Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Monday, June 13, 2016
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...
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