Feature: Eric Cesal Talks Architecture, Humanity, and the Future


Gilad Meron recently spoke with Architecture for Humanity‘s Executive Director Eric Cesal about what’s on the horizon for the 15-year-old organization and the architecture profession in general. Architecture for Humanity’s Design Like You Give A Damn Conference was recently held at Dwell on Design New York, where Architecture for Humanity was the recipient of the Dwell Vision Award.  

Gilad Meron: You’ve recently become the new Executive Director of Architecture for Humanity, the first change in leadership since the organization was founded. What’s shifted since then?

Eric Cesal: I think the landscape has changed from when Architecture for Humanity was started and that presents a lot of opportunities. First we want to continue doing all the work that we’ve been doing. It’s important that we continue our practice. The world is urbanizing rapidly. Climate change is accelerating. You don’t have to be a genius or a psychic to see that disasters are becoming a new normal. The question is how can we work as preventers rather than responders. My question for the field is, over the next ten or fifteen years, what are we going to do to prevent the calamities that we know are coming as opposed to just taking advantage of bad situations and putting in good architecture?

GM: Is that the direction you want to lead Architecture for Humanity in?

EC: There are two principle goals that I want to drive the organization towards. More

“Design for Equity” Convening in November


In partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC), and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), the Bruner Loeb Forum is hosting the “Design for Equity” forum in Boston on November 5th and 6th to “fuel ideas and solutions to achieve equitable cities through design and community development.” Using Boston as a “living laboratory,” professionals in design, community development, policy, and organizing will gather to advance strategies to bring inclusive, equitable development to American cities. Registration is now open to attend the public evening events: The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship Keynote on November 5th and Partners in Public Dialogue: Design for Equity on November 6th.

With over one hundred diverse practitioners from Boston and across the country, “Design for Equity” will draw from a network of practitioners confronting the issues of displacement and disinvestment, focusing on solutions that will allow all citizens, to thrive.

Click here to learn more and register to attend “Design for Equity” public events, online at DesignForEquity.org.

New Resource: Social Design Pathways

First developed during the 2013 Winterhouse Symposium for Education and Social Change, Social Design Pathways–a matrix to map, guide, asses, and index social innovation initiatives–was recently made public and free for download. With support from Sappi Ideas that Matter, LEAP Symposium, and Design Observer, the team has released the first iteration with a series of examples to assist designers with mapping the “range of engagement” and “scale of engagement” for projects.

The Social Design Pathways matrix is a useful tool for clarifying the terrain, stakeholders and potential impacts of social design projects. It acknowledges the fact that design for social impact, as an emerging field, can be complex and multi-dimensional, and that a process for mapping its many ingredients can be instructive and beneficial.

Click here to learn more and download a copy to map your Social Design Pathways, online at SocialDesignPathways.com.

Profile: Evidence Action

Focused on product management and growth, Evidence Action launched in 2010 to scale up two programs incubated by Innovations for Poverty Action: the Deworm the World and Dispensers for Safe Water. Each program has made a significant difference in the lives of people in Africa and Asia with Evidence Action. The Deworm the World Initiative focuses on school-based deworming. More than 600 million children worldwide live in areas endemic with intestinal parasites. These have shown to have a detrimental impact on children’s’ health and educational achievements. Deworm the World dewormed 35 million children in the last school year in India and Kenya.

In rural Eastern and Southern Africa, Dispensers for Safe Water provides access to clean, safe water to close to 3 million people, at a cost of less than $.50 per person per year at scale. One critical asset to the safe water program has been 3D product design software used to build and improve iterations of the dispenser hardware. The engineering team, led by an MIT-alumna based in Nairobi, is reliant on the software provided through the Autodesk Technology Impact program to develop the core hardware of this initiative. Essential to both programs’ success is Evidence Action’s attention to all phases of design and delivery: product development, manufacturing, and distribution down to the last few steps.

Too often, the elbow grease and artistry that take a good idea and get it embedded in communities, markets or government institutions prove elusive. Evidence Action takes on this challenge with a laser focus. We begin from the premise that achieving scale across sectors and contexts is a solvable challenge that yields sustainable impact.

Click here to learn more about Evidence Action on EvidenceAction.org, or click here to learn more and apply for the Autodesk Technology Impact software donation program, an ultra low-cost offer for the current versions of Autodesk’s professional software to nonprofit organizations using design for impact.

Video produced by South Pole Carbon.

ACD Launch New Micro Fellowship for 2015


The Association for Community Design is launching an inaugural “micro” fellowship for 2015. In response to the need for exploratory opportunities for current practitioners, ACD has partnered with LATENT DESIGN to offer a two-week intensive position to explore the business of social design. Applications for this unique opportunity will open on October 20th and end on December 1st, 2014.

The Fellowship is design for architects looking to launch their own projects, practice or adapting their practice to be more socially engaged. The Fellow is embedded within another architecture firm working on a community design project. The firm is the host, mentor, advocate, and completely transparent how they’re executing contracts, sourcing projects, analysis, marketing, management and operations to funding models through the actualization of a project. The focus of the Fellowship is the design process and working collaboratively with the Fellow to develop their individual or firm social impact strategy.

