20 hours a year doesn't sound like too much does it? San Francisco based architectural do-gooders Public Architecture don't think so. The nonprofit design organization launched The 1% in 2005 (the same year Dwell recognized them as Nice Modernists), a program that asks architecture firms around the country to donate just 1% of their time to pro bono work. What kind of impact could this potentially have? They ran the numbers and if every architecture professional in the United States― an estimated 237,599 people―donated just 1% of an 8-hour work day, the total amount of time dedicated to serving the community would amount to 5,000,000 hours, or almost 2,500 full time professional workers per year.
Public Architecture was established in 2002 and believes that "quality of life is related to quality of space" and that high-quality spaces should be available to everyone - not just those with money. To that end, The 1% program focuses on pairing volunteering architects with nonprofit organizations who need design services. While large firms such as Perkins+Will and HOK have joined the 1% solution, offices of any size are encouraged to donate their time and effort. The 1%'s user-friendly website and introductory “user's guide” make it easy for designers and nonprofts to get informed and connect with one another. Examples of work include an East Harlem public school library designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and a Seattle housing development by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects.
February was a banner month for both Public Architecture and The 1%. Public's leaders, John Peterson and John Cary, were recognized by Contract Magazine with the "Designers of the Year Award,” and a record number of design firms and nonprofits registered with The 1%, bringing the total number of registered firms to almost 500 and the number of nonprofits requesting assistance to 234. It's heartening to see that during these tough economic times, when unemployed architects roam the streets of our cities, many firms are still devoted to working for the public good. If you're interested in joining the cause, check out theonepercent.org.