“I’ve been meditating, and it helps a lot with the new foundation I’m establishing,” Fanyu Lin told me during a recent phone call. At only 31 years old, Fanyu has already established an architecture technology company, Fluxus, and worked with the United Nations. In addition, she is the only architect expert on the World Economic Forum’s Global Internet of Things Council amongst 30 leaders.
She grew up in Sichuan, China. When asked what she enjoyed doing as a kid, she recalls that the only thing that would capture her attention for hours was drawing. She remembers spending countless weekends in that little studio, and hours would fly by without her noticing. When deciding on a major for college, she chose architecture because it combines her desire to create artistically and her ability to think logically. When she entered the industry, she had one goal: to become the top of the top.
Fanyu knew early on that she did not want to work at an existing company as an architect. “Creating my own firm has always been my vision. Architects often stay up until very late. I don’t want that. I want to change the industry dynamics,” she says. Her company Fluxus has been making efforts to shift the dynamics by empowering architects to take control of their own creative power.
After the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 Fanyu did her first major reconstruction project, which led to her work with the United Nations later on. That was also when she started caring for groups that are often ignored by bigger corporations. For example, the traditional way to care for migrants or refugees is to put them in emergency shelters in a year, then transitional housing in 5 years, before finally providing a place called home which could take 20+ years. The shelters are often shacks, or low quality tents. There are technologies such as 3D printing which could improve the conditions and speed of building significantly, essentially combining shelters and transitional housing. But to achieve that in reality, it requires people who know the technology, the willing capital, and the right organization to bring it to life.
This is why she is working on her second initiative, the World Home Foundation. “I realize that through only private companies, selling products like what Fluxus does, I can’t move the needle in addressing this pressing issue,” she says, arguing that it takes a much broader ecosystem-level collaboration, many more resources to provide for people who need the most help. “An effective model is PPP, public private partnership. In many cases, governments contribute land, private partners contribute development and financial capacity, with architects providing designs, and innovators providing technologies. But there’s currently no industry standard, and it takes a lot of efforts to get all the pieces to the puzzle right.”
With the World Home Foundation, her vision is inspired by what Mother Teresa did for the poorest of the poor. She wants to start a pure philanthropic effort that will not look at return on investment, a place that will provide homes for the world. It will integrate resources from different parties to help mainly two underserved populations: low income urban citizens, and migrants and refugees, both groups with which she has previous working experience.
The foundation has gained some traction. It has partnered with The World Around conference, a gathering of the best creative minds to discuss frontier ideas in global architecture, to create the foundation’s inaugural conference MAKING HOME in January 2021. The foundation is also in discussion with XPRIZE, a multi-million dollar competition for new technologies that bring breakthroughs to the world’s grand challenges, to collaborate on affordable housing. She envisions that the conference will serve as a platform to fund human capital for the foundation’s future projects, including using blockchain to democratize the creation of urban environments and scaling innovative financing for affordable housing.
“You know when I first started thinking about this a year ago, I was afraid that people would laugh at me. But gradually things become more and more clear,” she says, reckoning that meditation has revealed things that were already there but she didn’t see before. As she started sharing her ideas with more people, she came across “many positive people with positive energy.” Eyal Ofer, the Israeli real estate magnate and philanthropist, agreed to support the foundation without even checking the presentation deck. Bertrand Badré, former Managing Director of the World Bank, encouraged Fanyu with “You are a person with vision, and I’ll support you no matter what you do.”
The World Home Foundation is expected to officially launch in Q1 2021.