History of Architecture for Humanity

Timeline

1999
Organization Founded in New York, New York
'Architecture for Humanity' Transitional Housing design competition held
Two part-time volunteers

2000
First Transitional Housing prototype built.

2002
Outreach - Mobile Health Clinics to Combat HIV/AIDS competition held
First full-time member of staff and three part-time volunteers

2003
Mobile Health Clinic Workshop held in Somkhele, South Africa
First local chapter, Architecture for Humanity NY, formed. Dozen more formed in the following year.

2004
Responded to Bam Earthquake and Hurricane Emily
Cincinnati Freedom Summer Charrette held
Siyathemba - Youth Sports Facility and HIV/AIDS Outreach Center competition held

2005
Main Office moves to Bozeman, Montana
Responded to South Asia Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina
Design Like You Give A Damn published, top-selling design book
Organization awarded the INDEX Design for Life Award for Siyathemba
Three full-time members of staff, four part-time volunteers and three design fellows

2006
Main Office moves to Sausalito, California
Organization awarded the TED Prize and the Wired Rave Award for Architecture
Begins partnership with UN Habitat

2007
Main Office moves to San Francisco, California
Open Architecture Network (www.openarchitecturenetwork.org) launched, 10,000 members in its first year
AMD 2007 Open Architecture Challenge held
Organization awarded the AIANY Foundation Award
Biloxi Model Homes win multiple regional AIA Awards
One hundredth project completed

2008
Architecture for Humanity awarded prestigious National Design Patron Award from Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Six full-time members of staff, eight part-time volunteers and seventeen design fellows
Two hundred and fiftieth building begun

2009
Celebrates 10 years of 'Designing like we give a damn' with Anniversary party at Autodesk Design Center.
Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom competition. Over 1060 teams from 31 countries enter and Teton Valley School in Idaho wins.
Architecture for Humanity speaks at conferences in Canada, Thailand, Singapore, Qatar, London, Hong Kong and the United States. Kate speaks at Clinton Global Initiative and Cameron speaks at CLSA and Greenbuild. They win the Royal Society of Arts Bicentenary Medal in London and are invited to the White House for National Design Awards.
Begin projects in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Kenya, South Africa. Grand Opening of Skateistan in Kabul. Open Design Studios in Hyderabad, India and Cape Town, South Africa. Homeless World Cup in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Finish the Biloxi homes project.

2010
Launches Chapter Network, grows affiliates to 70 chapters in 25 countries.
Hosts Design Like You Give a Damn: Live!, and inaugural chapter forum.
Tsunami reconstruction project short-listed for the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Organizational Background

Architecture for Humanity is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1999 to promote architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises. Through design/build projects, competitions, workshops, educational forums, partnerships with aid organizations and other activities, Architecture for Humanity creates opportunities for architects and designers from around the world to help communities in need. We believe that where resources and expertise are scarce, innovative, sustainable and collaborative design can make a difference.

The organization began with an international design competition to build five to ten year transitional housing for refugees returning to Kosovo. Called simply, “Architecture for Humanity,” the competition resulted in five built prototypes and helped raise more than $100,000 for our fiscal partner, War Child USA. War Child used the funds to build schools, health clinics and housing for families in war-torn areas. In addition the top 40 designs from the competition circulated in a number of traveling exhibitions, including a number that were included in the Venice Biennial. Coupled with media exposure this helped to make both relief organizations and the design industry more aware of the role that architecture can play in helping to improve lives in communities devastated by war, natural disaster or severe poverty.

After a number of years looking at health related issues in Southern Africa, Architecture for Humanity launched a second design competition in early 2002. This time to develop mobile health clinics to help treat those affected by the AIDS pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. This competition garnered over 500 entries from 53 countries. Once again the competition generated significant interest both within and outside the design community.

At this time, thanks to our awesome pro bono lawyer Steve Meier, the organization registered as a not for profit corporation in the state of New York, allowing us to better direct contributions we had received from fees and other donations as a result of the competition. Architecture for Humanity was officially incorporated in January 2002 and received its 501(c)(3) not for profit status in June 2003.

These first funds enabled us to hold a design charrette for the four competition finalists at the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, one of the areas hardest hit by the disease. The teams worked with potential clients, funders and other partners to refine their designs. As a result of this charrette, prototypes by KHR A/S and Gilliland Tolila design were built in 2003. Separately, another design team partnered with a medical team to fund and build a working prototype of their scheme, which is still in use in Lagos, Nigeria.

Interestingly, the charrette also resulted in a partnership with the Africa Centre to develop and build a youth football/soccer “clinic.” Called, “Siyathemba” which means “Hope” in Zulu, the project resulted from the desire of a group of local nurses to reach out to girls age 9-13 by coaching a soccer league for women. The facility will serve as a soccer club and changing room and also as a formal and informal health education center and gathering space.

As the organization steadily grew, volunteers joined together to form local groups around the world. Then in late 2003 an earthquake devastated Bam, Iran. Through the network of architects and volunteers we had developed as a result of our past projects, we were able to team Relief International with local and visiting architects who helped them adapt an existing design to create affordable and seismically safe housing in the aftermath of the earthquake. We also worked with designers to bring innovative, sustainable and cost-effective temporary shelter to Grenada after Hurricane Ivan and Emily.

The South Asia Tsunami of 2004 represented the third major disaster relief initiative we were involved in. Starting less than a week after the disaster, we partnered with a group of local based architects, including Pradeep Kodikara, Varuna de Silva, Sanath Liyanage and Samir Shah, to design basic housing and infrastructure. These efforts resulted in an urban plan and housing designs for Kirinda, Sri Lanka, one of the area’s worst affected by the disaster as well as affordable housing designs for surrounding communities.

Thanks to websites and blogs we began to raise enough funding to expand our operations to Eastern Sri Lanka and in South East India. Over the course of the following three years we implemented dozens of community and civic structures. We supported a number of innovative housing schemes that have since been replicated hundreds of times by both trained and untrained construction crews in the field.

And now...

Today, we are proud to say we have become a resource for community groups and aid agencies in search of professional design services, local architects—and the most critical element, construction funding. The network that began with a simple competition now includes thousands of architects, designers and others. We remain a network of design and construction professionals committed to providing professional design services where they are needed most.