Humanitarian architecture: How powerful design can help change the world

Designers have freaking superhero” skills, says architect Bryan Bell of the Public Interest Design Movement and South Carolina’s Design Corps. They rapidly visualise multiple solutions and design assets, creating countless – limitless – ideas in a single day. 

The problem, he says, is that they’re not great at measuring and articulating that value.

And when it comes to solving some of the most pressing global issues that means they sometimes get left on the sidelines. And this is a great loss because he argues, design can be a very powerful tool in a humanitarian crisis.

Facing complex challenges of climate, inequality, food and water, and political insecurity, a superhero is what the world needs right now.

A design idea is an asset, and assets are what is needed,” Bryan says. 

As part of Humanitarian Architecture Week we recorded a panel conversation in our Melbourne studio between Dr Esther Charlesworth from Architects Without Frontiers, Bryan Bell from Design Corps and Hassell Principal Mark Loughnan.

From the powerful example of design’s crucial role of healing in post-genocide Rwanda to a city’s solution to homelessness, Episode 5 of Hassell Talks examines how deploying, measuring and demonstrating the value of design is critically important to addressing the most pressing humanitarian challenges of our time.

This is something we can do for the world that, really, nobody else is able to do,” Bryan says.


Hassell Talks: Episode 5


Mark Loughnan, Hassell


Dr Esther Charlesworth, Architects Without Frontiers
Bryan Bell, Public Interest Design


Choon Yong Heng, Hassell


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Success can be measured, and that becomes the proof to say: Look, we met this issue, here’s the evidence,’ and chalk it up to another issue addressed by design.”

Bryan Bell Design Corps