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Pro Bono

edited August 2006 in architecture
Architects don't do a lot of pro bono work for community groups in Australia, and few would consider it an integral part of their practice. People cite concerns about liability, loose scopes of work, uncertain time farmes, not to mention office profitability. Yet the legal and medical professions have been involved in pro bono work for decades.

Seeking a way to increase the importance of Pro Bono to built environment professionals, Architects For Peace* last night launched a referral service to match requests for assistance from non-profit organisations with a list of suitable member architects. Contracts and forms of agreement have been developed with Clayton Utz lawyers (working pro bono).

The service is modelled on local groups like the Public Interest Law Clearing House ( ) and the American organisation Public Architecture ( ).

An assessment panel has been formed in Melbourne and will be actively promoting the service to the architectural profession in the coming months. Initial projects include the reinvention of a carpark at the Collingwood Housing Estate, and a community centre in Bacau, East Timor.


* I am a member of Arch-Peace and have been involved in the pro bono service set up.


  • dharma bum
    edited January 1970
    Isn't that a fancy name for working unpaid overtime?
  • beatriz
    edited October 2008
    <p><span style="font-size: smaller">Yes, you may say so. However this is different in that it is working for those who need it and cannot afford the services, which means that they would go without architecture, as most people in Australia do. As far as I know, architecturally designed buildings account for only 5% of all buildings (please correct me if I am wrong – do you know if another figure exists?). Arch-peace pro bono is also promoting the concept of architecture as something that should be accesible to all, part of the well-being of our cities, less exclusive and more of an urban need. (see: </span><a href=""><span style="font-size: smaller"></span></a><span style="font-size: smaller">) The US based pro bono service model, the <a href="">1% solution</a> made a very relevant point: most of us work unpaid when participating in competitions and when the firms we work for expect us to work long hours for free! - as most of you would know this happens a lot. The difference is that pro bono doesn't work for free for the benefit of those who can and should pay. This work goes to non-for-profit organisations and communities that, eventually will benefit and improve their own contribution to society. This is a social service – vocabulary and actions not too common in architectural circles. Having said this, I am aware that some practices have dedicated some percentage of their work to pro bono. The difference is that </span><a href=""><span style="font-size: smaller">Architects for Peace</span></a><span style="font-size: smaller"> is trying to formalize this practice and promote the discussion and need for pro bono as a social duty in times of pervasive individualism and greed - with this, the understanding of architecture in a much wider context.</span></p>
  • delune
    edited January 1970
    Is this the same as the abri group that was set up by a group of graduates last year? I've been trying to get in contact with them for a while now but thought they had disappeared.
    A friend and I were keen to contribute at the start of this year. I think the project was an artist's shelter.
  • peter_j
    edited January 1970
    The Abri group have joined in with this service. You could get in touch via the website above.
  • kang
    edited January 1970
    I am interested to find out about them too, but can't seem to find information or links about them in the website you prescribed. Could you help me locate them? I didn't know anything about the previously, perhaps that's why I could not see it.

  • peter_j
    edited January 1970
    I can only suggest making contact via the website form here. If you are looking for anyone in particular it would get forwarded.
  • anthony
    edited November -1
    <p>The updated website for Architects for Peace pro bono is: <a href=""></a></p>
  • simon seasons
    edited October 2008
    <p>I'd like to point out that a lot of community artists groups (st kilda playground comes to mind) have for years worked bro bono to build facilities for kids and so on and it is interesting to read, Delune that you wanted to work on an artists shelter. Full circle, very nice.</p>
    <p>That some architects see thier work as valuable enough to offer free to the disadvantaged is wonderful. You will probably find a lot of artists will greet you at the site visits. In fact wanting to do more valuable work for the disadvantaged, as an artist, is the primary reason I chose to start being an architect, That and climate change.</p>
  • peter
    edited November -1
    <p>The winner in the Health category at the WAF awards was FAREstudio's Centre pour le Bien-être des femmes in Burkin Faso, Africa. At the jury presentation the representative from the Italian practice said that the centre was designed on a Pro Bono basis.</p>
    <p><a href="">FAREstudio</a></p>
    <p><a href="">WAF Health category</a></p>
    <p>How they managed to send an architect to work on site for a year for free is not clear. In my limited expperience in Pro Bono work, in these sorts of projects the design phase is done Pro Bono and this extends into assisting the community group to secure funding from an aid organisation or government. After that, the architect is paid if they are retained.</p>
    <p>Grocon's presentation at Arch-Peace's Words@Bld50 night in September illustrated another method. This developer-led attempt to build atower for the homeless in Melbourne's Flemington Road required all participants to work on the project without profit. From the sparky to the architect. It probably helps to be a Grollo when asking people to do this. The 25% (!) reduction in project cost meant that the client (HomeGround and Yarra Community Services) could approach the government for funding, having already 'raised' the required 25% of building cost.</p>
    <p><a href="">WORDS SEPTEMBER</a></p>
    <p><a href="">HomeGround press release May 08</a></p>
  • hairdresser
    edited November 2008
    grollo - pro bono?
    charging hourly rates. for time - sounds good for everyone.
    risk - liability (loss) is also eliminated along with profit.

    when lawyers work pro bono - it means just that.
    on top of that it has huge potential to be a cash flow gravy train for all involved.

    maybe the hairdresser has been cutting too much dirty hair.
    - and of course anyone who criticises it is a bastard?
  • sod
    edited November -1
    <p>don't poke a stick at this one HD - but i think u r right - cash flow is vital to retaining a large work force. grollo use to buy jobs so this one doesn't cost much except the oppurtunity of making a profit ( when oppurtunities are becoming increasing rare)</p>
    <p>methods for the deilivery of infrastructure, buildings and services is an interesting topic but i don't think it has much to do with architecture - look at the building, wots good about about it? does a social programme and discounted charitable intentions redeme a building? probably not but i guess some dogs r ok.</p>
  • e.trabucco
    edited November -1
    Hallo, concerning FAREstudio project in Burkina, I would like to explain that the whole DESIGN of the CBF centre was offered to the NGO who was the 'promoter' of the initiative and who had already found the financial partners of the social-helth programme to be held in the CBF building.

    Then, when I was sent in Burkina to supervise the construction works as a consultant, of course I was given a rembousement for the expenses from the NGO, given that I spent there 18 months. FAREstudio, of whom I am just one member, kept supporting me with technical help and various site visits for free.

    Erika Trabucco
  • peter
    edited November -1
    <p>Thanks for clearing that up Erika.</p>
    <p>Here's the entire FARE project at archdaily: <a href="">LINK</a></p>
    <p>It seems every architect and his dog has been working pro bono in some capacity in the victorian bushfire areas, alongside paid up consultants in allied disciplines. Why are we so nice?</p>
  • peter
    edited November -1
    <p>The bushfire rebuilding frenzy is in full flight, using a lot of unpaid design work by architects, for individuals, charities, and the government. </p>
    <p>To anyone involved, how is it going?</p>
    <p>I've been personally involved in a project, and will try to sum up once the dust has settled. Anonymous posters shouldn't have to wait so long.</p>
    <p>Maybe start by answering this common question: if the fee has no value, is the service valued?</p>
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