Architecture of Change: Building a Legacy

Architecture has long been a discipline that supports, enables and catalyzes change. There are the obvious ways that architecture addresses change: creating something that did not exist before, providing a container – a physical structure – in which change occurs, and sparking conversation about the world. Recently, we set out to discover another way that architecture can relate to change.

Somewhere in the midst of major life changes (new baby, new job, new house), we find ourselves standing still as the world swirls around us, asking: what is the purpose of our journey? Where will we go from here? How do I make the everyday – even the mundane – matter? Introspection often leads to change. In our case, we are at a tipping point: with humility, hope and much anticipation, we are embarking on the creation of an endowment. The details are still being worked out (and we have a LONG way to go), but the desire for positive change is driving us forward.

At the heart of our action is the desire to foster philanthropy in others. We realize we are just two people, and that when we are no longer able to give, our ability to impact the world will also come to an end. We asked ourselves if there was a way to leverage our giving so that there would be benefits in perpetuity, and that others would be inspired to join us in giving of their time, talents and resources. Our belief that architecture is uniquely equipped to address the broad range of humanitarian problems in the world lead us to this goal: The focus of this endowment is using architecture to benefit “the least of these” in our society.

While architecture is typically designed for the elite and for a small percentage of wealthy patrons, we want to design for those who have no ability to pay. We want to respond to problems that don’t involve big budgets or flashy buildings. We want the architect’s analytical skills to solve challenges that impact millions of people, not just a select few.

There are many organizations that have responded to humanitarian design, and we hope to come along side those who have paved the way before us. We are reading a great book to get us started, “Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism”. It gets my head spinning with ideas. For now, I have more questions than answers: What is architecture, and who is it for? What types of strategic partnerships can the discipline and industry of architecture create? How do we leverage the existing network of organizations that are experienced in humanitarian design? How do we spread this message through social media and other avenues? How do we engage in politics to influence the flow of money and decisions to impact society in a positive way? How do we shape the curriculum at the collegiate level to train up the next generation of architects and designers? Will this endowment support a scholarship fund? Or perhaps it will pay for adjunct professorships? Maybe the funds will pay for an annual symposium, or an event where we showcase humanitarian-focused designs?

I dream big. I want to leverage the donations up from our small starting point through matching donations to an amount most would scoff at. I want this to blow up to be the next TED talk. I want to see colleges of architecture adopt new curriculum that demonstrates to students what it means to really design for the end-user instead of the funder of a project.

I don’t have all the answers yet. I suspect that this will be a long, difficult, but satisfying part of our journey. I invite you to come along with us. What organizations do you know that would be a good partner? What books should we read to educate ourselves on these topics? How would you like to get involved? Let me know in the comments.

Be sure to read the other responses to this month’s #Architalks prompt of Architecture of Change – listed below in no particular order.



Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks : Architecture of Change

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture for change

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architect(ure) of Change

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Architecture of Change

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
architecture of change: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Change — The Document Evolution

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
architecture of change

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
The Architecture of Change: R/UDAT

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Architecture = Change

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
My Architecture of Change / Hitting Pause to Redesign My Life

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@architangent)
Architecture of Change: Building a Legacy

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Imagining the Future of Architecture

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
3 Things I Hope Change in Architecture

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
The art of Architecture of Change

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Architecture of Change

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
The Architecture of Change

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