Are you someone who is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives? If so, we might have a few tips for you that could help you contribute to charity in architecture. Architecture is a vast discipline that has an innate focus on the betterment of society. The failure of architecture in the modern age is when we deviate from this vital principle and focus on materialistic constructs like aesthetic, cost and revenue. These are significant but should not hold a value imperative to architecture for the greater good. When functionality and spatial psychology in design are paired with efficient costing and the right materials that’s when architecture achieves its dignified purpose. We are responsible for moulding the lives of the individuals that use these spaces. Nonetheless, as architects how can we use these skills to help the less fortunate live a more dignified life with environments that will shape them and propel them to a brighter future.

Architecture and Charity Go Hand-in-Hand

Ours is a profession that involves us taking time to think about people’s needs so as to develop a design that complements and improves lives. We are experts at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes to try and understand their viewpoints and empathy is one of our biggest assets. Our ability to empathize with people should be used for social causes that matter. We are responsible for shaping societies and the decisions we make can cause ripple effects that may last a lifetime.

Many Architects and architectural firms support non-profits or carry out philanthropic events to aid these charitable causes. Carrying out such events can be rewarding as it gives us a deeper satisfaction while helping these NGOs achieve their goals. It is way more rewarding than just funding the organization, it gives a deeper understanding of the cause we are contributing to and allows us to use our skills for a good cause. Such events can also give us insights that can help us understand people better. Architectural firms can strengthen their bond and teamwork by running these charity events. Another platform that architects use to help make a change is by creating architecture competitions that focus on these issues. This in turn motivates people to generate innovative solutions to steer these causes in the right direction.

Charity in architecture- what architects can do instead of donating money - Sheet1
Architect Bob Borson started a playhouse design competition to aid the Dallas CASA, an organization that helps neglected and abused children. These are the final designs built and displayed at the Dallas CASA Parade of playhouses in 2016; © The life of an architect

Humanitarian Architecture as a profession

If u aspire to be able to make an impact daily, humanitarian architecture is something you should look into. It deals with the fundamental age-old purpose of architecture to provide shelters. The shelter is a basic need for any living thing and social housing is a big part of the humanitarian architecture. With natural disasters, poverty and war happening around the world, many people don’t even have access to this basic right. There are many architects and firms that have dedicated their lives to achieve built environments that can enrich the lives of the less fortunate by providing them with safety, security and shelter. Finding a sustainable housing solution has been an ongoing project for generations with many great minds from Laurie Baker to Alejandro Aravena contributing to this noble cause. 

Humanitarian architecture involves working with local communities to find solutions to their ongoing problems. It is a great way to contribute to charity in architecture, however, it is not an easy task. You have to be mentally prepared for the struggles that this profession entails as you deal with real-world issues unlike any other. Contrasting to a corporate office you have to be ready to let go of your leadership role and be in the back front while locals voice their opinions and concerns. However, in the long run, this will prove to be something that is highly rewarding and gives meaning and a sense of purpose in life.

Villa Verde a social housing project by ELEMENTAL, the firm headed by architect Alejandro Aravena whose received the Pritzker prize in 2016; © Suyin Chia

Architectural Organisations in Charity

In a profession as collaborative as architecture, it is crucial to raise awareness, give back, and get involved with work dedicated to making positive change. Here are some architecture organizations that signify charity in architecture, where you can find opportunities to involve in.

1. ARCHIVE Global

Standing for Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments, ARCHIVE Global may be a non-profit organization that focuses on using housing design as a technique for combating disease around the world. It is a cross-disciplinary research platform for leading architects and academics within the fields of science, medicine and getting to collaborate on projects and share ideas on practical housing solutions and innovations.

2. Journeyman International

It is a web platform that connects volunteer architects, designers, engineers and project managers with humanitarian projects around the globe. They carefully pair projects and people, giving young professionals a chance to figure out inspiring projects that will shape them and their careers.

3. Building Trust International

A non-profit organization that tackles the problems of rapid urbanization and unsustainable construction, and the way this results in high levels of homelessness. They believe in the role of architecture and style in creating effective solutions which will have a positive impact on people, wildlife and therefore the planet.

4. Habitat for Humanity

Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity aims to make safe and affordable housing for all, recognizing that poor housing conditions contribute to the continued poverty cycle. they need to work in almost 1,400 communities across the US and 70 countries around the world, with a volunteer network that helps Habitat homeowners build their dwellings with a reasonable mortgage.

5. Shelter Global

Shelter Global aims to spread awareness about the shortage of adequate shelter throughout the planet and convey together architects, designers, engineers and educators to vary this. They organize an annual Density architectural competition to tackle this issue and uncover innovative solutions in providing safe and clean living conditions for everybody.

Reference List:

    • Suyin Chia. Villa Verde by ELEMENTAL [Photograph]. 
  • Bob Borson. CASA parade of playhouses in 2016 [Photograph]. The Life of an Architect
  • Johnson, Chad. “Humanitarian Architecture: The Top 21 Architects, Websites and Resources.” Build Abroad, 30 Dec. 2016, Accessed on 23 July 2021.
  • Chatel, Marie. “Playhouses for Charity: How One Architect’s Design Competition Raises Money for Neglected Children.” ArchDaily, 2 Sept. 2016, Accessed on 23 July 2021.
  • “Architecture and Charity Go Hand-In-Hand | Thought Leadership.” HMC Architects, 8 Apr. 2020, Accessed on 23 July 2021.

Mary is a final year B.Arch. student eager to find her place in the multiverse that is architecture. She believes that words have a hidden ability to inspire, providing an in-depth perception. Deeply passionate about preserving the natural world and its heritage, she also finds solace in penning down her thoughts, travelling and enjoys being cooped up with a good book.

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