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Profession shocked as Architecture for Humanity shuts

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The humanitarian organisation Architecture for Humanity has shut its doors but local chapters have vowed to carry on its work

Although there has been no formal announcement from the organisation, it is understood that the non-profit has laid off its staff and closed its San Francisco headquarters.

Eric Cesal, who took over as executive director in April 2014, submitted his resignation to the board in late December.

However the AJ has learned that Architecture for Humanity London, which was set up as an independent UK charity in 2005 and is a separate legal entity to the US body, will continue its operations.

Since launching 15 years ago, the organisation - which specialised in rebuilding areas hit by disaster – has spread its reach through more than 60 regional chapters across the world, including a network of more than 75,000 architects.

Back in November 2014, Architecture for Humanity announced it was ending its work in Haiti. It had set up offices in Port-au-Prince in March 2010 to help rebuild efforts after the 2010 earthquake and had completed around 50 projects in the area including homes, clinics and schools.

Its co-founders Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr left Architecture for Humanity in 2013 (AJ 09.09.13)

Sinclair, an architectural designer, and Stohr, a journalist and TV producer, set up the organisation in response to a need for refugee housing after the war in Kosovo.

Sinclair and Stohr said they were ‘deeply saddened’ by the news. In a statement (see below to read in full) they urged local chapters to continue the work.

‘We hope the profession will continue to design like it gives a damn – in whatever form that takes’, said the statement.

Speaking to the San Francisco press, Margie O’Driscoll, who had joined Architecture for Humanity as program director just weeks before it closed, said: ‘The travesty isn’t that the organisation went over budget serving communities around the world.It is that humanitarian design isn’t considered a fundamental right.

‘Today, in San Francisco, it is easier to find funding for an app than to fund an organisation which transforms lives in places most Americans don’t know exist.’

Architecture for Humanity has more than 50 local chapters which are staffed by volunteers and operate independently of the San Francisco HQ. These have vowed to continue the work of the charitable organisation.

The London chapter, which designed the Remakery workspace in Brixton, has said it will go on.

The New York chapter, which has been existence for more than 10 years, said: ‘The New York Chapter Board with careful consideration, decided that we will continue the original mission of Architecture for Humanity, and provide humanitarian design solutions in the city that we love.

‘We may not have the same name, or the same branding, but we will continue the work. Because, after all, it is about providing the benefits of good design to our local communities that is most important. With 60 projects under our belt, we plan to keep going.’

‘We are excited to hear that our fellow chapters around the world are looking to do the same.’

The news has left the profession shocked with many architects taking to twitter to voice their support for the organisation’s work.

Statement from co-founders Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr

Thank you for designing like you give a damn. 

We just heard the news that Architecture for Humanity*, the organization we started more than 15 years ago, has pivoted its mission and is planning to close. We are deeply saddened by this.

Our hearts are with the staff and chapter members who worked so hard to build a wonderful organization that did so much for communities around the world. We made so many wonderful friends and will continue personally to support your work.

We ran the organization and grew it from just a small circle of volunteers to an international organization with chapters in 25 countries. For more than 10 years, together we led the movement to bring social design where it is needed most. We built award-winning buildings, ran innovative programs, personally raised more than $5 million in annual funding, year in and year out, and established more than five community design centers that set the standard for rebuilding after disaster.

We hope the profession will continue to design like a give damn—in whatever form that takes… And we urge the chapters to continue their much needed work.

Thank you,
Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr
Co-founders, Architecture for Humanity



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Readers' comments (1)

  • Unfortunately, architecture for inhumanity is alive and well - but we must be very careful what we say about it.

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