CAMERON SINCLAIR, 34
Architecture for Humanity, Co-founder
Architect Cameron Sinclair has never wanted to be featured in one of those weighty coffee-table books favored by design aesthetes. Instead, he brings basic shelter and community facilities to people in need, like Sri Lankans struck by the 2004 tsunami and Gulf Coast residents hit by Hurricane Katrina. “The photos of star architects’ buildings are like a glossy kitchen with a dead fish on the counter,” he says. “It looks like no one lives there. In the photos of our buildings, you can barely see the house because of all of the people.” In 2006, Sinclair won the prestigious TED prize, which is awarded to a person who has a “positive impact on the planet” (Bill Clinton won this year). Sinclair’s innovation is to bring architecture to the masses through an online database of blueprints, contracts, and building information that anyone can access for free. “The way Cameron talks about design, it feels so easy,” says Amy Novogratz, the TED prize director. “His whole thing is let’s stop the talk and do the work.” Regardless of whether anyone puts it on display.