4 To Explore – Design 4 Good
Products 12 years ago No Comments


So many of us in the A&D community get consumed by project deadlines, beaten up by demanding clients, and (lately) stressed out by merely trying to stay employed. The continual, nerve-racking cycle of going from 4toexploredesignforgood.gifway-too-much-work-to-remain-sane to not-enough-work-to-stay-afloat often discourages us, burns us out, and makes us think: “Why exactly am I in this industry again”” Before you jump ship, find a little inspiration in our list of those making a positive impact on society through their design talents. Adding to this month’s Contract  magazine cover story featuring two activists at Public Architecture – whom they designated their “2009 Designers of the Year” – the list just might make you realize how relevant your role can be.


01 | Open Architecture Network
Although the movie Slumdog Millionaire has recently opened Westerners’ eyes to the radically poor living conditions so many Indians experience in Mumbai, millions and millions across the globe subsist in similar situations as well. The Open Architecture Network strives to be catalyst for change in regard to revolutionizing slum settlements. The network “is an online, open source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design,” which its members do through sharing of ideas, open communication, and collaborative design. Open Architecture Network grew out of Architecture for Humanity, a charitable organization whom P&C listed sometime ago in THE PROS section and whom Darlene M. Molnar mentioned in her August 2008 P&C article, “Volunteering Design”. Together, the two groups work to supply impoverished communities with design services in the effort to solve humanitarian problems through thoughtful design solutions. [Now listed in P&C’s THE PROS section.]

02 | Congress for the New Urbanism [CNU]
Presently, CNU operates across the U.S. through nine established chapters, with even more interest groups and organizing committees marching towards chapter status. Their members – made up of design practitioners, engineers, planners, community activists and public officials – make it their mission to promote “walkable, neighborhood-based development as an alternative to sprawl.” With the goal of “creating tools that make it easier to put New Urbanism into practice around the world,” they collaborate on projects such as transforming abandoned retail developments into community connection points, reforming neighborhoods devastated by natural disasters, and injecting life, hope and the attitude of self-reliance into areas isolated by poverty, affecting lives for generations to come. [Now listed in P&C’s THE PROS section.]

03 | Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility [ADPSR]

For over a quarter century ADPSR has been shouting to the rooftops about the significance that design practitioners have in the welfare of the world’s population. Members of this .org include designers, architects, urban planners and others concerned about the impact construction has on the planet. 4onepercent.gifAreas of activism include the interwoven goals of creating healthy, peaceful and safe communities and promoting socially conscientious development, as well as the usual suspect of pushing sustainable building practices. Currently the United States has four ADPSR chapters, as well as an international affiliate known as ARCPeace, which also strives to protect and preserve both the natural and built environments. [Now listed in P&C’s THE PROS section.]

04 | The 1%

Also mentioned in the Contract magazine article elaborating upon Public Architecture (referenced in this piece’s introduction), The 1% is a concept built upon the notion that if every design practitioner in the United States dedicated merely 1% of their work day to perform pro bono design services for deserving organizations in need of them, it “would add up to 5,000,000 hours annually – the equivalent of a 2,500-person firm, working full-time for the public.” As of February 2, 2009, their website listed 221 non-profits requesting assistance and 473 A&D firms registered to pledge that precious hundredth. Pretty impressive considering the concept flowered from the seed of one firm’s initiative. Whether you are a sole practitioner or a multi-location, global-reach firm, you can easily register with The 1%, connect with a non-profit, and help build something good out of your wealth of knowledge. [Now listed in P&C’s THE PROS section.]