Date: January 11, 2019
Location: Ayers Saint Gross, 1100 First St NE #800, Washington, DC 20002
Led by: Desiree Hollar and Sarah Wahlgren Wingo
Session Sponsors: Ayers Saint Gross, Ernest Maier, Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors
Session Downloads: Session 04 Guide
During our first meeting of 2019, Desiree Hollar and Sarah Wahlgren Wingo organized our session around the various ways architects can get involved in community engagement. Hosted in Ayers Saint Gross’ office, the afternoon kicked off with an introduction to strategies the firm uses to engage in pro bono and higher education projects. ASG detailed the ways individuals at the firm are involved in their communities. Presentations throughout the session focused on how an architect’s unique set of tools can be used to benefit other people and places
Act #1: Architect as Community Collaborator
The first act of the afternoon was presented by Rick Schneider, Dan Snook, and Marisa Brown of ISTUDIO Architects in partnership with Mike Hill of the US Forest Service. ISTUDIO has done several projects with local agencies in DC as well as with agencies across the world. They described two types of communities involved in any project: community of place, affected because of their proximity to the project, who often have limited concerns and have an increased chance of long-term reliance to the project; and the community of interest, who are often visitors to a place because of its historical/cultural/activity-based significance. ISTUDIO exhibited several projects to allow scholars to better understand necessary tactics they utilize to understand how to engage with different communities of interest.
To understand the complex relationships that each project must consider, scholars then worked through a design charette for an Arboretum Recreation Center. During the exercise, each scholar was assigned a community member type (senior citizen, parent with children, single adult, and arboretum representative) and tasked with designing the program while analyzing adjacencies of a neighborhood recreation center located next to the National Arboretum. This charette was a great reminder that there are many stakeholders affected by our work, and one of the most important things we can do as architects is to listen.
Act #2: Architect as Community Leader
The second act was presented by Mayor Jacob Day of Salisbury Maryland. Day originally studied architecture and was the national AIAS chapter president. He went on to continue his studies and eventually landing back in his hometown of Salisbury, Maryland. After several years of involvement in his local government, Jacob ran for mayor and was able to combine his understanding of space planning and problem solving to create a strong platform to run on. Since his election, Salisbury has seen improving trends in many areas:
- Created new local branding strategy to give identity to city.
- Created local TEDx talks for community members to share ideas and meet each other.
- City saw a 6% increase in budget after increase in new business and housing.
- Lowest crime rate in 31 years after several initiatives looked at the root problems many residents faced.
- Average citizen’s age has dropped after many young families have moved to the area.
- Created housing for 1/3 of the chronically homeless population by working with community groups.
Act #3: Architect as Community Activist
Our final act of the session was an opportunity to actually give back to the community by serving meals at Central Union Mission. Central Union Mission is a faith-based nonprofit organization, which serves as an emergency men’s shelter and operates a transformation program. As we walked to the Mission, we discussed with fellow scholars strategies we would like to employ to engage with the local community. Once at the Mission we were given a brief history of the organization and were assigned our roles for the dinner service. Scholars plated food, delivered dinner to guest, and cleared plates to close out an inspiring and self-reflective session.