Utne Reader Visionaries share their latest projects, ideas, and visions for the future.
Peter Williams is the Founding Director of ARCHIVE Global—an international non-profit that uses housing/environmental design to improve health among the most vulnerable. As an architect he has worked on 5 continents and taught at universities around the world. Peter holds Masters Degrees in African Studies and Architecture from the University of Oxford and Columbia University, respectively. His work has been featured on BBC, ABC, in the Wall Street Journal and leading design and health journals. He was named among the 40 leaders under 40 in International Development, is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and lectures widely on architecture, public health and sustainability. Peter was recognized as an Utne Reader Visionary in 2009.
In 2004, few people were talking about the connection between poorly ventilated, overcrowded houses and diseases like HIV, AIDS, and tuberculosis. But architect Peter Williams was in South Africa, looking for links between housing conditions and epidemics. He also noticed the fear and stigmatization that circulated alongside disease in areas with inadequate housing. When Williams started blogging about his observations in 2005, he found that many were interested in what he had to say, and his ambitions grew into an organization. Since the 2006 founding of Architecture for Health In Vulnerable Environments (ARCHIVE), Williams has encouraged doctors, social scientists, architects, and communities to solve these problems together.
In June, ARCHIVE began construction on a “Breathe House” in Haiti. The thoughtfully designed structure encourages community interaction, air circulation, water catchment, and the use of solar electricity. The designers, Aja Bulla-Richards and Sara Harper, aimed to create a modular structure that could be built with local materials. ARCHIVE worked with Initiative reCOVER and the Building Goodness Foundation to design and construct the house.
Most importantly, ARCHIVE encourages local participation in building the structures. According to a recent blog post on the site, “The most successful development projects are those which integrate the local community, and that has been ARCHIVE Global’s aim in Haiti. The Breathe House is designed to improve health and is specifically made to be easily assembled without high levels of technical expertise. This means that the community can replicate the health benefits by creating more houses with the same design. This level of community participation is intended to mean that the effects of our work in Haiti will be long-lasting and sustainable.”