think tank

Much of the power of architect-run nonprofits comes from the unique way they bring together community members and professionals from different disciplines. The desire to teach students to collaborate broadly to solve social problems was what prompted Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, a principal at Tigerman McCurry Architects, Chicago, to co-found Archeworks in 1993. The one-year training program focuses on three tracks: community, medical delivery systems, and education.

"Most architecture schools do projects that originate in a social cause, but then it's over and the students move on," Tigerman explains. "They're not specifically devoted to pursuing such a mission. But that, among other things, constitutes the education of an architect. This isn't really a school; it's like a think tank. We go straight to the trenches to address problems."

Archeworks, whose students include architects, designers, and mid-career professionals from various backgrounds, recently designed a Web site for fifth graders on Chicago's West Side that encourages interaction between parents, teachers, students, and the community. One year the students worked with AIDS patients to develop a pill case that organizes their complicated daily cocktail of medications—up to 18 pills a day. Another recent project resulted in the manufacture of a head pointer that allows people with cerebral palsy to use a computer, thereby increasing their options for employment. The student teams meet with volunteer professionals who work in the field they're researching, such as doctors, teachers, and manufacturers.

As director, Tigerman teaches a fall course on ethics and morality, but he also casts himself as student. "There are things we do that I know nothing about, like AIDS and Alzheimer's," he says. "There are an endless number of things that I keep learning about."