Monday, July 18, 2016

Mason Lots Update

I I have recently made some progress on the vacant land I have leased from the Genesee County Land Bank. I was able to bring out my ride on mower and the weed whacker. I have been experimenting with different documentation media lately and have created a short time lapse video from my recent clean up efforts. Please enjoy the video. I will continue to share my vacant lot work on this blog.

View looking north after mowing
View looking south after mowing

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rural Studio: A Story of Solutions

The challenge begins. Register by July 10 to make your mark.

The I Look Up Challenge calls upon filmmakers to share their vision with a 2-3 minute video exploring the power of architecture to create solutions and uplift communities. Take on the competition. Take the challenge. 
Participants must register by July 10. Find complete submissions rules and guidelines here.

Film challenge prompt: Architecture as a solution

It’s time two great storytellers came together – filmmakers and architects – to shine a light on the innovative design work being done all over the country. Your film should explore how architecture has solved a problem facing us today. It can be on any scale you like, from the smallest building to the entire nation. Together, with you, we can tell these important stories that need to be told.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Max Brandon Eco Park Signage

Time to share an update of a project that was nine months in the making with a year of planning prior to that! I was part of a ad hoc committee to develop the design for 8 new educational and wayfinding signs for Max Brandon Park in Flint, Michigan. 

As a follow up to my previous post about what an architect does, I thought to share the images of the finished signage, because this is a result of not only what an architect also does, but a artist, designer, conservationist, parks director, two planners, citizens, neighborhood activists, and city officials do to move Flint Forward. 

I was one of many loyal and dedicated committee members that participated to make this project happen. It was a great experience to collaborate with so many from across the city. This project is a perfect example of what tremendous talent is still here in Flint, despite what the media leads people to believe. I am proud of the finished product, and the community is equally proud to have a equal voice in the direction of the new signs. 

Credit to Ben Gaydos, Assistant Professor at UM - Flint Art Department for spearheading this project with his students of the D&SIGN Studio. 

What an Architect Does...

What an Architect Does...

Architect's don't always design buildings. Architects are also stewards of our environment. Built or unbuilt, we show concern for all types of spaces. Because space is our canvas. We are trained to design space, from the earliest days of design school, we are taught to think about shaping seemingly empty space using the components of construction (columns, walls, openings, planes, etc...) to define the empty space. The result is the essence of architecture. The same goes for vacant land too. Vacant land is a blank canvas, a ground plane that is either flat or undulating. Vacant land is the plinth that the architect, like a potter to his wheel, sets his raw lump of clay to begin forming his sculpture. 

As a practicing architect in Flint, Michigan, we have an abundance of vacant land of all shapes, sizes, and neighborhood conditions. I have taken up the charge to express how actions speak louder than words. I have become a steward, a land owner, of eight contiguous lots near the downtown core of Flint. Eight urban lots that were host to former homes are now under my care. Since the city began to shrink in population many lots were turned over to the Genesee County Land bank Authority. My eight lots are like the thousands of other vacant parcels that were transferred to the Land Bank. starting last summer I entered into an agreement with the Land Bank to maintain these vacant lots. 

I chose to do this because I see a potential that has not been explored yet in Flint. I am optimistic that many of our city's vacant lots can be redeveloped into affordable mixed use places that reimagine the ideas of mixed use neighborhood centers. The Mason 8, as I call my lots, because they are, one by one, side by side on Mason Street, from Sixth to Seventh Avenue, will be my experiment in collaborative community engaged design and development. Unlike many developers who seek to build their ideal structure, I wish to engage with the neighbors to sense what they believe would be a positive impact to these lot sites that were once single family homes in a thriving industrial automotive town. 

Why am I doing this, it is because I believe in this city, and I believe nothing says more than rolling up your sleeves and getting directly involved. I am not afraid to take action and care for this city. My city. 

Currently I have been maintaining the lots by mowing them and showing the community that they are not forgotten like many other parts of the city. I will soon be clearing nuisance trees and shrubs to improve the curb appeal and make them safer and more visible. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is what this is known as, and it works! Right now only the community knows what the future holds for the Mason 8, but whatever it is, it will be a great future form that improves the landscape and strengthens the community. 

Below are some pictures of my recent mowing trip. I spent a little over one hour cutting the grass, and it is always a marked improvement. It goes to show that a little elbow grease and hard work goes a long way. 

In the near future I plan to install a suggestion board similar to Candy Chang's installation in New Orleans, post Katrina. This will be a ongoing data collection tool that passively activates the lots and inspires conversation and communication. 

August 2015 - Taking Action!

June 11, 2016 - Mowing in 91 Degrees - Before Picture

June 11, 2016 - Mowing in 91 Degrees - After Picture

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mott Park Recreation Area Vision

The City of Flint, according to research conducted for the 2013 Imagine Flint Master Plan states that the City of Flint was developed to provide public open space ranging from neighborhood playground to large city park within ¼ mile radius to residential areas. This is half the distance of the recommended National Parks guidelines of ½ mile. (A very good thing!)

The site of the former Mott Golf Course is one of many public open spaces that exist in today’s urban landscape of Flint, Michigan. According to Director of Parks, Adam Moore, this amount of open space is untenable with the current millage and tax base, therefore the City is welcoming community partners to adopt parks and provide maintenance and planning assistance. A group of neighbors that live around the former golf course site have banded together to take up the challenge of the 78 acre site. They have formed and established a 501c3 named the Mott Park Recreation Area (MPRA), their mission is to maintain this beautiful public urban space as a naturalized recreation area for the community to enjoy in perpetuity.

The board of the MPRA, with President, Tom Saxton, have dedicated their efforts toward development of a vision plan that identifies short, medium, and long term implementation strategies for the site.

Kurt Neiswender, AIA, was initially engaged with the MPRA to begin the development of the visual master vision plan to transform the former golf course in December 2014. Since the project began Kurt has held numerous charrettes to collaboratively sketch out the variety of possibilities, as well as identify the phasing implementation plan.

Right now the former golf course is being mowed to avoid it become another eyesore of abandoned land. This is the perfect time to set the bar for future urban development in Flint. The momentum of the group is strong and they are a passionate group of local community members with the desire to transform a well known public urban space.

Base Map Conditions

Preliminary Phase Plans

Existing Conditions

Phase I Concept

Phase II Concept

Phase III Concept

Charrette Pictures 

Public Presentation Pictures 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Archinect Sessions #54

Project FORA Founder, Kurt Neiswender, AIA was recently a guest on Archinect Sessions, a podcast of! Kurt was on the podcast to update Archinect from the front lines of the #flintwatercrisis. Archinect Sessions #54 Dispatch from Flint: How Architects can Help.

Special shout out to Donna Sink, AIA for arranging all this while in the midst of the American Institute's of Architects Grassroots Convention in Detroit, We managed to sneak in this interview in between some learning sessions and the cocktail reception at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Donna introduce the cited Olon Dotson, architecture professor at Ball State with his concept of Fourth World Conditions!

Below are some pictures that Kurt took of water distribution and delivery, a very regular sight in Flint these days!

Corner of Grand Traverse and 7th Street

Semi Truck Deliveries of Water
Stay tuned more to come! 

Project FORA