Architects Without Borders Seattle volunteers collaborate with underserved communities to deliver ecologically sensitive, culturally appropriate, life-changing design.


Architects Without Borders Seattle (AWBS) was founded in 2005 by a group of Seattle architects and designers in response to the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, killing over 230,000 across 14 countries and displacing hundreds of thousands more.


Recognizing the role the architecture, engineering, planning and design community could play in supporting the recovering and rebuilding efforts, this group was called to volunteer their expertise and sought community support for some of its members to visit the area and apply their skills as needed. For those that did not have the ability travel, however, it became clear that there was critical need closer to home as well.


In 2006, Architects Without Borders Seattle became a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, and has continued to expand its services to serve communities who would otherwise lack access to design services internationally as well as here in the Puget Sound area.


AWBS is a standalone organization which shares common interests and information with designers committed to providing pro bono design services to communities in need. AWBS has supported the development of other nonprofit design entities, including Architects Without Borders-Oregon and Architects Without Borders-Austin.


  • Effective and appropriate design is vital to improving communities and the environment.

  • Collaborative long-term relationships with communities are essential to providing effective design assistance.

  • Exchange of knowledge and skills empowers both communities and designers.

  • Interdisciplinary integrated design solutions maximize the positive impact of our projects.

  • Volunteers are fundamental to our work.


Thoughtfully built infrastructure can help address root causes of poor health and economic development. But all over the world, communities lack access to architecture and design services.


In many communities, people can’t access design services because of financial obstacles or the lack of trained designers. Unfortunately, communities are best able to leverage donor or government funds for projects only after having designs in place. A local government may dedicate funds once blueprints are presented, but community groups cannot provide blueprints without funds to have them done. Similarly, donors may be willing to support the building of a school, but they need an image and budget before they invest their funds.


That’s where we come in. Architects Without Borders Seattle brings communities in need free design services. Our volunteers partner with communities and engage people in a problem solving process. Through conversations, and at times a site visit, volunteers develop designs and present packages that communities can take to raise funds for their project.

AWBS considers closely the impact of participating in community problem solving. We want to support architects and design professionals around the world, and do not take work from local professionals. In order for AWBS to engage with a community in a collaborative design process, a standard for vetting the potential project considers community impact of our participation, and alignment with our own mission and ability to meet the needs of the community.