Architecture for Humanity
Cameron Sinclair was 23 when he founded Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit charity that puts architects and designers to work on disaster relief.
In the seven years it has been around, Architecture for Humanity has responded to hurricanes Ivan, Emily, and Katrina; reconstruction in India, Sri Lanka after the tsunami, cleared mines and built playgrounds in the Balkans; and designed refugee housing in Afghanistan.
Through all of this, Sinclair's message to the design committee has been simple: "Design like you give a damn." He says he has learned a lot since he set out to build homes for refugees in Kosovo.
"This was the first project that we tackled, back in 1999, and we looked at the idea that while many NGOs, non-govermental organizations, were looking at refugees as they were streaming out of the country, we really thought about what happens once they return."
"What we had come up with was a design competition where you would develop a sustainable, transistional shelter that would last 5-10 years, that a family would have on their existing plot of land, and they would live there whilst they rebuilt their own home.
"So, this wasn't about giving replacement housing; this was giving a family the opportunity to rebuild their homes. This idea came directly from the refugees who said, 'Listen, I know how to build; my family has been building for generations. I don't want some tent -- I want to be able to have the opportunity.'"
Sinclair speaks of the "Google effect" that now happens to his company when disaster strikes. When people go to the web to search for 'humanitarian design' or 'disaster and architecture' Architecture for Humanity is one of the top results. As a result, he has taken phone calls while even at the grocer from cabinet ministers of countries recently devastated.
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