Below is a list of 15 architects doing revolutionary work in rural areas through a socially engaging design process and adopting various approaches towards humane architecture.

The list is ordered alphabetically-

1. ABVM

ABVM is an architecture practice based in Milan and Zurich focused on social and sustainable architecture. Architect Bonaventura Visconti di Modrone strongly believes that properly designed spaces in complex settings can have great positive impacts on people’s lives and the local communities. The firm helps institutions and NGOs to reach their purpose by creating inspiring architecture by working with the local workforce, suppliers, and materials. His intervention in Anse-à-Pitres, a small village in the south of Haiti has received lots of praise that has provided housing for 30 homeless street kids.

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2. Active Social Architecture

Active Social Architecture is a young practice based in Rwanda established by European architects and scholars that believe in committing to the social value of architecture. The client organizations for their projects include local and international NGOs, social enterprises, UN agencies focused on both local and global communities. Their significant contribution to the innovative and socially responsible solutions towards communities reinforces the idea that architecture is a right of everyone.

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3. Anna Heringer

Anna Herringer, an architect based in Germany has garnered critical praise for her project METI Handmade School in Bangladesh that has won several awards including the Aga Khan Award. She believes architecture is a tool to improve lives and shares a vision for strengthening local communities and their confidence by supporting their economies and thus creating sustainable built environments. Her works in Bangladesh have empowered the communities in believing themselves, their culture, and regained confidence in their traditional wisdom.

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4. CAUKIN Studio

CAUKIN Studio, founded in 2015 believes in the idea that everybody should have access to better designed and built spaces. It engages local people in its design process. It aims at creating socially and environmentally responsible spaces.

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5. Dharmalaya Institute

Dharmalaya is an Indian charitable organization established by a team of educators, artists and environmentalists insearch of solutions,concerning with the rapid  development. The institute focuses on sustainable village development and preservation as well as the adaptation of traditional wisdom. It has been able to support the local community by creating jobs and employing villagers to become skilled craftsmen in sustainable vernacular building practices. The institute is known for its community-building projects as well.

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6. Ensamble de Arquitectura Integral

Ensamble AI is a practice based in Colombia that is lauded for its social housing project design that imagines a new and better housing alternative that fulfills the requirements of the rural population. The firm also contributes to overcoming social inequality through its design and approach.

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7. Hunnarshala Foundation

Hunnarshala Foundation is a collective of professionals, artisans, and craftsmen that was established in 2003 in Bhuj, India as an organization working at the grassroots level. It works on three themes which include empowering local people to shape their habitats, create sustainable and resilient habitats, and tap the potential of local artisanal knowledge and skills. Kaarigarshala is an initiative by Hunnarshala that is a resident artisan school training local to set up their enterprises in carpentry and walling systems. Hunnarshala engages in an inclusive process of design and contributory planning with a central theme of human resource as the source of all building activities.

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8. Kere Architecture

Francis Kere founded Kere Architecture in 2005 and soon with the first project it received global recognition and the prestigious Aga Khan Award. His first project was in his native Gando, where he collaborated with the residents, raised the funds and designed a school that became the catalyst for socially empowering designs. His communal approach to design and zeal for sustainable architecture distinguishes him from the other contemporary architects.

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9. Laurie Baker

Laurie Baker moved to Trivandrum in 1969 and established COSTFORD (Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development), an organization to promote low-cost housing. His ideas had always been of providing shelter for the homeless. Laurie Baker is considered as one of the few architects who had a real understanding of the needs of the rural poor and has extensively worked towards improving their living conditions by providing indigenous, sustainable, and low-cost solutions. He has served as a consultant for HUDCO and several states and central housing committees. He is known as the “Gandhi of architecture” not just for his honest and simple designs but due to his social and humanitarian efforts to bring architecture and design to the common man. The Laurie Baker Centre conducts research and development on the principles of Laurie Baker and engages in capacity building initiatives with private and government sectors.

 

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10. MASS Design Group

MASS Design Group is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 at Boston, focuses on “Thinking beyond the building”. They extensively work in developing countries like in Africa and aim to create sustainable, impactful, resilient, regenerative, and long-term solutions involving the community beyond the building process. The rural Impact Lab is an initiative by the firm to address Montana’s rural communities through design-driven processes of research and training. MASS’s mission has been to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity.

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11. NIVASA

NIVASA is an architectural and engineering non-profit organization based in India that enables humane and dignified housing conditions for the poor through informed design. They share a vision for a habitable home for every Indian. A participatory design approach is adopted for designing shelters where the home-owners are involved in the decision-making process and the product. They extensively work with NGOs, collaborate with the government, engage the architectural and engineering communities for research and development of alternative methods, materials, and techniques to achieve low-cost effective solutions.

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12. Rizvi Hassan

Rizvi Hassan is a Bangladesh based architect who has collaborated with the UN, BRAC, and the charity of UNICEF to design and build socially engaging spaces. He has designed an integrated community center for the Hindupara community, a minority group amongst the Rohingya refugees, and a center that is a safe space for Rohingya refugee women. His works have had a deep impact on the lives of the refugees and have gained worldwide recognition.

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13. Rural-Urban Framework (RUF)

Rural-Urban Framework is a research and design collaborative at the University of Hong Kong conducting as a non-profit organization that has received lots of international accolades. Their objective is to engage in the rural-urban transformation of China and Mongolia. They are engaged in designing schools, community centers, hospitals, village houses, and providing designing services to NGOs. They work at the cross-section of social, economic, and political processes and thus can physically transform each village.

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14. Social Design Collaborative

Founded in 2017, Social Design Collaborative is a community-driven practice based in India that believes in an interdisciplinary approach for design. It aims at providing access to design to all through collaboration with community-based organizations, social works, and government organizations to understand the needs of all the stakeholders involved. Their project ModSkool received a lot of praise which is a modular anti-eviction school for farming communities in Delhi that can be quickly dismantled if the settlement is demolished.

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15. Social Practise Architecture

SoPA is a social enterprise based between France and Germany and founded by Patricia Báscones and Lara Briz who believes in architecture as a tool to improve life and society. They fuse the traditional vernacular learnings with modern practices creating unique and engaging work. The firm develops its work with a special sensibility to people, context, and local resources.

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Author

Aayushi Sanghvi, a young architect who extensively believes in the potential of research to make informed design decisions. She considers intellectual design dialogues as the stepping stones towards cognisant architecture. She is flexible, quick learner and an avid traveller; learning about new culture, people, spaces and expanding her horizon every-day.

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