What: "Solutions for the Other 90%": 10 presentations on local efforts to solve real-world problems.
When: 7 p.m., Thursday, July 31
Where: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Admission: Free tickets available at the Bazinet Garden lobby desk from 6 p.m.
On the local front
In 1999, a 20-something British architect named Cameron Sinclair and his partner Kate Stohr started a nonprofit called Architecture for Humanity. It aimed to harness the volunteer talent of architects to assist in humanitarian crises such as the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
Sinclair's modus operandi: Invite architects to submit designs for a real-world project, engage the local people in choosing the most appropriate one, and get it built. AFH, as it is known, has been wildly successful. Thousands of architects have been involved in projects that include mobile AIDS clinics in Africa and housing on the Gulf Coast. The white structures housing the Walker exhibit, for instance, are Global Village Shelters commissioned by Architecture for Humanity for use in Grenada after Hurricanes Ivan and Emily. (For an inspiring AFH overview, see the 2005 book "Design Like You Give a Damn.")
In 2005, Sinclair taught at the University of Minnesota College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and revved up scores of students and architects to join what is without doubt a movement. Even before his class, the local chapter of Architecture for Humanity had designed a community center for Sri Lanka that has since been built. Inspired by that project and other good things they saw happening around them, Colin Kloecker and Troy Gallas, CALA graduates and members of that chapter, formed an offshoot called Solutions Twin Cities.
"You can find out about things going on in Europe or Asia but then you turn your computer off and it's gone," said Gallas. "We wanted to find out what's going on here that people can participate in without taking a year off to volunteer."
The information on the website — links to projects and people — is combined with twice-a-year evening gatherings that have attracted more than 250 people.
Kloecker said, "We want to bring the people and their ideas together."
The format draws on the Japanese Pechakucha, in which designers get 20 images at 20 seconds apiece to show their work. Using that fast-paced format, Thursday's panel will combine local people working abroad and local people working locally. Among them:
• Tom Fisher, dean of the U's College of Design, which is known internationally for its focus on humanitarian design
• Stephanie and Kelly Kinnunen, Northeast Minneapolis-based publishers of NEED magazine, whose motto is, "We are not out to save the world, but to tell the stories of those who are."
• Cassie Neu and Jeffrey Swainhart of the Minnesota chapter of Architecture for Humanity
• 612 Authentic, which produces short documentary films (for MinnPost.com among others) about extraordinary ordinary people in the Twin Cities
• Peter Rich of the Microfinance Alliance, a local think tank that researches how to finance humanitarian pursuits
Fisher sees this "other 90 percent" focus transforming the profession. "In the next decade there may be a whole profession of public service architects — the counterpart of public health professionals," he said. "That's where the new, huge opportunities for growth will come." — Linda Mack
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