To begin, I thought about the places I’ve lived (Ohio, Connecticut, New York) and the different ways I’ve explored and connected to the communities around my house and school. In Athens and New Haven, the main way I’d explore would be by meeting other kids in the neighborhood, and having free reign to run around and explore behind houses, in neighborhood parks, and across the city. When I was too young to explore streets unsupervised, I’d seek out neglected corners of playgrounds and beautify them, weeding plant beds at recess and making fairy houses underneath trees with my friends.
For my design solution, I wanted to make a structure that is designed for kids to play on, as well as take ownership of. I think that children have the capacity to bridge divides that appear in communities; whether those be socio-economic, racial, geographic, etc. The structure would consist of 4 wooden levels, and ladders running up all sides. On the top is a community garden, completely run by kids in the neighborhood, and the other levels are empty, and can be transformed into whatever creative impulse a child might have. On the bottom level, benches and grills make it a place where the families of children can hang out and cook.
I like my finished idea, but I felt like the Process Lab was a little heavy handed with the way they have you “design” a solution. They give you a list of “tactics,” and immediately after reading the tactics my mind was pushed into a very specific place, where my “solutions” lived within the vocabulary of “community garden” and “vacant lot.” I wish that they didn’t give the participant so many tools to design. In the end, it definitely restricted my creativity in the design process.
If I were to actually build this structure, I would need to know what the community needs out of it. If the structure were in (let’s say) New Orleans, I would need to consider that it might be used as housing for homeless people, and so I would need to design to accommodate that. If the structure began attracting teenagers, I’d also need to account for that.