Architecture for Humanity

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Architecture for Humanity
Type Non-profit organization
Industry Architecture, International Development, Non Profit
Founded 1999
Headquarters San Francisco, CA
Key people Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr, Co-Founders
Revenue $5,934,202 USD (2010)[1]
Employees 65 (2012)

Architecture for Humanity is a charitable organization that seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crises and brings professional design services to communities in need. They believe that where resources and expertise are scarce, innovative, sustainable and collaborative design can make a difference.


The organization was founded on April 6, 1999 by Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr in response to the need for immediate long-term shelter for returning refugees in Kosovo after the region's bloody conflict. After hosting a series of open design competitions the organization then began taking on a number of built projects, pairing local communities with design professionals to develop a ground up alternative to development and reconstruction.

In 2005 they adopted an 'open source' model and were the first organization to utilize Creative Commons licensing system on a physical structure.[2] To date it has worked in twenty eight countries around the world and has completed over 245 projects. Collectively more than 700,000 people are living, teaching and working in buildings designed by Architecture for Humanity design fellows, chapter members and volunteer design professional.[citation needed]

The early history of the organization is chronicled in the book Design Like You Give A Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises.


Yodakandiya Community Complex, Sri Lanka. Completed 2007, the project has been shortlisted for the 2010 Aga Khan Award for Architecture

The organization provides pro-bono design and construction management services and funding for projects around the world. They are developing and building schools in West Africa and Haiti, developing long term rebuilding efforts in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis, and sports for social change facilities in Africa and South America. Past initiatives also include long term reconstruction in India and Sri Lanka following the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami, rebuilding initiatives in the United States after Hurricane Katrina as well as hosting a number of international design competitions.

Architecture for Humanity aims to promote humanitarian and social design through partnerships, advocacy and education based programs. To that end, they have consulted with government bodies and relief organizations on a number of projects, including landmine clearance programs and playground building in the Balkans; transitional housing for IDPs in Afghanistan, Sudan and Grenada; school building in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda; and earthquake reconstruction assistance in Pakistan, Turkey and Iran.

In 2006 the book, Design Like You Give A Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises, edited by the organization was released by Metropolis Books and Thames and Hudson. This publication offers a history of the movement toward socially conscious design and profiles over 80 projects that have impacted the lives of communities around the world. The book can be seen here: [1] The second volume, DLYGaD: Building Change from the Ground Up (published in 2012 by Abrams) can be seen here [2].

Finally, the organization seeks to foster public appreciation for the many ways that architecture and design can improve lives.

While Editor in Chief of Architectural Record, Robert Ivy wrote, "Architecture for Humanity represents the finest of the new breed of architectural leadership, employing architectural skills and directing them for the larger good." Ivy[3] now CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) also said "Committed, unapologetically architectural in name and mission, Architecture for Humanity stands up for people in need."


In 2005 Architecture for Humanity received the Index Award - Design to Improve Life (community category) and in 2006 was awarded the Rave Award for Architecture by Wired Magazine and the Innovation of the Year as part of the Observer Newspapers' Ethical Awards. In March 2006 its co-founder Cameron Sinclair was awarded the 2006 TED Prize which awards its recipients 'One wish to change the world'. Most recently the organization has been made the recipient of the 2007 Center for Architecture Foundation Award, a 2007 Travel + Leisure Global Vision Award in innovation.

In May 2008, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum announced Architecture for Humanity had won the Design Patron Award highlighting the firm's commitment to improving communities by providing pro bono, sustainable design services.[4]

In June 2008 the organization was profiled on Frontline/World as part of their series of Stories From A Small Planet.[5] That year co-founder Cameron Sinclair was profiled as one of CNNs Principal Voices and on the series Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel.

Open source architecture[edit]

As a result of the TED Prize the organization worked with Sun Microsystems and Creative Commons to develop the Open Architecture Network, the first open source system for supporting sustainable and humanitarian design and architecture. This network includes project management, file sharing, a resource database and online collaborative design tools. A beta version of the site launched on March 8, 2007 at the 2007 TED Conference. It has garnered over 27,000 members and 5,000 projects In late 2010 they created a version of the network as a mobile application that is showcased in the Museum of Modern Art.

International design competitions[edit]

For the past ten years Architecture for Humanity has hosted a series of open international design competitions focused on systemic issues of poverty. These have included including Siyathemba youth sports and outreach facility; Outreach - Design Ideas for Mobile Health Clinic to Combat HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa; and Transitional Housing for Kosovo's Returning Refugees.

In 2007 the organization began hosting its competitions on the Open Architecture Network and every two years hosts its premier design competition, The Open Architecture Challenge. That year the inaugural competition, the AMD Open Architecture Challenge, sought ideas to develop innovative off the grid technology centers. Clients include a chocolate co-operative in Ecuador, a youth center in Kenya and a medical organization in Nepal. The competition culminated in the construction of a youth community and resource center in Nairobi, Kenya.

The 2009 Open Architecture Challenge was launched on January 29 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. With support of more than two dozen organizations it invited architects and designers to partner with schools to design cost effective and sustainable classrooms. An international jury convened in July at the 2009 Aspen Ideas festival and selected eight finalists from the tens of thousands of entries from more than 65 countries.


Architecture for Humanity has 58 chapters in 16 countries around the world.[6] These chapters work as local affiliates of the parent organization and whose work is mainly regional in scope. Recently these local entities have also garnered recognition for their work with Architecture for Humanity New York noted as New Yorkers of the Week by cable news network NY1.


External links[edit]