Architects Assist was established on January 4th, 2020 by architect Jiri Lev to provide design assistance to the victims of the 2019/2020 Australian Bushfires – the worst season with the largest devastation nation-wide on record. Despite its infancy, the register counts more than 400 architects and 800 students ready to offer design advice and services free of charge when the time comes.
At present, Jiri and his wife Alexandra run the organisation. They will be matching client inquiries with the most suitable professionals taking into consideration availability, location, and expertise. A greater or more complex project can be matched to a firm or organisation as opposed to an individual architect.
As people begin to register for help, for each confirmed case Architects Assist will communicate to the architect or organisation they deem appropriate, the prospect work location and client’s situation summary. From there, the architect or organisation will have the choice to accept the commission. If they do so, Architects Assist will connect the client and architect to move forward together.
“The basic idea is that the architect or building designer will get in touch with the client, to hear them out and collect all necessary details. They will then visit the site to make an assessment of the damage and discuss recovery options. Subsequently, depending on the client’s specific circumstances, they will agree upon an appropriate degree of pro bono assistance. Further, some architects may choose to include some of our architecture student and graduate volunteers in their process,” says Jiri.
The organization was created as a referral service connecting those in need with those who are able and willing to help. They don’t receive funding nor do they request donations.
Those requiring assistance can expect each situation to be assessed individually. Architects Assist will explain the options available and the degree of help they can offer pro bono. The exact criterion to deem a client able to receive services pro bono is still to be determined. “My own view is that we should offer free design and planning service to people who have no or very little budget to rebuild and will largely rely on recycling materials left of their homes (if any) and donations,” says Jiri, before adding that no one will be refused help point-blank. “At the very least, we provide free initial advice and guidance, which seems to also be what many clients come for: To gain some basic understanding of the steps that lie ahead towards recovery.”
It’s been suggested that Architects Assist could continue to exist beyond the current bushfire season to support those affected by future natural disasters.
“We’d like to create an easy-to-navigate, geographically organised, map-based directory of local practitioners willing to do pro bono, coupled with an extensive and ever-growing, publicly available knowledge base on sustainable and resilient design,” says Jiri, adding that they are currently working on this with the Australian Institute of Architects.
It’s early days yet and as the bushfires are very much still raging, it’s unlikely these services will be called upon until a full damage assessment can be made both individually and from the government. As such the above outlines the intended process, however it’s early days and Jiri notes they’ll be constantly fine-tuning the process for efficiency and efficacy.
The takeaway is overwhelming – the architecture and design industry won’t hesitate to pledge their ongoing support of the victims of the bushfires and imminent recovery effort.
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