Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
We at Article 25 work to enable this right by building solutions to global problems. We provide the skills and knowledge needed to make safe and appropriate building projects possible. Our vision is of a world where all people have access to dignified shelter and housing, adequate and safe school buildings and effective clinics and hospitals. As such, we aim for superior architectural interventions in 3 main areas: Education, Healthcare, Disaster Resilience
Article 25 is one of the very few charities in the world, and the only one of scale in the UK, directly providing architectural, project management and ancillary services with a humanitarian mission. We do so through an in-house design and project management team, adding the expertise of engineering firms to the team as necessary. We help some of the most vulnerable communities around the world to build schools, clinics and houses or to rebuild lives and livelihoods in the wake of disasters and conflicts.
We work closely with local people and partner NGOs and so develop an acute understanding of prevailing conditions, capacity and resources. By applying the best principles of architecture and engineering we design resilient, functional, beautiful and safe places for education, health, working and living. Through training, we exchange knowledge with local communities and build capacity. In 11 years, Article 25 has carried out 85 projects in 34 countries touching the lives of thousands.
Why do we provide architecture and project management services through our own design office instead of acting as a broker and drawing on the skills of UK or in-country architecture practices? It is because the humanitarian architecture we provide is a specialism in its own right – one that commercial practices cannot readily provide. When Article 25 was founded in 2006, under its previous name Architects for Aid, the operational model was to act as brokers and facilitators drawing on the established architectural profession for design services. However we found that the proposals put forward by the practices, with the best intent and high architectural skill, required extensive tailoring in-house to make them functional and viable on the ground.
Practices operating in the UK context could not afford the time required for a deep enough reading of the prevailing circumstances in which the buildings would be constructed, occupied and maintained. Our architecture requires extreme economy and precise judgement of resource use, a close appreciation of climate and culture, and a deep understanding of the realities of local construction practice, project management and after-care. We found that incubating and maintaining these specialist skills in-house enabled us to be more effective.
Unlike architecture, the engineering disciplines are transportable: physics and chemistry are the same all over the world. We are therefore able to rely on UK engineering practices to help design the solutions.
It should not be surprising that there is specialism attached to architectural practice fit for contexts so very different from what prevails in western and northern countries. This specialism is related to the now barely remembered discipline that used to be called ‘Tropical Architecture’ to which there was dedicated a research unit at the Architectural Association and about which a book of the same name was written. In the 1950s and 60s London was a centre for such studies.
Although things have moved on, and what Article 25 provides is ‘topical’ rather than ‘tropical’ architecture, we answer a similar need. Although we know it to be necessary to maintain an in-house design office we want to be open to any architecture and engineering practice to collaborate and exchange knowledge with us. We aim to build a centre of excellence around the design office, backed by post occupancy evaluations and impact studies.
History of Article 25
Article 25 (initially Architects for Aid) was founded by Maxwell Hutchinson in 2006, the broadcaster and past president of RIBA. Since then we have worked on over 85 projects in 34 countries. Norman Foster, founder and chairman of Foster & Partners, and responsible for some of the world’s most recognisable buildings, is now Article 25’s patron.