Lawyers have a formal, long-running tradition of pro bono work—so why not architects? The Power of Pro Bono lays down a gauntlet of sorts, challenging the architecture profession to step up and do more of the type of work featured in this hefty, photo-rich book: design that improves the lives of people and communities who often can’t afford basic necessities, let alone fancy architecture firms.
The projects showcased are clever, beautiful, and efficient, from a sleek education-arts-recreation center serving homeless youth to a high-tech, awesomely outfitted hospital room for chronically ill kids. The book is not just for architects, offering prime browsing for anyone interested in social justice, urban planning, and green building, which figures heavily in many projects. “You shouldn’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one,” a single mom from the Bronx tells Majora Carter, the urban activist (and Utne Reader visionary) who recounts the comment in her foreword. It’s this spirit that drives The Power of Pro Bono.
This article first appeared in the January-February 2011 issue of Utne Reader.