Resilient Communities: Designing a Better World on World Architecture Day

World Architecture Day is a celebration of the transformative power of architectural design. Introduced by the International Union of Architects (UIA) in 1985, the annual event aligns with the United Nations’ World Habitat Day, reinforcing the idea that the built environment is pivotal in shaping our communities and fostering resilience.

In 2023, World Architecture Day carries a profound theme, “Architecture for Resilient Communities.” It calls upon architects, designers, and urban planners to reflect on their role in addressing global challenges and creating spaces that empower communities to thrive. The theme is an encapsulation of our core values at Ware Malcomb: Design, People, Community, and Innovation, and it also resonates with my personal journey with United to End Homelessness.

Housing is Vital to Creating Resilient Communities

As the country began emerging from the Great Recession a few years back, I was struck by the alarming and growing number of tents I was seeing on my drives throughout Orange County. Tent after tent as I drove around, serving as a stark reminder of the still ongoing homelessness crisis throughout the state. Seeing so many people struggling to get a roof over their head troubled me deeply, compelling me to take action.

I reached out to the United Way, with whom I already had a longstanding relationship, to see how I could help with their involvement in a county commission to end homelessness. I collaborated with their CEO and President Sue Parks, and we began convening with community leaders to form a leadership council. Sue and I recognized the importance of a layered approach involved various stakeholders. The stakeholders included businesses, government agencies, non-profits, faith leaders and more. Together, we outlined our mission for United to End Homelessness, drawing on a cost study from UC Irvine and insights from other successful initiatives throughout the country.

Our Role as Architects

As a state, providing enough housing to account for the large and growing rental and real estate costs and population has been a challenge. Stating “we need more housing” is easy, but finding ways to build it in an affordable way is where the challenge lies. This is where architects can play a key role. We have the ability to innovate to a set of parameters, designing aesthetically pleasing, timeless housing built in cost effective ways.

At United to End Homelessness, an alliance was formed with local apartment landlords and nonprofits who provide services and resources such as financial planning, mental health and job training. The partnership helps place housing voucher recipients into furnished homes provided by the partnering landlords. The process is both an efficient and economical way to house those in need.

Our efforts were recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a national best practice. As the program has grown, we’ve also adapted to current market needs. In five years we’ve helped house approximately 950 people who otherwise would be in shelters or on the streets. Housing is a fundamental aspect of community resilience, and one that architecture and design directly impacts.

The Ware Malcomb Philosophy

At Ware Malcomb, we work to fulfill the promise of resilient communities by focusing on long-term real estate value and sustainability. If we keep the future in mind as we’re designing, it’s good for the community, the client and the long-term value of the building.

Our company values: Design, People, Community, and Innovation, align seamlessly with the theme of resilient communities. We envision buildings that not only serve today’s needs but anticipate tomorrow’s challenges. This vision drives us to create spaces that remain viable and relevant for generations to come.

World Architecture Day is a reminder that architecture is a powerful force for change. It’s an invitation to engage in a global conversation about the future of our communities. As we celebrate this day, let’s remember that each of us, armed with our unique skill sets and passions, can make a difference.

Together, we can design a better world, one resilient community at a time.