Design Like You Give A Damn: A Review


War in Kosovo. Aids in Africa. Earthquakes in Bam. Then, in quick succession, tsunamis in Asia, earthquakes in Pakistan and hurricanes in America. Now this past weekend, yet another tragedy in Indonesia. It is a wonder that Cameron Sinclair can stand up, let alone keep fighting with bureaucracies, prima donna architects, death and homelessness. Yet he remains positive-"by supporting innovative design, consulting with NGO's, and connecting professionals with projects in the field, we're creating opportunities for designers to get involved and to bring their services to those in need. For every celebrity architect there are hundreds of designers around the world, working under the ideal that it is not how we build but what we build that truly matters". Design like you give a Damn is truly an important work- its lesson is that architecture and design are not about being on the cover of last week's New York Times Magazine but about making a difference in people's lives. Margaret Visser once defined a professional as someone who you trusted with something that you did not understand- the doctor with your health, the lawyer with your freedom, the clergyman with your soul. Cameron Sinclair has given architecture a purpose and a reason to be called a profession- we are to be trusted to give shelter.

In Chapter One, Cameron outlines the founding of Architecture for Humanity, when he was a CAD monkey in a big New York firm. It started as a response to the conflict in Kosovo, in four square feet of his cubicle. He ran a competition for refugee housing and 220 architects responded, and he learned that there were lots of CAD monkeys who wanted to make a difference. By 2003 his footprint is 203 square feet and they are running competitions for Africa and getting 1400 entries. Then the disasters came thick and fast- Bam. Tsunami. Pakistan. New Orleans. The footprint is up to 1000 SF and the goals have evolved, to trying to create "an open-source network of innovative solutions".

Chapter two, by co-founder and partner Kate Stohr, covers the one hundred year history of humanitarian housing since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, taking in all the failures and successes of architects around the world. It is a depressing litany of missed opportunities and great ideas gone awry, but uplifted by remarkable quotes, our favourite being Samuel Mockbee's: "Everybody wants the same thing, rich or poor...not only a warm, dry room , but a shelter for the soul."

The rest of the book shows examples, many which we have covered in TreeHugger. They demonstrate ingenuity and cleverness about doing more with less, and efficiently living with less, and should be looked at as models for us all, for we keep thinking that "It can't happen here" but as we have learned from San Francisco and New Orleans, it can and it will. ::Design Like You Give a Damn and when you are thinking about donations, think about ::Architecture for Humanity I do. ::Design like you give a Damn

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