In April, NDC received the Spencer Ellis award from MD-ASLA in recognition of our 50 years of community design services. The award was given at the chapters annual gala, and was received by Programs Director Marita Roos. We’re honored to have been selected for this honor, and grateful to ASLA for many decades of support by its members committed to excellence in community design work throughout the state of Maryland. The event took place on the evening of 4/11 at Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore.
In March, NDC team membersJennifer Goold and Allie O’Neill were honored to join the first Cities Summit at SXSW in Austin. The Cities Summit at SXSW is an opportunity for civic leaders, creative citizens, and urbanists of all disciplines to learn, strategize, and form partnerships to create more equitable, resilient, and livable cities.
We got to connect with some of the rockstars joining us for Reverberations in June. Antionette Carroll of Creative Reaction Lab gave us some insights into her practice and Mike Ford (Hip Hop Architecture Camp) talked about the role music has played in the economies, growth, and branding of cities. It wasn’t all work, though. We found some time to rock out to some Baltimore favorites.
The past few months, NDC has partnered with Noisy Tenants, an organization working with the Greenmount West community to develop entrepreneurial projects as learning experience for neighborhood youth. With an attitude of local pride and celebration of community DIY mentality, Noisy Tenants had the idea of bringing the spirit of Baltimore’s Light City to Greenmount West, in the form of ‘LIT! City,’ and invited NDC to help on the project.
Our goal was to design and build an illuminated space for a one night pop-up cookout and movie night at the Wonderground (a park at the corner of Barclay and Lanvale which NDC has worked on in the past). Around this idea of vacant lot activation and public art engagement, we formed a team of designers. Jason Neal and Edrie Ortega of J. Neal Design and Jay Orr of ARQ Architects worked closely with Neighborhood Design Center to develop a plan. Nicholas Mitchel, the co-founder of Noisy Tenants, took the lead on community engagement and event organizing. Through this prototyping process, we discovered the many challenges and opportunities that temporary builds on city lots present, valuable experience for future projects.
Wednesday, April 18th was the culmination of all our work, when the community came together to help install a light-up art piece, enjoy food from Noisy Tenant’s Pop-Up Noisy Burger, and watch a movie under the stars (or rather, the blinking LEDs of our installation). It was a hit: kids from the community center helped up with final installation, all the while dancing to the local DJ’s old-school tracks. Soon enough, a professional movie screen showed up and burgers were sizzling.
The balloons have all come down, but the sense of place created at Wonderground that night remains. Chock full of ideas from our prototyping sessions, our team hopes to continue collaborating. As always, the Neighborhood Design Center looks forward to the next project– It’s not everyday you get to play with balloons at work after all!
NDC Project Coordinator Maria Isabel Garcia Diaz is back in the office after participating in the International Development Design Summit (IDDS): Construyendo Paz, Reconciliación desde la Co-Creación. IDDS is a program that runs from MIT’s D-Lab and serves to educate participants on co-design methods while engaging in place-based challenges of the summit’s host country. In partnership with the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the IDDSCPaz, for short, was focused on how to construct peace, especially after the Colombian government signed a peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end their 53-year civil war. The summit ran from January 20 to February 4 in the ECTR Jaime Pardo Leal, a designated zone in the Guaviare region of Colombia, where ex-combatants have been placed as they reintegrate into civilian life.
Here are three lessons Maria brought back after co-designing with fellow professionals, university students, ex-combatants, and local residents:
Three Lessons from Colombia by Maria Isabel Garcia Diaz
- Building confidence…literally: To get us comfortable with building items from scratch, we did different DIY challenges, like building a water pump. a wooden tool to turn plastic bottles into thread, and a table to use in our group projects. It made me excited to come back and finally put my Station North Tool Library membership into good use.
- Forgiveness through action and interaction: This was a professional development opportunity for me, but the topic hit on a personal level. When I left Colombia with my parents violence was at an all time high and the FARC were seen at the forefront of it. By being in teams with ex-combatants, we focused our energy on working together to design interventions to build peace in our country. We discussed past experiences and laughed quite a lot as we worked until the hours of the night to finish our projects.
- Sustainability can be accessible: At IDDSCPaz, we were always thinking about innovative ways of caring for the earth, but in a practical and accessible way. We did it for two reasons: one, the FARC ex-combatants take pride in caring for the earth, especially after spending decades living with the jungle ecosystems. The second reason: basic resources, like water, were always scarce. As participants we learned to be conscious for the earth as we went through our packed schedules for each day.
This experience was unforgettable in many ways—I met some incredible people through IDDS, and I brought back many lessons to integrate in my work at NDC. However, the thing I miss the most is seeing the sunrises and sunsets in Guaviare.
