Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was draw houses, castles, haunted houses, plans for forts, tunnels, etc. Graph paper was a major revelation to me so I could figure out exactly how large to make the secret rooms in my dreamhouse. Designing spaces was a great escape from a rainy afternoon, or assigned homework. In Junior High, I got to take a class that included drafting and some general residential construction (we did architectural models and also built half-size corners of a home, including electrical, HVAC ducts, plumbing, drywall, exterior siding, sub roof, and shingle roofing–such a cool class) and I was sure I wanted to be an architect, just like Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.
Like a lot of things I wanted to be (astronaut, zookeeper, cowboy), it wasn’t to be, but I sure do still respond to architecture and design in a huge way. Architecture for Humanity is a non-profit design services organization dedicated to building a more sustainable future through the power of professional design. More than 40,000 professionals have, over the last decade-plus (they started in 1999), given their time and expertise to bring development to the areas where it is most critically needed. Here is a list of current, inspiring projects, from earthquake reconstruction in Haiti, Navajo Elder strawbale construction in the Navajo Nation, and an orphanage in India to schools, academies, and community centers in several African and Latin American cities. US projects are also active, and the training they do of the local communities where the projects are based can positively influence community development for years to come, long after a ribbon across a new front door is cut.
From the AFH website:
Thoughtful, inclusive design creates lasting change in communities by:
• Alleviating poverty and providing access to water, sanitation, power and essential services
• Bringing safe shelter to communities prone to disaster and displaced populations
• Rebuilding community and creating neutral spaces for dialogue in post-conflict areas
• Mitigating the effects of rapid urbanization in unplanned settlements
• Creating spaces to meet the needs of those with disabilities and other at-risk populations
• Reducing the footprint of the built environment and addressing climate change
Architecture for Humanity is a catalyst for innovation. We learn by doing. We know the value of sharing success stories and lessons learned—our own as well as those of others. To foster knowledge sharing and promote best practices, we developed the Open Architecture Network (www.openarchitecturenetwork.org). This groundbreaking on-line network empowers architects, designers, builders and their clients to share architectural plans and drawings—including CAD files. All plans are shared through an open-source model and can be freely downloaded by all.
If you are a design professional looking for a volunteer opportunity, get involved here.