The founders of one of the world’s most recognised community design organisations have resigned after 14 years.
Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr, who co-founded Architecture for Humanity in 1999, have decided to step down from their director roles to pursue personal projects and allow the organisation to advance in new directions.
Sinclair, an architectural designer, and Stohr, a journalist and TV/website producer, began the not-for-profit organisation from a collective vision to support refugees from the 1999 war in Kosovo who were returning home to find their homes in rubble.
The duo then collaborated launching a worldwide competition to reach out to industry professionals who could provide “transitional shelter” for returning refugees with this project marking the official beginning of Architecture For Humanity.
The organisation describes design as the “ultimate renewable resource” and to date, Architecture for Humanity has responded to 15 natural and mad-made disasters and completed over 300 projects thanks to a global design network of over 75,000 architects, professionals, locals and volunteers.
The organisation is committed to building holistic communities through design that moves beyond providing a “roof over head.” It aims to create buildings and spaces that provide resilient, public structures with sanitation and storm water features in disadvantaged areas while also responding to help rebuild areas hit by disasters.
Architecture for Humanity has also grown to 52 chapters in 13 countries and boasts more than 6,740 volunteers. It is estimated that each year 100,000 people benefit from their architectural design and construction services.
“It’s great to see something you started evolve into an institution,” Stohr said in a statement. “We are excited about the future of the organisation and plan to continue lending support in whatever ways we can.”
While Stohr left the board in September, Sinclair will remain an active director until April next year, which marks the organisation’s 15th year anniversary.
The firm’s mantra – and also the title of its first book, Design like you give a damn – has directed an abundance of credible and life-changing projects, including schools in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, a partnership with FIFA to develop local football fields across Africa and social housing and cultural projects across the globe.
In 2011, Architecture for Humanity responded to the coastal town of Maeami-hama, where an existing community centre was destroyed and only five houses out of 40 survived following the 2011 tsunami.
Due to frustration over slow government response, Architecture for Humanity worked with Kobayashi-Maki design and local fishermen to rebuild the Maeami-hama Community House on higher land, away from areas prone to flooding. They also opted for natural local materials for the structure instead of using concrete including the interiors clad with plywood exuding a warm architectural space for collaborating.
Architecture for Humanity also works with FIFA regularly and has developed 11 football “Hope Centres” to date in countries such as Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa.
The Kimisagara Football for Hope Centre in Rwanda was named one of the best non-profit projects in 2012 and received an honourable mention at the 2011 SEED awards, which recognise extraordinary design projects in areas related to socially empowering design.
Football in Rwanda, as with many countries that have faced war and conflict, is described a tool for reconciliation, an opportunity to facilitate life skills training and provide education for the youth.
With this in mind, the organisation built a centre with sustainability at its heart. Rainwater is collected through the substantial roof (described as the centre’s fifth façade) and filtered to produce drinking water, while the football pitch water is used for flushing toilets, washing clothes and irrigation.
Local stone materials were prioritised over concrete, and the pitch is lit with solar-powered light. The firm also used the landscape and existing earth elements to create seating and areas to view the games.
According to FIFA, the centre will serve as a long-term venue and directly serve between 100 and 2,000 community members a week and will reach more than 30,000 other members of the wider community each year.
Architecture for Humanity also demonstrated that they support all communites with the completion of a skate park beneath the Manhattan Bridge in New York City last year.
A Nike Gamechangers grant enabled the organisation and local affiliates to transform the neglected public space into a new park that saw a new concrete slab installed, new obstacles for participants across a range of ages and skilled levels, while multi-function landscape elements such as skate-able furniture will encourage passive participation of non-skaters or visitors to the park.
Recently, Architecture for Humanity responded to the devastation in the Phillipines following Typhoon Haiyan, where its reported that over 700,000 people have been left homeless and over 250 towns and cities have been affected.
“We are currently in touch with local architects and partners within our network, who are helping us to identity the most critical rebuilding needs – both in the short and long term,” said Eric Cesal, director of the organisation’s Reconstruction and Resiliency Studio, in speaking of work in the Philippines. “As we identify these needs, we will work with communities to build back better. Early support will allow us to begin working with communities immediately and empower local architects to drive recovery locally. ”
The organisation is working on 37 other projects around the world, according to its website.
A week before their official departure, Sinclar and Stohr were awarded the Curry Stone design prize as a 2013 Vision Award Winner. They also worked with Architecture for Humanity’s board of directors, staff and chapter members to develop a five-year strategic vision that will leverage off the organisation’s 15 years of expertise to further develop projects and identify vital projects around the world, including a goal to raise $1.5 million dollars by Architecture for Humanity’s 15th anniversary to support new and existing projects.