For many young college graduates, the opportunity to travel abroad means fun and frolic. But for Amit Price Patel, the experience was a life-changing dose of reality. After graduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, Patel moved to South Africa in 2003. “The vestiges of apartheid were still very apparent,” says Patel, who worked for Noero Wolff Architects on a low-income housing prototype and the winning competition entry for the Apartheid Museum.
The work in South Africa stirred a lasting interest in housing design, which has become the focus of Patel's career. While working at Goody Clancy in Boston, he won top honors in a 2004 competition for a sustainable mixed-use project in Portland, Ore. The next year he tied for first place in San Francisco's Octavia Boulevard Housing Design Competition. The Octavia competition introduced Patel to architect David Baker, one of the judges and a specialist in affordable housing. The chance to work for Baker lured Patel back to the Bay Area in late 2005. Currently, he is project manager on a 120-unit complex for former homeless people, just the kind of public project that feeds his interest in the political dimension of architecture. “It's not an easy process,” he says. “But affordable housing [is] a great area of practice because it is an essential building type.”