At Neighborland, we believe in experiential learning. Often, the best way to determine whether an idea is good or not is to go ahead and test it. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be looking at a selection of projects that take precisely this approach to community development. The projects are among the 124 tactical works featured in the exhibit Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.
The showcase, which will be on view in the US Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture from August 27th through November 25th, is organized around six broad themes: economy, information, accessibility, community, pleasure, and sustainability. Today, we’ll take a look at three projects that bring communities together to address common challenges in collaborative ways.
GOOD Ideas for Cities, Multiple Cities
Seeing the power of visualization to spark action, GOOD magazine began playing civic matchmakers by pairing designers with challenges and relevant local leaders through its Ideas for Cities events. Once the teams are set, GOOD makes use of its media platform to generate buzz around a public forum where, after a few months of research and brainstorming, designers and officials present possible futures to residents. Even more important than the individual ideas, though, are the connections made at the events, as we saw when we co-hosted a GOOD Ideas for Cities event in New Orleans earlier this summer. By bringing so many motivated people together, these events are networking events par excellence for people who want to connect, dig in, and get things done.
Intersection Repair, Portland
What are streets for? If you answered “cars,” you’re only partly right. Streets often make up the majority of a city’s public space–and while they may not look like a park or plaza, intersections are important places that generate (or inhibit) neighborhood life and sense of place. In Portland, the reclamation of a single intersection by neighbors who were sick of speeding traffic has sparked a change in the way that people across the city see their intersections. Today, the group City Repair, which grew out of that unsanctioned local action, helps neighborhoods across Portland to come together and collaboratively re-think their crossroads as more comfortable and cohesive places for meeting and chatting. There’s room for cars, of course–but more importantly, there’s more room for people.
Participation Park, Baltimore
By virtue of its name, public space should offer opportunities for people to participate in the decision-making process around how a place is used. Unfortunately, these days regulations are often set by officials far removed from the day-to-day life in local communities, limiting locals’ sense of ownership around their own parks, plazas, and streets. Organizers of Baltimore’s Participation Park have created a productive shared space by squatting in a vacant lot and working with nearby neighbors to build an urban farm, a gathering place, and a strong community.