The nonprofit world was hit hard in January 2015, when Architecture for Humanity, a design firm dedicated to bringing professional design and construction services to regions in crisis, abruptly shuttered its doors and declared bankruptcy. (For more details on the closure, read our article on what went wrong here.) But today, the organization may be seeing signs of new life, in a slightly different form. Thirty of the international chapters once affiliated with the nonprofit have launched a new organization of volunteer designers and architects called the Open Architecture Collaborative.
The OAC has been in the works for the past year, which prospective members have spent deciding on a new identity and governing structure. The OAC is dedicated to the same mission of participatory design as its now-defunct parent organization, and will be led by Executive Director Garret Jacobs, along with a Board of Directors and 11 elected regional leaders.
For now, the OAC intends to tackle two main issues: the lack of hands-on community experience for young professionals, and the limited access to design services within most marginalized communities. Rather than launching its own projects, the OAC is dedicated to supporting local designers and organizations, helping them make change within their own communities. In a press release, Jacobs explained, “I personally believe that designers and architects have a privileged view to how things get built in this world, and we can use that insight to help others advocate for themselves to gain agency in our cities and rural communities. We need to be intentional about who we work with and the inclusive processes we use so everyone can feel a sense of ownership over what they create.”
The first meeting of the OAC’s Board of Directors was held on March 6th, bringing together experienced professionals with backgrounds in a wide range of fields, including architecture and design, affordable housing law and development, academia, innovative business practice, network structures, marketing, and branding. The organization is still on the hunt for one more board member: a nonprofit manager with a financial background.
“This organization defines good design as something beyond the aesthetic and functional, but that which thrives on inclusivity and empowerment,” said Maryam Eskandari, founder and principal architect of MIIM Designs, LLC.
Right now, the group is structured as a California Benefactor Corporation, but is looking to transition to a 501(3) nonprofit. The group’s locally-focused volunteer chapters currently have 11,500 members and community partners around the globe.
Images via Forgemind ArchiMedia