francisco

Bottom left image: The Crisis at Christmas project, designed by Architecture for Humanity–London, provides a gathering space for the homeless in London. Photo: Katherine McNeil/Architecture for Humanity–London

Middle image: Children play outside a two–story, bamboo–steel frame prefabricated, retractable classroom in Dhaka, Bangladesh, designed by Architecture for Humanity–Dhaka. Photo: Imrul Kayes/Architecture for Humanity–Dhaka

Top right image: Children play outside a youth center in Shanghai, China, constructed of shipping containers. Design by Architecture for Humanity–Shanghai. Photo: Architecture for Humanity–Shanghai

Bottom right image: Homeless lockers at the nonprofit Voices of Change in Minneapolis, USA. Design by Architecture for Humanity–Minnesota. Photo: Andrea Rugg/ Architecture for Humanity–Minnesota

We have left the “Your Project Here” spaces intentionally blank to allow our chapters, which are too numerous to list, to highlight their work. We encourage them to showcase their projects on this page.