Kelly Alvarez is Senior Principal Director of MASS Design Group, which runs projects in locations including the USA, Liberia and Rwanda, where Kelly was stationed for a handful of years. The architectural practice is a non-profit organization partly funded by donations. Their mission is to ensure that poor countries and people are also able to enjoy good architecture and design. A core principle of MASS’s approach is to work primarily with local builders and local materials.
“The fact that we are a non-profit enables us to help organizations and people who would otherwise not be able to afford the kind of services we provide.
“We work in three stages: converting their ideas into a design, sourcing funding and then practical implementation.
“80% of MASS Design Group’s operations are funded by regular commercial clients, while the remaining 20% comes from philanthropy. We actively seek out socially beneficial groups and organizations that we believe in, where our expertise can assist in bringing their projects to fruition.”
You have said that you want to help make the world a better place!
“Yes, and that’s how I think every architect – indeed everyone involved in design – should operate. You don’t get into this profession to scrape together a sackful of money, that’s for sure. Speaking for myself, this is how I want to use my knowledge and help out where I can. And the same goes for my colleagues at MASS.
“We’re often asked why we do what we do and how we go about it. We usually say that it’s an experienced person’s privilege to find alternative ways of solving problems. Changing the existing systems and approaches is a major challenge. The more open we are to different ways of thinking, the greater the chance that we can achieve something.
“Every decision we as architects or designers make has both environmental and social consequences. That’s a practical lesson I’ve learned during my years in Rwanda and similar places. You have to be able to understand that, otherwise you can’t work as an architect. And the same applies wherever you are, including an architectural office here in Stockholm.”
Kelly Alvarez Doran has been to Stockholm a few times, but has never visited the fair before. However, he has formed a good picture of what Scandinavia and Finland are doing to tackle the global challenges of the future.
“You’re doing a good job, but are you doing enough? No one is. For example, right now I’m standing in a building (Victoria Hall) where I can’t see a single window and I’m therefore not breathing any air that hasn’t been transported here by machine. So it’s reasonable to suggest that the whole of this exhibition building is far from sustainable in its design.
“I’ve had a chance to walk around the halls and as a Canadian I’m struck by how much of your design reminds me of Canada. There are many similarities in our climate and nature, but your design culture is so much more refined. It also seems that the Nordic public has a genuine interest in and appreciation of design. You’re proud of it – design is part of society.”
In what way is this kind of event important for your industry?
“Good question. Meeting places like this play a significant role. And for me and MASS Design Group, it has been an incredible privilege to appear on this platform and talk about how we work and what we’re trying to achieve. I’m extremely grateful!”