“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Source of quoted text:
Humanitarian architecture typically means “architecture for humanity” and has its fundamental role to find solutions to basic community needs. The domain ranges from designing temporary disaster relief structures to finding long term solutions for disadvantaged communities who fail to have access to adequate shelter or education. The field demands quick problem-solving skills and innovative utilization of locally-available materials and skills. Bottom-up approaches are adopted, not just to create architecture rooted in its context, but also to provide much-needed employment to communities during its construction.
With the vast socio-economic polarisations in our modern-day cities and the uninhabitable situation of rural areas facing a constant threat of natural disasters such as floods and tsunamis, it is essential for the modern-day architect, deeply involved in the aesthetics of grand designs, to get back to the grassroots of this field.
Here’s a list of the top organizations working on Humanitarian Architecture, in no particular order.
1. Architecture Sans Frontieres
Architecture without Frontiers is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to enable vulnerable communities’ access to architectural services, research, and educational resources. The international organization brings together socially-conscious architects from all around the world, including countries like India, Benin, and the Congo to find solutions to various issues related to architecture.
The organization also aims to interface with other global organizations (like UN-Habitat) and events (like World Urban Forum) on behalf of the ASF-International community.
2. Shelter Global
Shelter Global is an interdisciplinary not-for-profit with an aim to improve global living conditions through architecture and construction. The organization focuses on providing safe and clean-living conditions for all and spreads awareness on the effects of inadequate shelter on one’s health, safety, and prosperity.
They conduct an annual architectural competition named “DENCITY” which focuses on the shift from rural to urban environments, which are leading to the formation of informal settlements and slums. The brief asks for a solution to empower the people living in these settlements through cooperation and awareness.
3. ARCHIVE Global
Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments (ARCHIVE) Global is an organization which uses housing design as a key strategy to improve health and combat disease in vulnerable communities around the world. Their methods are simple yet innovative and cost-effective and aim to improve the health outcomes of their beneficiaries.
4. Habitat for Humanity
Founded in 1976 with a vision to provide everyone a decent inhabitable place to live, Habitat for Humanity is a global not-for-profit organization working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S.A. in approximately 70 countries. The organization works towards its vision by building self-reliance in partnership with the families in need of decent and affordable housing.
5. Building Trust International
Founded in 2010, Building Trust is a not-for-profit organization which believes that design at its core is about developing skills for problem-solving and creating better solutions. The organization works with communities, local charities, key individuals, and companies to deliver holistic and sustainable solutions to create a positive impact on people, wildlife, and the planet.
6. Article 25
Based in London, Article 25 is an organization that uses design to ameliorate health, livelihood, and resilience to disasters. Named after the Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to adequate and dignified shelter, their vision is of a world where all communities have access to improved housing conditions.
Having worked on more than 90 projects in 34 countries makes the organization the most far-reaching architectural NGO in the world.
7. Hug it Forward
Operating in the region of Latin America, with an emphasis in Guatemala, Hug It Forward is a multicultural organization facilitating education and awareness around improved trash management methods via the construction of bottle classrooms.
The project involves constructing bottle classrooms using eco-bricks, which are plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. During the project process, entire communities unite to build a more environmentally responsible educational space for their future. The organization visualizes a world in which all children have the opportunity to get an education and create a better life for themselves and their families.
Founded in 1994, SEEDS aims to build the resilience of people exposed to disasters through practical solutions for disaster readiness, response, and rehabilitation. The organization focuses on disaster survivors and marginalized communities and provides them with adequate shelters, clean water, sanitation, and health facilities. For the last 26 years, SEEDS has reached families across India and Nepal and has achieved its goals by blending modern techniques with tradition.
9. Architects For Peace
Architects for Peace is a not for profit incorporated professional organization with an aim to provide an alternative forum for debating political, environmental, and social issues in the professional urban context.
All activities curated by Architects for Peace, including the official website and annual conferences, are organized, implemented, created, and maintained by its volunteers. One of Architects for Peace’s most crucial aims is to facilitate dialogue among professionals from all regions of the world.
10. Shigeru Ban
The founder of the Voluntary Architects Network and 2014 Pritzker Laureate, Shigeru Ban, is well known for his innovative use of construction materials. For the past three decades, he has started to apply his extensive knowledge of recyclable materials, particularly paper and cardboard, to constructing high-quality, low-cost shelters for victims of disaster across the world. His work ranges from the Paper Log Houses in Japan and India, to the paper emergency shelters in Rwanda.