We’ve had great luck featuring all four of our EAW speakers this year on the blog. Today, T. Luke Young, a program coordinator from Architecture for Humanity, speaks to us about his experiences and the organization he represents. With over 13 years in architecture, urban planning and social infrastructure design, T. Luke has worked with Architecture for Humanity since 2009, integrating participatory planning, vernacular architecture and innovative design concepts to foster urban settlement initiatives. T. Luke has volunteered his time in marginalized neighborhoods in Colombia and Haiti to promote more equitable spaces. He earned a Bachelor degree in Historic Preservation from Roger Williams University, a Master in Architectural Studies and a Master in Urban Planning, both from MIT. We asked T. Luke a few questions below:
1.) Architecture for Humanity is now over ten years old. How has the organization grown over the years and adapted over time?
Architecture for Humanity was born thirteen years ago, sprung from an idea to launch a design competition responding to needs of post-conflict communities in Kosovo. From two volunteer co-founders the organization has grown into a global humanitarian organization that has impacted more than two million people worldwide with a staff of 25, dozens of Design Fellows and 73 chapters in 25 countries with more than 4,650 volunteer design professionals. Each year 25,000 people directly benefit from structures designed by Architecture for Humanity. Its advocacy, training and outreach programs impact an additional 60,000 people annually. The rapid growth of the organization was possible in part due to the creation of the Open Architecture Network, now on Worldchanging, an online, open-source collaborative platform for exchanging innovative ideas and advocating the significant impact of humanitarian design.
2.) As an urban planner, what do you feel is our greatest challenge facing our cities? Are the challenges different in the United States than abroad?
Social inclusion. Globally, cities reflect their societies and thus an inherent and universal inequity. It is only through participatory engagement that we can address this imbalance and begin to build a future in which all stakeholders have the opportunity to improve their livelihoods. To many this may not seem like a novel idea, but we have made so little ground in this vein that it bears repeating until we generate a paradigm shift by fully incorporating humanitarian planning into our practices and politics.
3.) Architecture for Humanity states, “design is the ultimate renewable resource.” When has this statement rang true for you?
Design is inherent in us from day one; we are born creative. From sandcastles to snow forts we each have experimented with our vernacular surroundings to build shelter and active spaces for play. We lose most of this as we grow up. The challenge is to recapture this creative magic in our every day experience and learning. Architecture for Humanity’s participatory design process engages local stakeholders in an endeavor to appropriate vernacular traditions and aspirations in responsive contemporary innovative design and construction. Design is infinitely renewable on a multitude of levels when practiced in this manner.
4.) Can you discuss a current Architecture for Humanity project that you are excited about?
In 2011 Architecture for Humanity launched [un]restricted access a multiyear international design challenge to re-envision former military sites as civic spaces for the future. The response was overwhelming with more than 500 teams from over 70 countries entering the competition. From Berlin to Belfast to Baltimore, teams submitted groundbreaking ideas for imaginative appropriations of abandoned spaces for agricultural, environmental, artistic, reconciliatory and memorial initiatives. I am perpetually optimistic about the prospect of raising public awareness around these opportunities through a travelling exhibit launched at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale and an accompanying catalog to be openly distributed when full funding is secured for them. Ultimately I am excited that collectively we will be able to realize the implementation of the built projects and create unprecedented global impact for social good.
[Un]restricted Access Project: ALTER YOUR NATIVE BELFAST // ALTERNATIVE BELFAST, by Irish Architect Mick Scott
5.) If someone wanted to start up a local Architecture for Humanity chapter, or get more involved with the organization, what advice would you give that person?
If a local chapter already exists, become a member. If not, find a group of like-minded individuals who share your passion and dedication to humanitarian design and start one in your own community. Additionally, sign up for our newsletter and join Architecture for Humanity’s volunteer network of over 50,000 design professionals and help engender positive social change.
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