The Neighborhood Design Center has been partnering with the Darley Park community since 2015 to create a public space on the corner of Harford Road and Normal Avenue. Originally a vacant dirt lot, this neighborhood gateway park has become a multi-generational, multi-use gathering place through the hard work of the community and partnering organizations. In the past two years the community has secured a playground, mural, and performance stage at the park.
In the design for the stage, an overhead structure was planned as a sun shade made out of sail material (see photo above). This project, funded in part by BOPA’s Transformative Arts Prize, has evolved into a community arts project, a collaboration between artist Whitney Frazier and the women’s senior group of the neighborhood. Inspired loosely by the quilts of the black women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, the artists have been developing abstract quilt designs to be sewn into shade sails.
NDC welcomes all to see the unveiling of this art piece at the Light City event at Darley Park on April 13th at 6pm. The event will feature projected artworks by Baltimore’s own Kyle Yearwood, music by TT the Artist, and much more.
The arts group meets every week to design and create the stage sails at the local community center. Contact Whitney Frazier if you are interested in getting involved in the project, and check back for updates as the project moves forward!
NDC Deputy Director Briony Hynson attended the Active Living Research Conference at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity this month, presenting research entitled “Activating Public Spaces for Play: Opportunities for the Built Environment as a therapeutic tool in Neighborhoods Exposed to High Levels of Community Violence.” The research was conducted in partnership with Gwen Brown (BUILD), Colin Lyman, (The 6th Branch) and Dr. Carol Vidal (Johns Hopkins University), and supported in part by grants from the Urban Health Institute and the Robert W Deutsch Foundation.
With the Canadian Rockies as an inspiring backdrop, temps down to -12degrees F kept conference attendees mainly indoors and focused at the 4-day convening. Practitioners and researchers from the fields of public health and planning explored a wide range of content. Here are Hynson’s top 5 picks from the conference:
Active Living Research Conference: Top 5 Sessions
- LA DOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds’ keynote on the future-proofing transportation (hint; it takes self driving cars AND road ‘buffets’ AND arts and creativity.
- Simon O’Byrne of City of Edmonton’s approach to become a top WINTER city, using design. And iceskates.
- Poster Sessions! So many smarts in one room.
- Salud America’s campaign to encourage shared use agreements, so that communities can access public land at schools outside of school time.
- Measuring Inclusion in Place with Gehl Institute’s Jennifer Gardner and Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, and Baltimore’s own Prof. Keshia Pollack Porter.
All in all, a great gathering of researchers, planners and public health experts. One last takeaway; every single round of applause at the Active Living Conference was a standing ovation, because (as research shows), sitting kills.
The Neighborhood Design Center was pleased to join the Central Baltimore Partnership and more than twelve other partners in planning and implementing the Jones Falls Visioning Workshop last month at the Motor House. At this event, stakeholders and community members came together to discuss existing projects, shared interests, and future visions for the Jones Falls Valley with the ultimate goal of developing a strategic plan with actionable recreational, environmental and transit recommendations for enhancing the corridor.
The Jones Falls runs through Baltimore from where it is impounded to create Lake Roland all the way down to the Inner Harbor. The valley of this stream falls directly below Interstate 83 and shares borders with a variety of neighborhoods. The Jones Falls is a unique asset; with better access it could be used by thousands of city residents.
The workshop was attended by over 75 residents, artists, business owners, and city agencies and consisted of project leaders in seven topic areas giving a brief overview of their vision, then leading small breakout groups with interested participants. The topic areas discussed ranged from arts and performance to environmental projects to the development and/or repurposing of existing assets. All of the above mentioned groups were facilitated by Neighborhood Design Center volunteers and/or board members (listed below)!
An important outcome of the workshop was the establishment of the “Friends of Jones Falls” group and the Central Baltimore Partnership has organized the Friends of Jones Falls kick-off celebration at Union Craft Brewing on March 8th from 6pm-8pm.
If you are interested in receiving the post-workshop report or getting involved with the work along the Jones Falls, please contact Aaron Kaufman, the Central Baltimore Partnership Community Projects Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org
For reference, the presenters and their topics can be found below:
Arts and Performance Along the Jones Falls
Presented by Richard Best (Section 1)
Facilitated by LaShauna Jones
Development and Land Use Along the Jones Falls
Presented by Al Barry (AB Associates), Andrew Cook (Baltimore City Office of Sustainability/Made in Baltimore), and Reni Lawal (Baltimore City Department of Planning)
Facilitated by Nariman El Said
Creating a “Friends of the Jones Falls” group
Presented by Sandy Sparks (Friends of Stony Run) and Molly Gallant (Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks)
Facilitated by Ryan Patterson
Joint User Group Greenway Visioning
Presented by Jed Weeks (Bikemore)
Facilitated by Ren Southard and Teddy Krolik
New Life for Existing Assets: Roundhouse Alternative Uses
Presented by Doug Bothner (Ziger/Snead Architects)
Facilitated by Gerald Neily
Beautifying Access Points
Presented by Zoe Clarkwest and Amanda Cunningham (Baltimore City Forestry Board)
Facilitated by Rachel McNamara
Ecological Resilience and Usable Green Spaces
Presented by Laura Connelly (Parks and People Foundation) and Ashley Traut (Blue Water Baltimore)
Facilitated by Kelly Danz
The City of Hyattsville, Maryland is looking to enhance Hyatt Park, one of the many open space amenities in the city. NDC is leading the community design process to gather resident’s insights and ideas and translate them into a conceptual plan. Currently Hyatt Park is home to a small playground and a community garden, but after a community visioning session on January 9th, we learned that many participants have larger visions for the space.
