Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity (and my colleage at Worldchanging) is the recipient of the first TED prize. He’s spent his career as an architect focusing on building structures that aren’t “jewels”, but are resources for their community. This has meant designing housing for returing refugees in Kosovo, housing in South Africa for the AIDS pandemic, and responses to natural disasters, from Bam, Iraq, to Katrina.
These designs are sometimes highly unusual – inflatable hemp houses, homes from staw bales, sand bags, fast-growing plants that can be cut down and eaten afterwards. To collect these designs, Cameron has build a lightweight organization – three full-time staff, but collaborators all over the world.
What makes the organization work is the principle of Open Source architecture . A design Cameron and team helped select from a global competition for a sports center and health clinic in South Africa has been released under a creative commons developing nations license, which will let anyone else in a developing nation build the identical structure with no charge for the plans and design.
Cameron is frustrated by the slow pace of change in design for relief. He points out that it’s taken almost 20 years for the UN to change their default tent design to add a single flap. Using this open source method, Cameron now has 3,000 designs on his laptop that can help change shelter around the world.
His wish: “I wish to build community that actively embraces open source design to create innovative and sustainable design to improve living standards for all.” I think Cameron’s well on his way towards achieving this – it’s going to be exciting to see what else he can do with the resources the prize brings to him.