Click here to learn more about the 2015 ACD Micro Fellowship, online at CommunityDesign.org.

“Ebola Epidemic: What Can Architecture Do?”


The Ebola Epidemic has been peppering headlines around the world. With focus on treatment and containment to alleviate the outbreak, the role of design and architecture could be called into question. Architect Killian Doherty recently responded to the question “What Can Architecture Do?” in an opinion piece for Architectural Review. With frontline experience in Sierra Leone, Doherty describes the cultural differences for treating, healing, and coping with Ebola from both Western and Sierra Leonean perspectives and how these issues might be to big for design to take on.

The destruction of the built environment by natural or manmade disaster is clear cause for architects’ intervention, and has given rise to what we refer to as humanitarian or emergency architecture. Architectural practices and NGOs widely find opportunities to alleviate suffering through the design of infrastructure, buildings and amenities. But when the disaster itself is immaterial, without discernible physical damage, what role at all can a response through architecture play? The current Ebola crisis that has killed almost 1,200 people across West Africa is a formless natural disaster that poses questions, in this case, about the limits of this form of architectural practice.

Click here to read “Ebola Epidemic: What Can Architecture Do?” online at Architectural-Review.com.

Reminder: Support PUBLIC Journal by 10/20

Creating a name for itself by featuring thought-provoking articles and exceptional photography of meaningful projects, the new kid on the design magazine block, PUBLIC Journal, is crowdfunding on Indiegogo to support their self-publishing efforts for the third and fourth issues. Available in both print and digital format, the quarterly journal is aiming to raise $12,500 by the end of next week. In exchange for support, rewards include one-year journal subscription, t-shirts featuring a Sambo quote, a place at the launch party in San Francisco, and even the opportunity to curate your own article. The last day to pledge your support is Monday, October 20th, at 11:59 PT.

PUBLIC Journal is the brainchild of a few passionate writers, designers, architects, and contractors. PUBLIC Journal seeks to provide a larger voice for the public interest design movement, which brings light to the issues of humanitarian design, social impact projects, and community-based design organizations who are all working to leave the world a better place. The exploration of the greater good is why we have committed to providing a platform for this growing movement to reach a greater PUBLIC.

Click here to learn more and pledge your support for PUBLIC Journal by October 20th, online atIndiegogo.com.

Call for Entries to 2015 Architizer A+Awards

The 3rd Annual Architizer A+Awards are now accepting entries to the award program containing 93 categories, including 11 new architecture categories and 33 product categories. The 2014 A+Awards–announced in April earlier this year–bestowed accolades on 10 public interest design projects. Open to all firms and individuals involved in architecture, design, planning, and construction, entries can be submitted before the early deadline on October 24, 2014, or up until the final deadline on December 19, 2014. A collection of 300 judges will choose five finalists and one winner in each category, and winners will be recognized at the A+Awards Gala in New York City in May 2015.

The A+Awards are the most visible awards program in the architecture and design industry. A key part of Architizer’s mission to “break architecture out of the echo chamber,” A+ gets the world’s top projects and products in front of not just the design trade, but the people and brands investing in and advocating for great design.

Click here to learn more and submit your projects to the Architizer A+Awards, online at Awards.Architizer.com.

Buckminster Fuller Challenge Finalists Announced


An impressive and inspiring list of finalists for the 2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge have been announced. From a pool of applicants representing 93 countries, the seven finalists range from a community managed forest to a floating health clinic to a locally owned and managed housing development. With a $100,000 purse and an accolade from “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award” on the line, the jury has their work cut out to determine the winning “whole systems design” project. BFI’s Executive Director and Co-founder of The Fuller Challenge Elizabeth Thompson commented:

“We are very proud to track the impact our prize program is having on the international discussion about how to address the big challenges we face. References to holistic, systemic and integrated approaches are everywhere, but it remains difficult to really understand this approach unless you can see it applied in a specific context. This is complex, complicated, long-term work that does not lend itself well to a simple sound bite or elevator pitch. The Fuller Challenge continues to be unique as a showcase for applied whole systems design and the remarkable people at the leading edge of this approach.”

Click here to learn more about the 7 BFI Challenge Finalists, online at BFI.org.

Profile: Billion Bricks Aims to House the Homeless

“As a successful architect, Mr Prasoon Kumar has designed more than 10,000 homes around the world [in] 10 years, from India and Hong Kong to the Philippines and the United States,” begins an article on the Billion Bricks Foundation. The Singapore-based nonprofit was born out of the 37-year-old architect’s frustration with designing homes for people who already had them while the disparity in housing for people living in slums and on the streets remained unchanged. “Mumbai has about 10 million people living in slums. If we were to rehabilitate them in conventional housing, the amount of resources it requires not only to build, but to maintain the homes, and to service them with electricity and water, is humongous,” said Kumar. Billion Bricks recently won $5,000 in seed funding during a social entrepreneur boot camp and the team is establishing partnerships with NGOs to build and scale projects.

billionBRICKS aims to end the global problem of homelessness by housing those on the streets, and, where possible, providing them tools such as education, job training and job opportunities.

Click here to read “More than bricks for the homeless” on StraitTimes.com, or click here to learn more about the new nonprofit on BillionBricks.org.