2017: Stories & Numbers

Sit back, grab a cup of something warm, and learn about accomplishments around the Open Architecture Collaborative.

In 2017 the Open Architecture Collaborative supported 21 chapters who hosted over 425 volunteers serving 94 nonprofit and community groups. Over 1,140 people have signed up to volunteer since we launched in March of last year, but those numbers are slowing down. 2017 saw a booming building economy and professionals with less time. When the economy dips, designers lose work and their jobs. But we get creative and volunteer to continue gaining knowledge and experience.

We need to break this responsive trend in how community work fluctuates and invest in the future generation of design leaders when the industry is flush. Over 70% of those who sign up for the OAC have less than 7 years of professional experience. They want to engage in this work but just don’t know how. Community design practice involves intense self awareness, leadership, communication, and management skills that can aid any traditional design setting. This is why in 2018 we will be investing in training the next generation of emerging community design practitioners. 2017 was all about testing methods.

In February the OAC gathered two dozen global leaders to share insightful trainings on engagement tactics, reflect on our privilege, and learn how to leverage our partnerships with community groups to help them access funding. In August we launched our first fee for service pilot program to test training ideas and support six community leaders to execute creative placemaking projects. In the beginning of 2018 we will launch a professional development program for firms and individuals to gain the skills we believe are necessary for deeper relationship building, stereotype dismantling, and community empowerment.

Chapter Leaders and the Board learn about privilege and engagement from Assata Richards in Feb.

What follows are examples from each chapter that reference their own definition of community design work. Next year we aim to deepen that impact with a clear pathway to an equitable future. We hope to see you there.

Feeling inspired to see more in 2018?

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Abuja, Nigeria

’17 Completed Projects: 2

Active volunteers: 15

Community Partners: 2 Project PINK BLUE, Kids Skating Series

Chapter Running Total: 3, including the ongoing skating series.

Feature: The Sids Skating Series enables children to take ownership of public space and lets them see how they can have a say in how it’s used. The program has recently gotten attention of local UNESCO leadership for support.

You can see more images on the Kids Skating Series Facebook Page

Athens, Greece

’17 Completed Projects: 2

Active volunteers: 8

Community Partners: Khora, Action from Switzerland providing participator design workshops and design and project management services.

Chapter running total projects: 16

Your City Lab is a digital platform for public participation in design and planning. The Athens Chapter has been building the platform for the past few years and it was featured in the 2016 Venice Biennale.

Austin, Texas

’17 Completed Projects: 2

Active volunteers: 8

Community Partners: 7: Austin Resource Recovery, Austin Materials Marketplace, The ReUse People of America, BossbabesATX, Austin Design Week, Community First! Village and Mobile Loaves & Fishes

Chapter Running Total: 2 plus 3 events since 2016.

Feature: Inaugural year! Thanks to Beau and Audrey for getting the chapter rolling and building partnerships and a presence in Austin!

Laura workshopping designs with community members of Community First Village

Bay Area, California

’17 Completed Projects: 5

Active volunteers: 10

Community Partners: 9: City of Oakland — Civic Design Lab, EBALDC, SPARC, Kiss My Black Arts, Bay Area Mural Program, Hoover Foster RAC, Friends of the Hoover Durant Library, St. Mary’s Center, CA Hotel Leadership Council

Chapter Running Total: 15

Read about the OAC pilot program with a community development corporation in West Oakland here>

Feature: Oakland was the focus of OAC pilot efforts by producing and managing a creative placemaking program as a fee for service offering for affordable housing developer EBALDC. The result was three murals, a popup library, a community center senior portrait signage project, and a pedestrian advocacy campaign. The chapter also finished up the buildout of the 9th floor of Oakland City Hall for their community focused Civic Design Lab.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf visits the team on one ofthe last build days in City Hall!

Bogotá, Colombia

’17 Completed Projects: 10 (Through pilot organization Taller Del Habitat)

Active volunteers: 3 + 3 staff members

Community Partners: 10 Mario Santo Domingo Foundation, Suyo, Universidad Catolica De Colombia, SwissContact Foundation

The organizational launch party.

Chapter Running Total: 42

Feature: This year marked the launch of Taller Del Habitat, a workshop that provides wraparound services to informal housing communities in northern Bogota. You can read more details about the program here.

One residential to commercial transformation through Taller Del Habitat.

