The Humanitarian Side of Architecture

For today’s post, we decided to look at the not-as-glamorous, yet life-saving architectural projects, which are a result of enormous hearts and untamed imagination – architecture for charity and social projects. While the world of architectural design is a source of unlimited inspiration and opportunities, it also serves a very basic goal – to make a home one can call his own. Therefore, we’d like to share with our readers three examples of both individuals and organizations using architecture to help those in need.

The story of Elvis Summers

Elvis Summers is a regular LA resident. He is not a billionaire, far from it! He is not a celebrity either. He is someone who saw a homeless woman in desperate need of help and could not just keep on walking. So he went to a hardware store and bought materials to build her a tiny home. It took him five days to complete the project. Having documented the process, Elvis uploaded a video, which had gone viral. Before he knew it, what started as a good deed, turned into a movement. Other homeless people started approaching Elvis asking him to build them a tiny house on wheels. “Once again it was pretty clear – these people aren’t the stereotype homeless that are just drug addicts and don’t care. They care deeply and don’t want to be there. They want help,” shared Elvis in one of the interviews.Elvis homeless projectHis viral campaign caught the attention of many, including a local church that offered 10,000 square feet of space for homeless people to “park” their homes. Elvis Summers has set up a crowdfunding campaign to further support and expand his movement. You will find it here. His architectural designs are simple. There is no glamour, no intricate details of decor. Yet, they give those in need a tiny bit of space to call their own, making them a masterpiece of architecture.

The Story of the ‘Make It Right’ Foundation

When hurricane Katrina hit Eastern North America in 2005, the devastation it brought was immeasurable. 80% of New Orleans was flooded, making it the largest residential disaster in U.S. history. Over a million housing units were damaged. In New Orleans alone, 134,000 housing units (70% of all occupied units), suffered damage from the hurricane and the subsequent flooding. It was this dark moment in history that gave birth to the Make It Right organization. Founded by Brad Pitt in 2007, the foundation builds homes for people in need.Make It Right homes
In New Orleans Make It Right has built 109 ecofriendly homes, giving hundreds of families hope and a renewed sense of safety.

Over the last decade, the foundation has expanded its activities and now, in addition to New Orleans, works in Newark, Kansas City and Fort Peck.

The Story of Alejandro Aravena

Alejandro Aravena is a Chilean architect, who first grabbed international attention in 2004, when he and his team set a goal of redefining the economics of social housing. Their task was to build housing for 100 families, who were squatting illegally, on a budget of $7,500 per family. If you are an architect or if you ever built a house, you know that this is an impossible task. “If there wasn’t the money to build everyone a good house, we thought: why not build everyone half a good house – and let them finish the rest themselves,” explained Alejandro in an interview with The Guardian. His designs provided a roof and a basic concrete frame with such additional structures as kitchens and bathrooms. While creating only a half-complete house, it allowed the team to finish the project on the budget. Families slowly filled the space with furniture and other essentials, however, their basic need of having a roof over their heads had already made a huge difference. By now these properties are valued at five times what they were 12 years ago. The model proved to be so efficient that it was rolled our in other cities.

Example of Aravena's low-cost social housing architecture
Example of Aravena’s low-cost social housing architecture

Check out Alejandro Aravena’s TED talk on the subject:

Architecture holds tremendous power to change people’s lives. Whether you are an accomplished architect, a celebrity or a regular person without any architectural background, you can make a world of difference.

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