A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Architect with Attitude- Meet Mardie Oaks

Mardie Oaks was trained as an architect. Only it is not just houses she now builds, but communities, helping to integrate those on the margins of society.

Walking down the streets of San Francisco it is clear that there is a housing crisis. The homeless are everywhere. I’m not sure of the exact number, but it is in the thousands; many thousands. So when Mardie mentioned the margins, I assumed she meant this group. However, those who she works for are often the forgotten group; people living in institutions who in order to be able to function in mainstream society need special housing conditions. So, thinking about these needs, Mardie and her team at Hallmark Community Solutions design and renovate homes with these criteria in mind. High quality, affordable housing is the aim and finances are sourced though mainly government streams and revenue, in ways which have not previously been done.

Mardie was recently awarded an Echoing Green Fellowship for her innovative efforts.

Mardie and Tony Deifell (her husband, fellow social entrepreneur, see next blog), handed me the flowing quotation as I was leaving their home. It’s a reminder to them of the power of commitment, both in their work and marriage. It is a reminder to me too- it is the same end quote from Goethe which I had on my fridge door, urging me on.

Thanks Tony and Mardie.

We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money – booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’

[The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951]

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