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Thought Leader Design

Pro Bono Work Can Bring Out Best Efforts in Consulting Partners

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In this last of a four-part series on social responsibility and pro bono work, Chris Sciarrone, an associate in the Atlanta office of Perkins+Will, discusses the relationship the firm has with other consultants on its pro bono projects. 

Extraordinary projects of any kind rarely result from solitary authorship. Design in particular requires thoughtful collaboration among a team of professionals to succeed. It has been our privilege at Perkins+Will to have worked with some of the finest engineers, specialty consultants and builders in metro Atlanta and beyond. These industry professionals demonstrate the same commitments and values that prompted us to formalize the Social Responsibility Initiative.

While Perkins+Will can offer Architecture, Interior Design, and Urban Design services, we must rely on the generosity of trusted Engineering and Construction partners to offer their unique expertise on their own time for pro-bono projects. None of the projects shown in this series would have been possible without their direct involvement. For this we are grateful and by extension, so are our clients and the individuals they serve.

The Hamu Mukasa Library in Mukono Uganda. The design of the library is modern in form but draws on the historically successful courtyard designs of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The design and the courtyard organization are well suited to support the program of a main library, seminar rooms, teaching spaces and faculty areas and take advantage of the climate in Uganda so that students experience an inspiring, light-filled building that has outdoor study space that students can take advantage of throughout the year. The 60,000-square-foot library will have the capacity for holdings of 100,000 volumes and seating for 900 students. It will have infrastructure for high speed wireless Internet, which is vital for research and teaching in East Africa. Perkins+Will and its team provided full programming, design, and construction oversight services. Photos: Mike Reid

One significant difference between pro bono work and paid work is the nature of the relationship with these sub-consultant team members. Because our Social Responsibility Initiative is ultimately organized by time instead of money, we ask sub-consultants such as engineers to provide their services via a direct agreement with the client, rather than contracting through the architect as is more common. The lead designers still maintain responsibility for coordination of services as a whole.

Curiously, the absence of payment can reveal other motivations and encourage creative thinking. There is a heightened sense of working together for the common good that brings out everyone’s imagination and best efforts. Work becomes predicated on the satisfaction of meaningful contributions.

An interior shot of the Hamu Mukasa Library

Entering the holiday season, we may experience a renewed sense of gratitude for the skills we each have, and for the opportunities to use our skills and our time to benefit others. We may see the many ways that non-profit organizations strengthen our communities by serving people who find themselves in difficult situations. We may be reminded that what we give matters.

Below are three timely and inspirational links.

A special report by the American Institute of Architects on Design for the Common Good

Giving Tuesday: An initiative to encourage families, charities, businesses and individuals to give back on November 27, 2012

Georgia Gives Day, sponsored by the Georgia Center for NonProfits, is also an initiative to support a day of giving, on December 6, 2012

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