Residents and elected officials braced the cold to participate in a set of activities designed to foster creative and collaborative dialogue…. and get to know their neighbors in the process.
In a former bank building, directly across the street from the park that is soon to be the new headquarters for the City of Hyattsville Police Department, residents brainstormed and weighed options, considered materials, amenities and activities that were most important.
“What would Hyatt Park look like…
• if Dr. Seuss was the Director of Parks and Recreation?
• if it was a great place to picnic?
• if Yayoi Kusama designed the park?
• if your kid wanted to throw his birthday there?
• during the best ever Summer Jam? (a series of concerts hosted by the city)
• if WALL-E took over the world?”
Soon, post-it notes littered the pages, suggestions ranging from the more inspired ‘rainbow path/crosswalk’ and ‘concert stage,’ to the more practical ‘shade trees’, ‘bathroom facilities’ and more.
This activity was designed to prompt participants to think both realistically as well as ‘outside the box and help the NDC design team understand the big ideas that people have for Hyatt Park. The next order of business is to dive into the many responses received, draw out themes and priorities, and create a conceptual plan that captures the creative visions that so many have for the space.The public was also encouraged to submit input for the park design via Speak Up HVL, the City of Hyattsville’s innovative online community engagement portal. See the ‘Hyatt Park Wishlist’ here.
Thank you to everyone who joyfully and intentionally participated! Keep track of NDC’s social media feeds to see when we release a set of conceptual plans for feedback!
CALL FOR PROPOSALS is now open!
reverb call for proposals
When: June 8-9 2018
Where: Station North Arts and Entertainment District
In 2018, we’re honored to be hosting Reverberations — Roots and Relevance of Community Design, the Association for Community Design’s 2018 Conference, an annual event that brings together community members, faculty and students, architecture, design and planning firms, nonprofit organizations, and local governments invested in community-engaged design.
This year’s event will facilitate conversation about strategies to dismantle systemic conditions that give rise to inequality. Through critical analysis, reflection, and dialogue, we’ll deepen our understanding of and influence on the intersection of community design, racial equity, and environmental justice.
In addition to pushing forward the conversation on equitable community design, the ACD Conference continues NDC’s role as leaders in the work of making great and inclusive places.
Conference Steering Committee:
- The Association for Community Design
- AIA Baltimore
- APA Maryland
- Baltimore Planning Department
- Enterprise Community Partners
- Impact Hub
- Live Baltimore
- MICA Center for Social Design
- Morgan State University School of Architecture and Planning
- National Building Museum
- NDC Board and Staff
Watch this space for the conference call for proposals in late January 2018.
Contact Briony Hynson for conference inquiries.
How did NDC help create a dinosaur footprint garden at a local elementary school? Through collaborative process and great partnerships! The project is part of the Treating and Teaching Stormwater Stewardship program, a new environmental education effort in 2017, funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Prince George’s County through the County Stormwater Stewardship grant program. Treating and Teaching is built on partnership, bringing together designers, environmental educators, and advocacy groups whose work at schools intersects through tree plantings, experiential learning, and greening activities.
Treating and Teaching uses a collaborative design to implement outdoor learning spaces at local schools. Through a competitive application procedure, an initial cohort of six public schools was selected. Perks for educators include professional development training and teaching materials to connect students and staff to the stormwater facilities on their campuses.
The Neighborhood Design Center worked closely with environmental educators, teachers, and students to design and implement outdoor classrooms at Walker Mill Middle School and Capitol Heights Elementary School. Both outdoor learning environments were built by landscape contractors and the Anacostia Watershed Society team with the help of students and volunteers. Walker Mill Middle redesigned an underutilized school courtyard to capture building runoff in a series of stone and planted gardens with movable outdoor seating. Capitol Heights Elementary designed a dinosaur footprint garden with a small assembly space and children’s play areas, complete with a sandbox to dig for fossils! The garden shape is reminiscent of a dryptosaurus foot, a dinosaur in the tyrannosaurus family that was once native to the Maryland area. On December 7th, Capitol Heights held a ribbon cutting for the dinosaur garden attended by dozens of students and staff, while the school district’s media team shot video and interviews with several students.