I was a guest blogger for Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Center. Check out the post here!
“There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that that have nothing to lose. People, who have stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
This was today’s quote from my MLK Daily Quote App. I found it extremely important as a designer and specifically for me as I am developing an interest in community development. It raises the question of how to develop space for people and make them feel that the space is for them. Is it through a genuine understanding of the people and there experiences? Is it through targeting the needs that are not being met and making them meet? Is it by participatory design tactics that bring the people together to talk about these things? Yes! I think it is all of these things… and plenty other factors too. What I do not know is where the balance is in the weight that each factor is considered. I believe that knowing where this balance lies is what makes any designer great and able to produce great designs that are respected and preserved by the very people the designers were for.
Image courtesy of http://worksheetsplus.com/mlk/mlk2.jpg
This past May I had the opportunity to participate in a Habitat sponsored AmeriCorps event in Seattle, Wa. For one week the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Seattle, Kings County, hosted numerous AmeriCorps volunteers from across the country to join together and get things done for America. This is a yearly event know as Build-a-Thon, and it is definitely one of the most exciting events of my service term. Not only did I get to travel to the wonderful west, I also had the opportunity to partake in some strategic formwork building and an intense concrete pour! Now… I have helped pour concrete foundations before… but nothing quite like this! The Habitat affiliate in Seattle used the AmeriCorps forces to assist in 3 different projects, I was on the team responsible for ensuring a multi-unit town home doesn’t… well… fall down. Exciting! And messy! I was ready though 🙂
Constructing the formwork took a few days, but the concrete pour took only an afternoon. It took me back to my glorious construction days, and reminded me of how the building processes are an intricate part to the vitality of our constructed world. Along with hundreds of other AmeriCorps members who serve with Habitat for Humanity affiliates around the country, I help build homes, communities and hope. Habitat for Humanity, who is one of the largest homebuilders in the country, relies heavily on the AmeriCorps members to complete projects like this everyday and help make the possibility of homeownership available to a multitude of families. Because of volunteer efforts as a whole, AmeriCorps and beyond, homes are more affordable for Habitat homeowners and their families.
Despite the rain… everyday… a long day on site was complimented with evenings of site seeing and overeating. Who knew Seattle was full of great touristy things to do?? I made sure I made it to see some architectural gems, including the public library by Architect Koolhaas, and The EMP by Architect Gehry. Felt good to see a building that makes your heart flutter…
My site analysis process was inspired by my daily commute from Forest Park (west suburb of Chicago) to the Loop on the Green Line L’ Train. Twice a day I observed the changes of the neighborhoods and became interested in the politics of why this was visible. I passed through the neighborhoods of Oak Park, Austin, Garfield Park, and the West Loop, witnessing moments of historical remnants, urban development/decay, and opportunities for growth and hope. In the map above the red rectangles represent the open spaces (almost all visible from the Green Line route) available for the spatial responses I am proposing. These responses can include public parks, urban gardens, amphitheaters, art centers, mural spaces, fitness parks, pavilions and other community common spaces that may influence a strong since of pride in the neighborhood where you reside, creating areas of improvisation, dialogue, empowerment, remembrance, education, expression and anything freestyle[d].
The site I chose was the intersection of Pulaski and Lake, West Garfield Park. I began by looking at how the site was used by the community in it’s vacant state, and expanded on that.
The goal of the architecture is to excite, inspire and support community members and serve as a unifying symbol of all the present assets and instigate new possibilities in the community. Providing a space for music, art, dance and other, this facility becomes a support system, cultivating neighborhood pride. The visual statement explores an hip-hop aesthetic that involves elements of adaptability, fluidity, reclamation, and transparency. My precedent studies included The Wall of Respect by various Chicago Artist, DeYoung Museum by Herzog DeMeuron, Fun Palace by Cedric Price, Ibirapuera Park by Oscar Niemyer/Roberto Burle Marx, Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss Manfred, and MASP by Lina Bo Bardi.