How can we empower citizens to re-imagine the public spaces around them?
Late this spring we were hired by the Van Alen Institute to create a building event that would empower people to change a place and stimulate a rich conversation around DIY public space. Although torrential rain forced us to move the event inside, with the help of our Building Hero team, we empowered eighty people to build a fantastic floating lycra canopy and benches in under two hours. Building is a ‘conversation’, a community-building tool and a great mechanism for establishing context as well as relevancy. As with all of our projects, we use ‘making and doing’ to better gather stories, data and ideas. In this case, we captured participant’s attitudes towards personal agency and public space in New York City. The space that the participants created and the stories gathered throughout the process led to an incredibly rich conversation about DIY public space with Daniel Campo, Leslie Koch of Governor’s Island, Van Alen Institute staff, Wendy Feuer of NYC DOT, Alex Gilliam of Public Workshop and all of the workshop participants. The entire event was notable for depth of reflection, conversation and sense of pride/empowerment amongst the participants that was achieved in such a short period of time. A surprising benefit was that most of our team of Building Heroes from Philadelphia had never participated in such a fast design-build project and they were so floored by the experience and the participants’ effusive reactions that they now want to develop more ‘tools’ for engaging others in super fast (but beautiful) public space transformations.
The Van Alen Institute has some fantastic photos from the event as well as a great event report.