Architecture nonprofit launches local chapter

Rhode Island nonprofits and other small organizations that don’t have the means to hire professional architects can get their services through Architecture for Humanity’s new Providence chapter.
Architecture for Humanity is a national, nonprofit, volunteer organization that provides design, construction and development services for organizations that are not able to afford professional fees. There are 73 chapters in 25 countries with more than 4,650 volunteer design professionals, according to its website.
Architecture for Humanity Providence launched in September following a year of planning and paperwork by chapter coordinators. There are currently eight members, including professional architects and design interns from Rhode Island who will provide services to small nonprofits.
“We opened this chapter because it’s a good way for us to give back and improve the local community,” said Stephanie Zurek, a Providence chapter coordinator and licensed architect with Donald Powers Architects, Inc. in Providence.
The group will tackle projects such as developing schematic design packages for a local nonprofit fundraising efforts, assisting neighborhood groups with designing park structures (such as a pavilion in a community garden) or working with the community to design the future of a vacant urban lot.
The Providence chapter will provide services up to the design and development phase. The final construction of a project is performed by a separate architect/building company, Zurek said.
Since the Providence chapter is so new, it hasn’t begun work on any projects or signed on any clients just yet and its website has little information. But it will provide services similar to what the Boston chapter offers. That active chapter launched following the Boxing Day Tsunami in Southeast Asia in December 2004 and regularly provides pro bono architecture services to nonprofits and for disaster relief throughout Massachusetts.
For example, its members worked with the Boston Society of Architects to provide assistance to communities in western Massachusetts damaged by the tornado earlier this year. Last year, the Boston group completed a schematic design and fundraising package for the United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury to assist them with a project located at 90 Windsor St. in Roxbury. “The former community center fell into disrepair over the years but is still a rallying point in the neighborhood,” said Mike McHugh, an architect with Architecture for Humanity Boston. “While the building cannot currently be used, there are community gardens around it and it is still a gathering spot for community picnics.”
The group also designed the More Than Words bookstore and it’s Cafe in Waltham, Mass. in 2009. The More than Words program trains young people that are aging out of the foster care system in the online bookselling business.
Architecture for Humanity Boston is also working on renovation drawings for the Irish International Immigrant Center in downtown Boston and internationally, the group is working on multiple projects in Nepal, Kenya and Guatemala, McHugh said.
The Providence chapter hopes to develop community projects that help the community in Rhode Island in similar ways. To raise funds, the chapter plans to sponsor a design competition or a film series sometime within the next year.
Architecture for Humanity uses 88 percent of its funding on construction and design services, 9 percent on administration costs and 3 percent on fundraising outreach, according to the organization’s website.
Nonprofits that want services from the Providence chapter should contact Architecture for Humanity and ask to fill out a project-review form. To qualify, businesses have to prove that they cannot afford services from an architecture firm. The project also has to benefit the greater community and it has to be a realistic size for the local Architecture for Humanity chapter to take on, Zurek said.
In addition to Zurek, Providence chapter members include Sara Kudra, co-coordinator of the Providence chapter and an intern architect with Ed Wojcik, Architect Ltd. in Providence. Some other members include James Evrard, a designer / intern architect with NEMD Architects Inc. in Cranston, Vada Seccareccia, a local intern architect and Barbara Russell-Willett, a local independent architect.
Those interested in finding out more about the local chapter and services should contact Sara Kudra ( &#8226

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