Oculus - Fall 2011 - (Page 30)

feature A Giant, Hardly Sleeping: Pro Bono Sector When architects and designers pick up the challenges of social responsibility, it means more than charity. The non-profi t world is uniquely capable of putting the “public” back into “pro bono publico.” BY BILL MILLARD G reat projects require great clients, but for vast categories of design, the most rewarding client is a community group or the public at large. As with lawyers’ pro bono practice, architects use their skills to “give back” or “pay it forward.” Participants distinguish volunteer services from pure philanthropy: the achievements, challenges, and exchanges are more about problem-solving than conscience-salving. “As a young fi rm, you’re responding to a lot of RFPs and doing competitions without compensation anyway,” says Emily Abruzzo, AIA, LEED AP, of Abruzzo Bodziak Architects, one of several fi rms converting a city-owned Brooklyn brownfi eld into a mobile greenhouse for neighborhood residents. “Why not do it for something that benefi ts your community?” It helps to remember the literal sense of the full phrase, pro bono publico. “It means ‘for good,’ not ‘for free,’” says Laetitia Wolff , the new executive director of desigNYC, a meta-nonprofi t that brings causes and design professionals together. Founded in 2009 by Edwin Schlossberg and Michelle Mullineaux and attaining 501(c)3 status last July, desigNYC views design as multiplying the benefi ts of eff orts promoting wellbeing and sustainable communities. 30 Oculus Fall 2011 DesigNYC’s projects do not “just launch another logo for a non-profi t,” says Wolff . T ey create multidisciplinary linkages, envision placemaking where “design can be lived and understood on a gut level,” she says, and assess achievable goals, specifying the scope of work at the outset. In this respect, desigNYC helps professionalize projects that are driven by admirable idealism and talent but founder when participants are new to construction processes such as permitting. T ese results-oriented steps are vital, she notes, amid city budget cuts and other eff ects of the economic downturn. “In a period of crisis,” she says, “the design community has so much to give and should not just drop the ball, but rather off er services to organizations in need.” John Peterson, AIA, founder of Public Architecture, the San Francisco organization that hosts T e 1% program, in which member fi rms agree to dedicate that proportion of their billable hours to pro bono service; and co-author (with John Cary) of T e Power of Pro Bono (see “In Print,” pg. 34), blurs the humanitarian/market distinction altogether. “We’re actually not inclined to separate charitable interests from business interests,” he says. Public’s business model blends private, public, and “high-impact non-profi t” support, with many collaborations leveraging “spe- Interior Motives: Activity & Growth ©Abruzzo Bodziak Architects http://www.publicarchitecture.org http://www.theonepercent.org http://www.designyc.org http://www.naylornetwork.com/arc-nxt

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Fall 2011

First Words
A Word from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: The New Office Space
Small Spaces, Transforming Results
Redesigned Practice
The Lure of Pop-ups
A Giant, Hardly Sleeping: Pro Bono Sector
In Print
57-Year Watch
Last Words
Index to Advertisers

Oculus - Fall 2011