“Change comes slowly,” says architect Paul Pholeros. He should know; he has spent the last 30 years working on urban, rural, and remote architectural projects throughout his native Australia and beyond. In particular, he is focused on improving the living environments of the poor, understanding that environment plays a key and often overlooked role in health.
An architect himself, Pholeros met his two co-directors in the organization Healthabitat in 1985, when the three were challenged by Yami Lester, the director of a Aboriginal-controlled health service in the Anangu Pitjatjantjara Lands in northwest South Australia, to “stop people getting sick.” The findings from that project have guided their thinking ever since, as Pholeros and his partners work to improve sanitation, connect electricity, and provide washing and water facilities to indigenous communities. Above all, the teams focus on engaging these local communities to help themselves–and to pass on their skills to others. In this way, a virtuous circle of fighting poverty is born.
Since 2007, Healthabitat has expanded its work beyond Australia, working on similar projects in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. In 2011, the firm was awarded the international UN Habitat and Building and Social Housing Foundation’s World Habitat Award, and a Leadership in Sustainability prize from the Australian Institute of Architects. In 2012, Healthabitat was one of the six Australian representatives at the Venice International Architectural Biennale.