Boston, Massachusetts

’17 Completed Projects: 4

Active volunteers: 20

Each Year OAC Boston builds a pavilion for ABX Conference. This year was about water collection.

Community Partners: 4: Boston Dream Center, Educational Development Group, The Clubhouse Network, Irish International Immigration Center

Chapter Running Total: 21

Feature: The chapter filled the gap in services by creating a set of drawings for the Boston Dream Center after moving into a new space so they could support the local food bank with storage. The chapter also builds an annual pavilion for their local AIA conference.

OAC Boston created a drawing set for this nonprofit so they could support the local food bank.

Cairo, Egypt

’17 Completed Projects: 1 — ongoing

Active volunteers: 15

Community Partners: 2: Hand Over, Residents of Istabl Antar Neighborhood

Chapter Running Total: 1 — ongoing

Feature: OAC Cairo is in it’s second year and has a long term relationship with residents of Istabl Antar where they conduct research, execute small design projects, and planning. You can read more about their work here.

Children in the area participate in a workshop that eventually led to a staircase painting project.

Chicago, Illinois

’17 Completed Projects: 5

Active volunteers: 64

Community Partners: 8: Rags of Honor, Royal Diadem Pastoral Center, Humanitarians Making Change, Rebuilding Together 2017, Blue 1647, Growing Power Fresh Moves, Rice Center Recreation Room Renovation, Christ Universal Temple

Chapter Running Total: 48

Feature: The Chapter continues to provide design and volunteer support for the Mobile Market industry in the area combating food deserts for the past 4 years!

Detroit, Michigan

’17 Completed Projects: 1

Active volunteers: 4

Community Partners: 1: Shua Group

Chapter Running Total: 12

Feature: The one project the chapter took on this year ended in an event where the production company hosted a performance in their unfinished space in order to get to know it better! Check out their video here.

Basic drawings and feasibility studies are helping this non-profit raise funds and build up their community space.

Houston, Texas

’17 Completed Projects: 2

Active volunteers: 10

Community Partners: 4: Plant it Forward Farms, Greater Northside Management District, Connect Community, Living Paradigm

Chapter Running Total: 5 — Houston is the first US OAC Chapter to receive 501c3 status!

Feature: Aside from building relationships with local Community Development Corporations and Management District’s for long term Hurricane Harvey recovery the chapter has been building a long relationship with immigrant farmers to provide shelter from the sun and work stations.

We ran into farmer Alimasi, the owner of pod 2. He said, “I wanted to meet the people who gave me this gift” and he was so happy he asked us to take a picture with him - this one;)

Los Angeles, California

’17 Completed Projects: 4

Active volunteers: 25

Community Partners: 30 Avalon Carver Community Center, Chrysalis, Home At Last, Healthy Active Streets, Cardborigami, LA County Arts Commission, Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation, Shared Use Mobility Center, Engineers Without Borders, AIA Los Angeles, LA Mas

Chapter Running Total: 8

Feature: Focusing on three initiatives driven by research resulted in Homelessness, Affordable Housing and Education has allowed the chapter to build meaningful relationships. These focuses have enabled the group to establish many partnerships leading to more projects. They are also currently working on an ADU (Additional Dwelling Unit) competition through the city.

The design team on the roof for an inspection of the Avalon Community Center.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

’17 Completed Projects: 2

Active volunteers: 11

Community Partners: 2: Bassett Creek Cohousing, Northeast United Methodist Church

Chapter Running Total: 24

Feature: Schematic imagery developed with the chapter has allowed a local co-housing group to begin community outreach, attracting additional members, and now even hired premier national co-housing Architects.

Initial images from the chapter allowed the group to have a jumping off point for further development.

Monterrey, Mexico

Completed Projects: 2

# of Volunteers: 8

Community Partners: 3 Residents of Santa Maria de Ramos, Galena, Mr. Marcial — Artisan affected by earthquakes in Oaxaca

Feature: Chapter leaders are supporting the community of Santa Maria de Ramos by running design workshops to transform a dilapidated basketball court into a loved and well used public play space.

Initial workshop with local children.

