“Working with an integrated social-service organization taught me about the complex issues related to poverty, and I gained a better perspective on the role that housing plays in addressing these issues. The most important lesson that I learned was that architecture alone cannot lift someone out of poverty, but it can lift their spirits while they struggle to overcome other obstacles. A home is shelter for your soul, not just a roof over your head.”
While teaching at the famed Rural Studio at Auburn University, Steven Hoffman used his fellowship to achieve a range of goals. One was to pass on his passion for social responsibility to young architecture students. “I was able to nurture nearly 200 students’ understanding of an architect’s responsibility to the social and civic development of the community,” he says.
But he didn’t stop there. Working with the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization (HERO), Steven and his students put their ideals into action, designing and building several unique homes for poor families. Steven also worked to expand HERO’s social and educational services to include a Housing Services Program and he applied for HERO’s first Housing Grant from HUD’s Rural Housing and Economic Development program. The grant funded Steven’s research and development of housing models, as well as the construction of a prototype home, based on alternative, environmentally friendly materials for use in rural areas with scarce financial resources.
Since completing his fellowship, Steven has taught a small design-build studio at the Parsons School of Design aimed at involving undergraduate students in community-based projects. He is currently practicing architecture in New York City, while developing an independent, nonprofit, design-build company focused on providing other nonprofits with affordable architectural and construction services.