Monthly Archives: October 2009


pro bono publico – for the public good or well being, and more commonly understood in the world of professional services as ‘free’.

DEFINING PRO BONO.  We all understand disparities in wealth and access to professional services.  To some, these disparities compel a moral imperative to provide professional services to under-served communities.  Many architects regularly perform pro bono services for a variety of ends.  While certain firms focus on needs of the international community, such as Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and his disaster relief housing for Japan, Turkey, and India, others focus on issues specific to the United States.  Auburn University’s Rural Studio has been designing and building housing and civic buildings in rural Alabama since 1993, while Yale University has an even longer tradition of volunteering their design/build services to their local community.  While globalization has increased the reach and scope of the architect, it has also brought to the forefront the major issues that plague our societies.  A great need exists globally and locally, and architects are more capable than ever to affect change. Continue reading

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HOUSE NO. 1.  I step out of my car and glance at the address listed on my clip board.  I then compare that number to the faded house number adjacent to the front door.  It’s a match.  My partner and I glance at the neighborhood and quickly assess our surroundings.  We traverse the short front walk, step up the slightly deteriorating stoop, and ring the doorbell. It doesn’t work.  I tap my clipboard hard against the locked storm door.  I stand square with the front door, my Detroit Housing Commission badge daggling from my shirt pocket. Like standing before a metal detector at the airport, I allow a stranger to scrutinize my intensions.  I give ample time for them to complete their security check through the peephole.  As I stand there, my mind wanders.  What will I find on the other side of the door?

REHABILITATING DETROIT.  In 2009, the federal government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  It was enacted as an economic stimulus package and immediately pumped $12.7 billion towards the modernization of the nation’s public housing.   New leadership at the Detroit Housing Commission (DHC) has earmarked $8 million toward breathing new life into a scattered sites housing program that has proven national success.   Through this capital outlay, the DHC is continuing its mission to provide quality housing for all Detroiters.  Hamilton Anderson Associates is one of four teams of architects asked to take this journey of rehabilitation with the DHC.  Our specific task is to assess the physical condition of 80 homes, but as our work continues, we realize our assessments are also about restoring the human condition. Continue reading

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The Eco-Industrial Cruise Line – Hybrid Sustainability.  Just as urban design cannot be thought of simply as architecture on a larger scale, sustainable urbanism is not merely a collection of ‘green’ buildings, spaces, and infrastructure upgrades.  The transformation of America’s former industrial capitals from beleaguered shrinking cities into thriving urban centers depends not only on an agglomeration of high tech interventions – such as solar and wind farms, green roofs, electric cars, etc – but on a radical paradigm shift in the nature of land use, density, transportation and the role of our industrial heritage on future policy.

This blog post outlines such a paradigm shift, narrating the proposed evolution of Detroit’s post-industrial region through the introduction of Eco-Industrial Tourism via an Eco-Industrial Cruise Line. Continue reading

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