“When architects go to a disaster site they see hope and opportunity,” said Cameron Sinclair, founder of Architecture for Humanity (AFH) and an AIA Convention keynote speaker. With 60 local chapters and more than 6,000 volunteers, Sinclair noted that AFH could be considered the world’s largest architecture firm. And, with its extensive list of projects, ranging from small installations to large-scale master planning, it is one of the most prolific firms building – and re-building – communities internationally.
“When you are given an opportunity to help communities, you have the obligation to build.” AFH accomplishes this by both embedding architects and construction managers within communities where they are building, as well as by supporting local building techniques and construction trades. By partnering with locally licensed professionals, Sinclair believes that AFH is able to uphold best practices for each project while providing much-needed employment within these communities.
The value of architecture lies in creating safe, resilient, sustainable, and healthy spaces, according to Sinclair. Recent projects completed by AFH include Khayelitsha, in Cape Town, South Africa. Partnering with ARG Design, VPUU Planning, and local artists, AFH inserted “urban acupuncture” projects in some of the town’s most dangerous sites. “Violence prevention through urban upgrading,” said Sinclair, has led to a 200% increase in perceived safety since the project was completed.
In presenting some of AFH’s disaster relief efforts after the tsunami in Japan, Hurricane Sandy, and the tornados in Moore, OK, Sinclair emphasized that “it’s not about being the first responder; it’s about being the last responder.”
He revealed that it takes AFH eight months to start a project after a disaster: four days to alert the community of its intentions; four months to raise 80% of the funding; and four months to set up a design studio. But the real challenge and biggest reward, he said, is seeing the project through to final completion.
Sinclair noted that architects universally enter the profession because they care. “We have the power to transform communities,” and for that reason we must both value and support ourselves and our colleagues, as well as help the public understand how we can serve them with tangible projects that are accessible to all.
Jessica Sheridan, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is a project manager at Gensler, and the AIANY Associate Director.
Event: 2013 AIA Convention: Keynote #2: Design Like You Give a Damn
Location: Colorado Convention Center, Denver, 06.21.13
Speaker: Cameron Sinclair, Founder, Architecture for Humanity