How Can Architects Help Our Communities?

On December 17, 2008, the AIA New York launched its Not Business as Usual initiative in an effort to unite the architecture and design community around issues relating to the current economic crisis: a slowdown in new projects, downsizing of firms, current projects put on hold, a lack of positions available to recent graduates. An “Opportunities Fair” to be held on February 25 will bring together representatives from community organizations, non-profits, schools, and training programs to share information about volunteer opportunities, continuing education, and other opportunities. This made me think, how can architects and architecture firms contribute to our communities during this economic crisis? Certainly we can offer our professional services pro bono, but we can also offer non-professional skills that would still greatly contribute. Might we volunteer at a food bank or repair a rundown school? Could we clean up our parks or run for the cure? Could we get inventive and create volunteer opportunities that might also draw on our skills as designers and experts of materials?