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Design like you mean it

A new photo book showcases examples of visionary housing solutions in poor communities.
 
 
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A lovely new architecture book called Design Like You Give a Damn recently made its way onto my crowded desk. Edited by the founders of Architecture for Humanity (a grassroots nonprofit shelter group), the book features photos, interviews and articles about some of the design world's most visionary responses to homelessness, poverty and unsafe housing across the world.

Included are poignant portraits of communities like Bayview, Virginia's "Rural Village." Under the guidance of architect Maurice D. Cox and resident community leader Alice Coles, the town was transformed over the course of six years (with financial help from about 17 different funders, including a grant from local arena-rockers the Dave Matthews Band). What was once a decaying 52-family outpost with only one contaminated well as its water source has become a vibrant rural community with affordable, high-quality homes to rent and own.

Design Like You Give a Damn covers many other, equally innovative (though less publicized) initiatives by architects around the globe -- from northern Ireland to Chile, Vietnam, India, Alabama, Los Angeles and NYC. It's definitely worth picking up.

Laura Barcella is AlterNet's associate editor.