Architecture Goes Open-Source

April 12, 2007

By David Sokol

At the annual invitation-only Technology Entertainment Design Conference last month, Architecture for Humanity founder Cameron Sinclair took center stage to launch the Open Architecture Prize. Its $250,000 purse, among the largest offered for architecture, will be awarded to the best design for a computer lab that will be built as part of the 50x15 Initiative. This effort, led by chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices, aims to provide Internet access to half the world’s population by 2015.


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Sinclair’s announcement came just one day after he inaugurated another project with a similarly global reach: the Open Architecture Network, an open-source online space where architects and engineers can share their ideas with organizations and community leaders that are seeking design solutions for coping with the aftermath of natural disasters and political conflict. In addition to forging connections between socially responsible designers and worthy clients, the network allows creative colleagues to comment on one another’s ideas, along the lines of Web sites such as Wikipedia.

Architecture for Humanity is not alone in adapting Wiki culture to the architecture profession. Another project in the works is the Public Information Exchange (PIE), a digital interface that Local Projects, a design studio in New York City, is developing for the Center for Architecture, home to the American Institute of Architect’s New York chapter.

Comparing the two efforts, Local Projects principal Jake Barton says that whereas participants in the Open Architecture Network “are really looking to share how these things are built, and to facilitate working teams across the world,” PIE will solicit feedback from design professionals and community members about new buildings in development throughout greater New York. “It’s about architects communicating with all stakeholders,” he explains.

A beta version of PIE launches this month at, but it will officially open for business in October to coincide with the AIA’s sesquicentennial. A beta version of Architecture for Humanity’s vision is already live at and the Open Architecture Prize competition will be managed through this site.

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