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Fall 2020 – Workshop #3: Civic Engagement Prototyping

Today’s session was rapid-fire. The Rogers Park CDI process is officially beginning tomorrow and we have just one week before the first virtual community feedback session is to take place October 8. Debbie Liu and Kendra Freeman from the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) walked us through the agenda and goals of the first meeting as well as a review of the rest of the CDI process through October.

For the last several weeks, City Open participants have been working in three distinct groups based on engagement mode for the CDI process: In-Person, Virtual, and DIY Kits. The challenge will be helping to translate participant ideas into estimated square footage and massing, providing context and expanding the possibilities for the site. To guide the community in imagining what the lots can become, we want to ask: what do we already know about the site? What would we like to see developed here? How would we shape the development?

Image description: Timelapse of City Open participants testing the DIY Kit.

I’m most excited to see how the DIY kits turn out and what kinds of wacky massing ideas we get - there’s so much opportunity and experimentation with this mode of engagement. These take-home kits include a base map and some specifically sized and color-coded foam blocks to replicate the in-person exercises. Since we aren't able to help facilitate, we will need to be very intentional about how to document the results. MPC will collect submissions via #RogersParkDIY on various social media platforms and the DIY team has also put together a supplemental questionnaire to help garner some direct responses to precedents, materials, forms, etc, all of which can be found on City Open’s website here. I’m curious if the type of submissions from this avenue will yield more honest and direct criticism and ideas.

Image description: A SketchUp window showing an eye-level view of an empty park with scale figures placed on tree-lined sidewalks and surrounded by white block-like buildings.

City Open participants Emma and Mark built a beautiful SketchUp model for designers to navigate during the virtual sessions. CDI attendees will discuss program ideas and in direct response, City Open designers will manipulate the model. This is the (hopeful) game-changer. While the set-up attempts to mimic what an in-person workshop might be like on a non-pandemic day, the virtual workshop can take advantage of the format by offering a live translation of resident feedback into a 3D model representing real spatial consequences.

Lastly the in-person sessions will put us directly in the neighborhood close to the site and thereby yield an audience that differs from the virtual, that differs from the DIY kits. It's looking out to be a packed day: four 90-minute sessions starting from 10 am and ending at 5:30 pm. Within each session, facilitators will need to discuss the site and neighborhood context and tease out hyperlocal knowledge; to suggest possible precedents for a sense of realistic execution in scale, material, cost; and then finally take all those discussions and translate it into a development. There's still plenty of logistics to work through, but the energy and expectations are in tip-top shape!


LOUISA ZHENG is a designer interested in social impact and community participatory processes.


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