Monday, October 3, 2016

ARC 503 - Public Interest Design are making a difference in Durham!

Professor Bryan Bell's PID studio have partnered with the Scrap Exchange and the surrounding Lakewood communities in West Durham to be an incubator for ideas that could transform the area from a failed commercial center to a vital and integrated Reuse Arts District. After weeks of research the 8 graduates have put pen to paper, designs into the Materials Lab, and the products given to the community to make a difference.

These mini-design/build projects have two criteria:
01. It must be a gift to the community that meets a need the student discovered during their research. 
02. It must be made out of reuse materials.

There was no limitation on the size or function of the project. They ranged from practical to theoretical and everywhere between.

Max partnered with the Durham Literacy center and the Scrap Exchange to create the Little Library. Stocked with 53 books, Max converted an old filing cabinet into a source that young and old in the community have a place to get free books to practice their skills they are learning at the Literacy Center. "In architecture school, we learn that our design process is one of the most important things. From this project, I learned that the communication and engagement process is just as important. An important point that made this project feel special was from the director of the Durham Literacy Center. She told me that "All of the layers are coming together," meaning that all ends of the community are connecting with each other for a cause to improve the life of the neighborhood."

Emily noticed that while the surrounding communities had lots of children, there were not a lot of places to play in the neighborhood. Partnering with the Durham Land Trust, they found a lot that has been deemed "unbuildable" by the city. By giving old tires a facelift, Emily gave the neighborhood a set of play structures that can be used immediately and hopefully inspire safe play for the children in the vacant lot.

Lotte noticed that a busy bus stop had no shelter. Through many iterations, she discovered the elegance and simplicity that could be created with young bamboo, wire, and old vinyl signs. Designed for the morning sun, locals waiting for the bus outside the Y will now have shade and beauty to enjoy.

Elaheh noticed the many informal paths that have been made by the constant use of the residents around the Scrap Exchange property. By using reused wood, Elaheh built an entry gateway to mark the pathway as an important entry to the site. 

Jose Luis focused on a more abstract need for mystery and intrigue. Creating a geometric casing, the inside is filled with old rubber tires used to make vibrations, old c/ds for reflections, and reused test tubes filled with water of different colors to bounce off the interior of the object. 

Afsoon saw that there were limited to no sidewalks and most pedestrians walked in the middle of the street. By creating frames along the side of the street that lined up with the existing colonnade of the building, she not only created direction, but a safe place for people to walk. Unfortunately, we don't have a finished picture because while she was installing, she went to another part of the site to help a fellow classmate. When they returned, half of her project had been taken. We will check back in with her later as she is revising her gift based on this valuable lesson.

Anastasiia found a need for fun and games. Crafting a chess game from reused wood, she gifted the board and pieces to the local barber shop. 40 Below Barber shop is well known in the community to promote comrade and cross generational learning. They are a key component to giving back to the community so it was appropriate that they received a gift for a change. 

Sarah, also looking at informal paths, found one of those paths that was on the side of a steep hill. Having a hard time navigating the path, she decided to gesture at a way to create a safer route by adding stairs to the hill. Using a recycled 55 gallon oil drum she cut two half circle steps, welded found rebar on the inside and filled them with asphalt found on site and concrete. "When we were finishing the last step with concrete Charles walked down the path. Once he realized what we were doing he was so excited! "I use this path everyday," he said. " When the weather is bad, I have to walk all the way around which doubles my walking time!" It is amazing how those 5 minutes talking with Charles made all the stress, frustration, and manual labor of the last week fade away."

The Public Interest Design Studio, with Bryan at the helm, is far from done in Durham. We will be heading back to see how these projects have fared in the community. Are they being used, appreciated, or not? Either way, great job to the entire studio for their hard work!

A shout out to the blood sweat and tears...some process pictures to enjoy:


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