Just thought I saw something like that in one of these boards, not sure which category… There was a designer on here that had a concept on designing low income houses that were stylish, modern, weather resistant and yet practical…
A few of us are thinking of putting something together to give back to the community.
We just don’t know who is the right person to contact even for funding, civil engineers? Planners? City Arhitects? Are there designers out there that are active in giving back to the community that we can contact or join?
I’d appreciate any links or HELPFUL suggestions as this is for a noble cause.
Thanks in advance to those who have some helpful insights.
Well, there’s Architecture for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity, if you’re looking to join something. There are occasional design competitions with humanitarian themes (you can find them at archinect.com and deathbyarchitecture.com). They for things like emergency housing, for example. I’m not sure if they’re purely conceptual, or if the winners get produced. As for funding, check out the NEA, AIA (national, or your local chapter), and other relevant professional organizations. Also, this is a funding database:
And, the Gunk Foundation is sort of civically-minded:
If you want this to be an ongoing thing for you, you could look into becoming a non-profit organization so that you can apply for the kinds of funds that aren’t available to individuals. The last few years, with government funding being limited (or cut off) for non-profit groups, it seems that more private funding sources are focusing on helping non-profits than individuals. That makes sense in these lean times, I guess.
Lastly, you could simply try a local, small-scale approach. For instance, you can contact the urban planning department in your city and see if there are any initiatives (city or private) already going on. They may also be able to point you toward local groups (an after-school program, for instance) that have specific needs that you can help with. It may be easier to start this way, and then try to get funding from local organizations (your city’s arts council, maybe) or local companies. This could be a way to build up your credibility before you apply for national grants.
Since you seem new to this kind of work, perhaps the best way to begin, as the poster noted before, is simply to find groups in your area and talk to them about what they need. It may surprise you, and it may not be exactly what you may have envisioned for them. For instance, they may have material needs that have to do with the limited resources they can devote to maintenance and upkeep, while you may be focused on simply a low-cost solution.
Recently, there was a design charette in NYC about redesigning the taxicab. All these high-profile designers were brought together to brainstorm, and I’m sure their “outsider” views were valuable but, as far as I know there were no taxidrivers present. WTF? Taxidrivers are experts in this, they’re the ones who woud have to practically live with the redesign. I find that attitude very egocentric. Sadly, I think it’s prevalent among designers (I’m not accusing you of this, of course).
A friend of mine did a stint in the Peace Corps. I don’t know if his experience is typical, but here’s what he told me. He was essentially dropped off in a village in Africa and left to fend for himself. He had gone there with grand visions of making life better for the people there. But, he was sort of left with nothing, just getting to know the community and finding his own way. What he eventually figured out was that any improvement had to come from the community itself. It had to be something that they not only wanted or needed, but that they would truly own. So, he couldn’t be an American do-gooder with an attitude of fixing the lives of the poor Africans. He had to actually get to know these people as individuals, and together they would figure out what to do.
He ended up building a water well with them, or something like that. One thing he noticed was that, although he had expertise in this, it had to be designed in such a way that, after he left, people without expertise (or with only the basic training he could give them, and few tools) would be able to fix any problems. So, that was a learning experience for him.