Sydney Opera House
21 May 2015
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P aul is the principal architect of a practice based in Sydney working on urban, rural and remote area architectural projects throughout Australia and overseas. He is also one of three directors of Healthabitat. For 28 years Healthabitat has worked to improve the health of Indigenous people, by improving their living environment and housing, in suburban, rural and remote areas of Australia. Over the last 6 years similar work has expanded to projects in rural areas of Nepal and urban USA. In 2011 Healthabitat was awarded the international UN Habitat's World Habitat Award and also the Australian Institute of Architect's national Leadership in Sustainability prize for sustaining the lives of people.

Member Comments

Graeme Bristol ~ 26 | Aug | 2013 3:05 PM

It is great to see these ideas more widely spread and Pholeros’ work in this area is a terrific addition to the long history of architects working in community development. There are many unsung heroes on whose shoulders Pholeros stands. You could say this began with Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew and Otto Koenigsberger setting up the tropical architecture programme at the AA in 1954. It changed its name to the Development Planning Unit (DPU) when it moved to UCL in the early 70s. One of the AA graduates in those early years was John F.C. Turner who took his architectural skills to Peru. That experience produced his influential books on housing, Freedom to Build and Housing by People. A lot of what Pholeros was describing came indirectly from these seminal books on community development. In the early 60s, starting with the Architects Renewal Committee of Harlem, Community Design Centers began to proliferate in the US in the face of threats to poor communities from ‘urban renewal’ and expressways. Many of these, like the Detroit Collaborative Design Center and, in San Francisco, Asian Neighborhood Design continue to provide such services to their local communities. These community battles raised a number of issues which were brought to the first UN-Habitat conference in Vancouver in 1976. There, with Barbara Ward, John Turner and many others, the Vancouver Declaration established participation as a right and directly related broad environmental and health issues to housing. From there, fanning out across the globe there are hundreds of architects doing this kind of work relating health (both physical and economic) to design: Darrundono and his work with KIP in Indonesia, George Anzorena in Japan and the Philippines, Fred Cuny the American engineer who worked mainly in disaster recovery, Arif Hasan who founded the Urban Resource Centre in Karachi, Johan Silas in Surabaya, Kirtee Shah in India, Barry Pinsky of Rooftops and many others. Now, in addition to the DPU, Oxford Brookes University has a graduate architecture programme in ‘Development and Emergency Practice’ which provides additional training for architecture students who share an interest in the kind of work Pholeros was describing in this lecture. Another is the Rural Studio set up by Sam Mockbee at Auburn University back in the 90s. Building on this wealth of experience, the Centre for Architecture and Human Rights is now working on the establishment of a UNESCO Chair in human rights and community architecture at KMUTT in Bangkok in order to expand this approach to architecture to the undergraduate as well as informal educational opportunities. Thoughtful design should accomplish, as Pholeros points out, many things at once. It can play an important role in the reduction of poverty, the improvement of health and in the protection of rights. What that takes is a heightened awareness of the context in which design takes place and the leverage design has. There is a long tradition of architects pointing the way here. I am very pleased to see Paul Pholeros take the stage to skilfully pass that message on to the next generation of designers.

Melody Lord ~ 11 | Jun | 2013 5:36 AM

A simple idea that is so inspiring.

Alison McDonald ~ 07 | Jun | 2013 2:57 AM

Most inspiration talk of TEDx Sydney 2013!