Congratulations are due today to Architecture For Humanity and their Design Fellow Susi Platt whose Yodakandiya Project in Sri Lanka has been shortlisted for the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Cameron Sinclair, who briefly touched down on UK soil yesterday for a talk at the Royal Geographic Society, was on excitable form last night after news of the shortlisting was made public. Over drinks in a London local he explained why being shortlisted for the Aga Khan Award is so meaningful for AFH...Cameron Sinclair on the Aga Khan Award
"We're very excited about being shortlisted for this award. The Yodakandiya project really represents the ideals of the way we (AFH) work, so it's a huge honour. The Aga Khan Award isn't like other jury panels that are impressed by a building's ribbon cutting ceremony.They get deep into the project's values, they go on site, see how the project is running years after completion and review the process."
Photo by author: Cameron Sinclair, Barbara Stocking and Martin Bell on stage at the RGS
A Project Funded by School Kids
Cameron went on to say how fantastic it was that the Yodakandiya Community Complex on Sri Lanka's south coast had been highlighted, because it has such a great story behind it. 50% of the project, which comprises of a community centre, a library, a medical centre, and a preschool, was funded by donors under 18, which is an astonishing fact. School kids in Georgia raised funds through bake sales and hot chocolate stands for fellow school kids across the world in Sri Lanka.
Collaborative "no-ego" Community Building
Cameron is especially pleased that the Aga Khan jury appreciated Yodakandiya for its collaborative working process, (with UN Habitat and the Pinsara Federation of Community Development Councils and the local community) and the no-ego nature of the project, which make it stand out from more obviously media friendly starchitect buildings. "This is a community building and that's its strength", said Cameron.
In his talk, earlier in the evening, Cameron had emphasised the importance of AFH's long term work in the communities they are building in. "Understanding culture within a community is a matter of sustainability. Living with the culture for many months, in conversation and friendship, enables architects to embed cultural elements in the building design." This is what project architect Susi Platt was able to do when she took time out from her job with Richard Rogers to go and live and work in Sri Lanka, where she helped the local community to build the Yodakandiya complex after the devastation of the Tsunami in 2004
Photo by author: Cameron Sinclair's iPad presentation in the pub
Architecture For Humanity and Oxfam
The reason for Cameron Sinclair's fly by visit to London yesterday was an invitation to talk alongside Dame Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam, at the Royal Geographic Society. Cameron says after meeting Stocking at the World Economic Forum in Davos he welcomed another chance to speak on stage with her, on this occasion addressing responses to natural disasters as part of the 21st Century Challenges series.
Cameron thinks it's important to highlight the differing approaches of a very large NGO like Oxfam, which is the first to respond after a natural disaster with water and food aid, and a small NGO like AFH which operates, Cameron explains, as a last in last out responder. AFH works to a different time scale compared to other NGOs due to their role in planning long term reconstruction efforts.
Possibilities for Radical Collaboration
In an ideal world Cameron says, AFH and Oxfam would be able to collaborate to great effect, lending each other their very specific skill sets on the ground. He would also love to see some of Oxfam's enormously successful fundraising efforts being directed towards pioneering innovative disaster relief solutions. "If Oxfam were a corporation it would have an R+D department and we would be able to take innovation to scale much quicker. That's the type of work that architects are really good at."
But, as Cameron goes on to say, that kind of work is high risk and low return which is off putting to large NGOs like Oxfam who are under pressure to show their funders successful outcomes approximately 100% of the time, leaving little room for experimental work.
Photo by author: The Square plugged into Cameron Sinclair's iPad ready to take a donation
Exciting New Fundraising Gadget
One more thing that had Cameron Sinclair animated last night was the amazing new gadget he pulled out of his bag and plugged into his iPad. "This is 'The Square' he said beaming from ear to ear, "It enabled us to raise $15 000 dollars at a party in San Francisco the other week."
The Square, if you can make it out in the top left corner of the above photo, is a mobile payment system that plugs into your laptop, iPad or phone. This tiny plastic device allows NGO's like AFH swipe people's credit cards and collect donations on the run. We need to get some of these gadgets to those Georgia school kids at their bake sales!
AFH London Chapter Fundraiser for Haiti
For London architecture enthusiasts: the AFH London Chapter are holding their first fundraising event for Haiti reconstruction. They are screening Turk Pipkin's film One Peace at a Time which follows his two year journey across continents documenting inspirational aid projects in the developing world. The film is showing on June 4th at the Alan Baxter Gallery, 75 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6EL. 6.30-8.30 pm. Tickets are £7/5 concessions.
Aga Khan Award
Architecture For Humanity
Royal Geographic Society
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