Tucked away in a corner of the world where orcs, elves and sheep peacefully coexist (we assume), the Auckland, New Zealand, chapter has been since 2007 operating with a local, cultural focus - and an eye to global collaboration.
To close out I Love Architecture 2013, this week's feature comes straight from the source - read on for chapter member Bobby Shen's musings on global connectivity, despite geography, and Auckland Chapter's piece in the puzzle.
It's fitting that the last of the chapter features for the 'I Love Architecture' campaign has ended up here with the Auckland Chapter, tucked away in our corner of the world. Despite our size and relative isolation, New Zealand has always been pioneering: from Sir Edmund Hillary's conquest of Mt Everest to Kate Sheppard's efforts that led to New Zealand being the first country to introduce universal suffrage. To this day, we are reminded daily of their endeavours as they smile to us from our $5 and $10 notes.
I see the Auckland Chapter's involvement in the Architecture for Humanity network to be pioneering on the global scale. It is inspiring and humbling to work here with local communities, but it is also fascinating to see the different approaches of other chapters.
When traveling overseas, I met up with Katherine McNeil of the London Chapter and greatly admired their structure and projects. Connecting with someone else in roughly the same position was invaluable. It's something we should all keep in mind - the work of the chapters relies on volunteers and running an organisation is not a simple task. It is the people that bring the energy to the cause and the connectivity that makes AFH the catalyst that drives positive change all around the world.
Last month I attended some architecture conferences in Melbourne, Australia, as a 'guest tweeter' (such is the 21st century...). This included 'Transform: altering the future of architecture' that got to the heart of the issue around equity, equality and better work conditions in the architecture profession. One of the themes that arose was the world of architecture becoming a lot more diverse - there are many options for doing architecture and Architecture for Humanity, with its flexible structure around public interest design, is just one of the ways to innovate in the profession.
Some of the team at Round the Bays 2012, an Auckland fun run event.
Many of our chapter members travel widely and it shows in our global approach to design. At our monthly meetings, we always get travelers to share their experience with the other members. Piet Ubels has just returned from Nepal where he was an intern with UN Habitat. Another one of our members is in Paris doing research. Especially with the Internet, geographic boundaries aren't boundaries any longer, but we have to shift our mind-set into stepping across the oceans.
There may be some more chapters forming in Oceania too. In Melbourne, I met with some people who are very keen to create a chapter. How do we foster this energy that, originally 14 years ago, formed the core essence of Architecture for Humanity?
And with the established chapters, how can we become more connected and help each other out towards our common goals? I saw the inaugural “All Chapters” meeting that has just been (on June 23) to be a pivotal point in the way we interact with each other. I'm definitely looking forward to these regular (virtual) meetups - the more we converse with each other the better.
Bobby Shen is a Co-director of Architecture for Humanity Auckland and has been involved with Architecture for Humanity for more than six years. You can see the wide range of collaborations and community projects that AFH AKL is involved in on the Chapter Network.