New Orleans, Louisiana

’17 Completed Projects: 1

Active volunteers: 7

Community Partners: 6: Bike Easy, New Orleans Mission, Women in Architecture, AIA New Orleans, Public Interest Design Institute, New Orleans Long Term Recovery Group

Basic spacial and feasibility study — New Orleans Mission

Chapter Running Total: 8

Feature: Advocacy group Bike Easy needed some visuals to help convey the possibility of cycling improvements so the chapter conducted research and provided aids. The chapter is also supporting the New Orleans Mission with feasibility studies and basic schematic design to aid in real estate negotiations.

Chapter provides imagery for Bike Easy to advocate for more cycling pathways in New Orleans.

New York, New York

Red Rabbit Design/Build project volunteers

’17 Completed Projects: 4

Active volunteers: 150

Community Partners: 10: Red Rabbit, Concrete Safaris, St. Mark’s Garden, Urban Pathways, City Harvest, Lower East Side Ecology, Publicolor, Hunters Point Park Conservancy, NY Parks, NY Cares

Chapter Running Total: 75 over 12 years!

Feature: OAC NYC is the longest operating chapter. Along with other projects they ran their third annual Day of Impact mobilizing over 100 people to serve a handful of community projects over one day. You can read more about that program here.

Concrete Safaris allows kids to take ownership of public space, OAC NYC helps design and staff their events


’17 Completed Projects: 1

Chapter Running Total: 1

Feature: OAC Palestine is still forming, but we are proud of their first project, a library and gathering space for children to have a safe gathering space amidst a turbulent world.

Students gather for workshops to create characters and learn how to read and write

Portland, Oregon

’17 Completed Projects: 3

Active volunteers: 10

Community Partners: 3: Hearts and sparks, Misc Studio, Kenton Women’s Village

Chapter Running Total: 12

Feature: Aside from the many design build projects that OAC PDX accomplishes they also hosted a screening of Sista in the Brotherhood to discuss gender in the industry. They then spread the idea to the network where 8 other chapters have also hosted screenings and panel discussions.

Panel discussion with the director and producer.


’17 Completed Projects: 0

Active volunteers: 2

Community Partners: 1: Cerebral Paralysis Association in Lisbon

2017 served as a rebuilding year for the Portugal Chapter. They are looking forward to ramping up activities for 2018. Their main design project has helped the Cerebral Paralysis Association raise funds to better serve their clients.

Toronto, Canada

’17 Completed Projects: 2

Active volunteers: 11

Community Partners: 4: Habitat for Humanity GTA, Evangelical New Testament Assembly, Little Free Library — Buffalo Architecture Foundation, St. James Community Cafe

Chapter Running Total: 9

Feature: Open Architecture Toronto received its Charity status in Canada! They have also been building up the leadership and designing little free libraries around the Buffalo area.

OAC Toronto organizes a build day to support the local Habitat for Humanity Chapter.

Venice, Italy

’17 Completed Projects: 1 — ongoing air quality monitoring

Active volunteers: 5

Community Partners: 2: Comitato No Grandi Navi, We Are Here Venice

Chapter Running Total: 2

Feature: OAC Venice has long been concerned with the pollution and destruction from the cruise tourist industry, so they have build sensors and placed them around the city for monitoring and advocacy.

In Venice’s already fragile ecosystem cruise ships wreak havoc on the city. These monitors keep track of environmental changes.

Washington D.C.

’17 Completed Projects: 3

Active volunteers: 40

Community Partners: 3: Footsteps of Children Daycare, Push Academy, Little Samaritan

Chapter Running Total: 21

Feature: Design for Children Feature is the chapters efforts to focus and dive into one issue in DC — lack of childcare facilities. Research, organizing, and design eventually led to schematic and feasibility studies for four childcare centers. Reach more here.

The organization is about the community. It’s about listening, providing the information, learning and getting to know the community … The depth of the relationships formed is such an important part of the design process.

Jonathan Tolbert — Director OAC D.C.

One of four schematic desisgn schemes for centers to serve more families.

Thanks for reading about the OAC Network Activity in 2017. If you feel inspired and would like to see more of this work next year, please consider donating for 2018 activities!

Donate Via Paypal Giving Fund to waive all fees

Here’s a bit about our flow of funding:

Have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year! Thanks to everyone who made this possible through donating previously or giving time and expertise to run your local chapter!

Result of a long two days of strategy and trainings…

P.S. Thank you to Sheena Zhang for lead graphic support, and to Melanie de Cola and Cali Khakoo.