Siyathemba: Design like you give a damn

Bit of a tardy post, but considering the time of year and the fact that we should be thinking about the less fortunate at this time of year, definitely topical…

A really fantastic and financially responsible organization, Architecture for Humanity recently announced its finalists for the Siyathemba project (dead link) whose aim is to battle AIDS in Africa with a low cost, combined sports facility and healthcare project. The finalists are linkied from the front page.

Over the summer we challenged the design world to create the ‘perfect pitch’ in Somkhele, an area with one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world. This facility, run by medical professionals from the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, will serve as a gathering place for youth between the ages of 9 and 14, and will serve as the home for the first-ever girls football league in the area. The pitch will also act as a place to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and eventually as a service point for mobile health care.

Design teams were to employ sustainable and/or local building materials and using local labor to realize their design. With a budget of $5000 (US) the facility was to include a youth-sized field, sideline benches, and a small changing room. 275 teams from 37 countries answered the call.

For those of you who don’t know AFH’s work, they basically hosts web-based competitions where designers and architects submit plan proposals for sites around the war afflicted by war, disease or natural disaster and tackle humanitarian crises through design and awareness.

There is a great feature article from Wired. Besides basically being run by a very small, extremely financially responsible handful, The 5-year-old group hosts Web-based competitions in which architects and designers submit plan proposals for sites around the world affected by war, disease or natural disaster – an attempt to harness the Net’s networking power to tackle humanitarian crises. For instance, before Siyathemba (Zulu for “Hope”), the group focused on building inexpensive, dignified, transitional housing for Kosovo to speed people back to their permanent shelters once rebuilt and their normal lives after the end of conflict in the war torn region. The principal also managed to run the entire project for $700 (while holding down a full time job).

Kosovo Competition criteria

  1. Shelter that lasts long enough to allow rebuilding of permanent homes.
  2. Shelter that is inexpensive.
  3. Shelter that can be built quickly.
  4. Shelter that can be built by the local builders.
  5. Shelter that can be built in many dispersed locations.
  6. Shelter that keeps people healthy and strong.