David Baker mentions in an interview for “Wisdom from the Field” that an office that goes completely pro-bono is “not a sustainable model” without some sort of economic backing. “Eventually people have kids and they want to have a place to live and they want to eat […]”
The want and desire for architects to produce work for communities and the underserved is great, but some businesses shy away from the idea of going pro-bono in fear of financial distress in the long-run.
However, David Baker’s firm, David Baker and Partners Architects, seem to have found a way to help ease that burden. David Baker and Partners Architects is considered a for-profit integrated practice and does a small amount of pro-bono work.
In one instance, Baker donated the schematic design for a particular project that had a component to be constructed by Habitat for Humanity.
“We did that with the interns.”
The younger architects of the office designed it with minimal direction from the higher-ups.
I think that this is an excellent model that firms practicing in pro-bono work should follow. Giving young, aspiring architects the chance to get their hands dirty is an uplifting and educational system. It gives them the chance to practice the ropes and figure out who they are as architects.
Because interns are typically paid lower than seasoned architects, the firm is using its resources wisely, as well as accomplishing their desire to serve the communities that so desperately are in need of design.
If the success of a pro-bono project is to treat them like any other project that is being managed in the office, then there is no going wrong in handing it over to the most design- driven, passionate, yearning, caring young architects that a firm has to offer.
Use your interns for pro-bono work!