Celebrating 15 Years of Service: Announcing New Leadership and Rededicated Mission

Celebrating 15 Years of Service: Announcing New Leadership and Rededicated Mission

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Jun 10, 2014
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As Architecture for Humanity turns fifteen, the organization, armed with new tools and clear values, recommits itself to the vision on which it was founded, while embracing a changing world with evolving humanitarian challenges. Under new leadership, we are stepping forward into the next fifteen years.

Fifteen years ago, Architecture for Humanity was born with a simple idea: that designers could use their skills and passions to literally change the world.  To date, we have built beautiful community-enhancing structures around the world, including award-winning schools, recreation centers and community centers, where over two million people live, learn, heal, and gather. We play an integral role in post-disaster rebuilding such as in Japan, Haiti, the Gulf Coast, and New York/New Jersey post-Sandy and the Philippines – remaining long after first responders leave. 

To support others in learning from and replicating what we have achieved, we launched the Open Architecture Network, as an open-sourced digital destination and a resource for sharing designs, projects, plans and competitions with the world.

Looking to the future, Architecture for Humanity’s renewed vision and strategic priorities come directly from what it has learned over the last fifteen years, helping communities recover from calamity and helping them build resilience.  While the core mission stays the same, moving forward, we will focus on two primary goals.

As part of our mission, Architecture for Humanity has always helped to rebuild communities affected by disenfranchisement, climate change, and natural disasters. From that experience, we have learned that we are both responsible and capable of strengthening communities before disaster hits. As a newly established goal, Architecture for Humanity will continue to assist stricken communities and also commits to educating and strengthening at-risk communities in equal measure.

As our second goal, we will use our knowledge and experience to train, empower and mentor any organization or designer with the desire to change the world. This extends from the premise that “Architecture” and “Humanity” are always more important than “Architecture for Humanity.”

To lead the organization in realizing these priorities, Architecture for Humanity announces new leadership. The Board of Directors has appointed Eric Cesal as the organization’s new Executive Director. His official new role began on April 21, 2014.  

Cesal is an analyst, writer, designer, builder and humanitarian based in San Francisco, CA.  Cesal first joined Architecture for Humanity in 2006 as a volunteer on the Katrina reconstruction program. 

He grew up in Washington, D.C. and holds an undergraduate degree in Architectural Studies from Brown University and Master’s Degrees in Architecture, Construction Management and Business Administration (MBA) from Washington University in St. Louis.

Cesal first gained international attention in 2010, with the publishing of Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice, a memoir/manifesto that is widely acknowledged as a roadmap to 21st century architecture.  At the time of the book’s release, Cesal had already left the country to join Architecture for Humanity full time in Port au Prince, Haiti. From 2010 to 2012, Cesal established, grew and led Architecture for Humanity’s Haiti Rebuilding Center. Cesal stewarded the Haiti program for over two-and-a-half years, from its inception to a staff of thirty architects, developers and planners, before relocating to San Francisco to lead Architecture for Humanity’s global disaster operations.

Cesal publishes frequently and internationally on the intersections between humanitarianism and design, but usually prefers to spend his time doing work as opposed to writing about it.

“We are thrilled to announce Mr. Cesal’s new role as the Executive Director of Architecture for Humanity. Eric has dedicated his life to this work and it is a privilege to now have him leading our organization. His incredible hard work paired with a solid track record of successful implementation has positioned us to grow with great success and improve the lives of thousands of people globally,” says Matt Charney, Chair, Board of Directors, Architecture for Humanity.

As the new Executive Director, Eric will lead the organization in its expanded mission. 

“We will not be an organization that only responds to crisis and misfortune.  We will be an organization that prevents crisis and misfortune.  We will continue to stand on the side of communities that have been harmed by extreme weather, crisis and neglect.  However, we will expand our focus to include communities at risk from harm, and help them strengthen against future calamities,” shares Eric Cesal, Executive Director, Architecture for Humanity.

At present, we are supporting the reconstruction efforts of small businesses in the earthquake and tsunami-struck region of Japan. While three years have passed since the disaster, many communities are still in need of assistance in long-term reconstruction. To date, our Ishinomaki office (MakiBiz) has completed sixteen built projects, including a community center and market that supports mothers and their children while providing fresh local produce to the community, and a new school building for a well-established kindergarten that was destroyed in the tsunami.

The Sandy Design Help Desk pilot program brought together professionals with diverse areas of expertise, from a team of like-minded organizations throughout New York, who provided free consultations to building owners affected by Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn and Queens, supporting their long-term recovery.  Architecture for Humanity plans to expand this program to affected areas in New Jersey, where our initiatives such as ReNew Schools program are rebuilding active spaces within storm-damaged schools.

In keeping with our expanded mission, this year Architecture for Humanity is partnering with the new American Institute of Architects Foundation in the launch of a National Resilience Initiative with Public Architecture, the Rockefeller Foundation and many others. This multi-year program will leverage the strength and passion of the architecture profession to create regional hubs focused on strengthening communities, using a new and necessary kind of design thinking. The Initiative will equip architects to educate their communities about the implications of climate change, urbanization, and shifting demographics, and empower them to design and build for an uncertain future.



Press links:

Architecture for Humanity Turns fifteen, Names New Executive Director - Arch Daily

Newsmaker: Eric Cesal - Architectural Record

Eric Cesal Named Executive Director of Architecture for Humanity - Architect Magazine

Architecture for Humanity's New Director on the Future of Designing for Disaster - Architizer

Architecture for Humanity turns 15, announces new director and rededicated mission- Archinect

Architecture for Humanity Celebrates 15th Anniversary, Announces Eric Cesal as New Director - Inhabitat

Eric Cesal é o Novo Diretor Executivo da Arquitetura para a Humanidade - Arquitetura.pt