Los Angeles is home to the rich and famous and some of the best design in the world. But with 50,000 homeless people on the streets, it is also home to the largest homeless population in the country. The reality of this startling statistic has caused many in the design community to search for a way to lend their talents to the cause as a way to make a difference.
For the PRO BONO session of GOPRO/LA at Dwell on Design this week, ASID hosted a panel of designers who are working to do just this — and changing lives through design in the process. The panel included design TV celebrity and founder of Design Without Borders, Mark Brunetz, Lance Simon from Egan Simon Architecture, and Carolyn Baker from Step Up on Second, an LA-based organization dedicated to providing rehabilitation services and housing to people affected by mental illness. Together, they transformed a 20,700 sq.-ft., three-story hotel into a 34-unit affordable LEED Platinum housing project in the heart of Los Angeles. The development, known as Step Up on Vine, is helping homeless people get off the streets and into homes — the first step to recovery. And for designer Lance Simon, this is what drives his work.
“One of the first projects in my career was a 22,000 sq.-ft. mansion, which was very exciting,” recalls Simon. “But when I asked myself not WHAT I’m designing, but WHY I’m designing, I realized it is because at its core, design makes people’s lives better — and that’s how I began searching for ways to make the biggest impact I can and discovered the power of pro bono and amazing partnerships and projects like Step Up on Vine.”
Designers are not the only ones who recognize the importance and value of groups like Step Up on Second, which has received recognition from the national media and global influencers, including President Clinton, for the positive impact it has on society as a whole. Projects like Step Up on Vine transform lives and communities, and they transform the careers of the designers who get involved.
Whether you are just starting out or established in your career, there are many ways to join the pro bono movement and get involved. Between now and June 30, you can enter the Design for a Difference design contest, which will give $20,000 in goods and resources to makeover a space at a charity of your choice.
We also encourage you to consider joining ASID in our partnership with The 1%, program of Public Architecture, which matches designers nationwide with nonprofits seeking pro bono design services.
Title image courtesy theonepercent.org