Humanitarian Design in Africa
Growing up in South Africa, I planned to one day return home to Africa and practice architecture. This past summer, the University of Cincinnati’s co-op program gave me the opportunity to work with Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit design organization that draws from a network of more than 35,000 architectural professionals around the world to assist with global humanitarian-focus architecture projects.
While working with Architecture for Humanity in Cape Town, South Africa, I was able to assist with the design of community centers in countries as far afield as Tanzania, Cameroon, Mozambique, Lesotho and South Africa. These projects were designed by Architecture for Humanity (AfH) professional volunteers from around the world, and during my time with AfH, I collaborated with designers from the United Kingdom, Portugal, Mexico, Germany, Kenya and South Africa.
AfH was charged with designing 20 community centers for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to provide community hubs, medical clinics and cultural resource centers for rural African communities.
While in South Africa, I was able to visit two different project sites and meet with local community representatives to assess the needs of the communities for which we were designing.
In addition to the daily challenges and opportunities associated with working in a foreign country, using a foreign metric system and solving localized design issues, I also had plenty of exciting experiences away from work! I had the chance to meet world icons – I spent an extensive period of time working directly under esteemed South African Architect Luyanda Mpalhwa, and I was even able to have breakfast with Desmond Tutu.
Architecture for Humanity’s global mission is to “build a more sustainable future using the power of design,” and as a co-op architecture student I was privileged with the opportunity to assist with this mission.