Pro Bono in Fruition

Up to only a month ago I stumbled upon the term pro-bono. Despite being a relevant subject in architecture industry, where it is common for architects to do pro-bono work over the course of their career, it was rarely spoken about during my years studying my undergrad. Although it’s not always publicised you may then have seen the term on an architect’s webpage.

By offering to do pro-bono work, it means the architect would be working for free for a non-profit organisation and small community who are in need of their services for free or at a much lower cost.[1]

Architects could either then offer their services as pro-bono or apply as a member for a certain pro-bono organisation. These organisations would then have a list of potential pro-bono projects that the architect could choose from.[2] This also the same for the client who has the ability to select and approach an architect.[3]

So, in what ways does doing pro-bono work help deliver to a community you may ask? Well this question is better explored from looking at a pro-bono project…


Image Via Birrelli  [4]

In the north-east of Tasmania in the town Bicheno a surf lifesaving club were hoping to build a new shed, where they were previously using a trailer to store their equipment. By asking the local council for help, they were provided a certain budget to construct a new shed. In the early stages of the project the shed was meant to made out of the tin, but later on they had realised that it was going cost more than they had anticipated. The architect, Jack Birrell, then became later involved with the project, offering to do the work pro-bono himself. However, there were early concerns from the community about how an architect could help them exactly.[5]


Image Via Birrelli [4]
Image Via Birrelli  [4]
On the project’s site, situated next to the shore of Waub’s Bay in Bicheno, cray-fishing was a popular activity there and was the town’s main source of economy.[6] The concept of the proposed design was then meant to emulate the traditional cray-fishing pots, which the architect had stated were seen almost everywhere in the town.[7] The traditional cray-fishing pots, which were handcrafted, were made from timber strands being weave around to form a contraption to encase crustaceans. The final design of the shed then took form of a box shape with the facade being made of timber battens, each of them being placed horizontally and differentiating in widths to resemble the patterns found in the cray-fish pots.[8] By having gaps large enough between the battens, it allowed light to pass through from the inside and diffuse from the polycarbonate sheeting laid underneath giving the shed the appearance of a glowing lantern at night.[9] With the architect involved he was able to capture the essence of the town into a built form.[10] The project then became more than just a shed for the club but a place for the entire community to gather around.[11]

Although are there are times a pro-bono project does not come into fruition the instances that it does it can leave behind a small yet significant imprint on a small community that comes from the architecture intervention.








[1] “What is Pro Bono?,” Colab, accessed April 24, 2018,

[2] “Business,” Colab, accessed April 17, 2018,

[3] “Community Organisations,” Colab, accessed April 17, 2018,

[4] Bicheno surf life saving club + boathouse,” Birrelli, accessed April 24, 2018,

[5] Janne Ryan, “Tasmania’s Bicheno Surf Club wins architecture award,” ABC, Aug 15, 2014,

[6] Bicheno surf life saving club + boathouse,” Birrelli, accessed April 24, 2018,

[7] Ryan, “Tasmania’s Bicheno.”

Birrelli, “Bicheno surf life saving club.”

[8] “Bicheno surf life saving club + boathouse,” Birrelli, accessed April 24, 2018,

[9] Ryan, “Tasmania’s Bicheno.”

Birrelli, “Bicheno surf life saving club.”

[10] “Small Project Architecture-– Bicheno Surf Life Saving Club + Boathouse – Birrelli Art + Design + Architecture,” Tasmanian Architecture Awards, accessed April 25, 2018,

[11] “Bicheno Surf Life Saving Club, “ Rosier, accessed April 25, 2018,