“Not so Green” Editorial Comment: Architecture for Humanity Shuts Down

Judhajit Chakraborty, Assoc. AIA

Judhajit Chakraborty, Assoc. AIA

The organization that comes to our minds after the Red Cross whenever or wherever there is a disaster has been shut down. The organization that has made architects and architecture proud with its relentless humanitarian and volunteering efforts in the world’s remotest of areas at the severest of times, has been shut down. Architecture for Humanity through which tens of thousands of calamity-struck people have regained their shelter, education thru new schools, healthcare thru medical centers in the most sustainable way, HAS BEEN SHUT DOWN.

The reason I am emphasizing “HAS BEEN SHUT DOWN” is because of funding. Humanity lost again, not to terrorists this time, but to capitalists. As Margie O’Driscoll, former executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects aptly said, “It is that humanitarian design isn’t considered a fundamental right. And that today, in San Francisco, it is easier to find funding for an app than to fund an organization which transforms lives in places most Americans don’t know exist.” So true and therein lies the travesty which we as architects and human beings have to rethink. Value of life’s basic needs have become cheaper than apps.

It is very saddening but in the same time, we should step back and cherish what Architecture for Humanity has achieved over the past sixteen years of their existence.

■ Post disaster design and construction management of schools, medical centers and houses after the earthquake in Haiti killing more than 200,000 people in 2010.

■ Post disaster design and construction management of schools, medical centers and houses after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 in India and Sri Lanka which again killed more than 200,000 people.

■ Post disaster design and construction management of shelters after Hurricane Katrina.

■ Countless shelter, school projects at War torn areas in Afghanistan, Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Grenada etc.

■ Earthquake reconstruction efforts in Pakistan, Turkey and Iran.

■ 2006 TED prize.

■ Development of Open Source Architecture platform, the first open source system for supporting sustainable and humanitarian design and architecture.

■ Blessings and good wishes of millions who have been benefited from their efforts.

But the legacy should continue. There lies a hope that if an organization which was started out of cell phone calls coordination by its founder Cameron Sinclair out of the Gensler office, and that became a revolution of its sorts, then similar organizations will arise and carry the baton forward. And that is exactly what the remaining 59 Architecture for Humanity volunteer chapters have vowed to – to continue their work – to “Design like you give a Damn!!”

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