Fall 2020 – Workshop #5: Analysis and Documentation

[Video] [Agenda + Notes] [Slides]


We’ve had some time and distance to reflect on the packed last few weeks of directly implementing CDI workshops and actively listening to the Rogers Park residents now, so this week is debrief week. Genevieve and Annie, veteran City Open-ers, did a lovely job opening and leading the discussion! You can read through specific resident comments distilled in the slides from tonight.


Image description: illustration of an L-shaped building and boxed gardens and trees making up a plaza in front. The short leg of the L building is rendered as glass from floor to ceiling, with a “Market” sign and a rooftop garden. The other leg of the building sits on piloti and has glass rising up one story before terminating into a rooftop garden and three more stories with reduced footprint above. Illustration created by Jaya Eyzaguirre.


Most groups focused development on the north side of the gardens, creating a welcoming entry on Howard Street and allowing for maximal sunlight for the rest of the plot to remain as a garden. The exception was the morning in-person session, which advocated for the community of refugee families to continue to farm for daily sustenance on the side of the plot. There were later discussions during the virtual sessions that repeated this concern - how do we remove, transform, and reinstate this resource using transparent language and with trust into something that can be permanent and stable?


Image description: A Miro workboard showing one frame of sticky notes in blue, yellow and pink on the left and an orange frame on the right depicting various google maps screengrabs of the site, other building precedent photography, and a drone-perspective of the 3D model of the site.


Lisa led the morning virtual session on October 8 and pointed out that there were more volunteers than participants, a dynamic pretty common throughout the other sessions (we’re talking numbers like two volunteers for every participant). Especially in the in-person set up, this created an understandably overwhelming kind of set up.


Another great point was brought up that the design workshops didn’t make space for residents to say they didn’t want any development on the site, driving the conversation to be about why they can’t have nothing developed on the site. Perhaps this means we need to be more intentional with the framing of how this is a city-owned piece of land and is therefore the gardens current operating status is always at risk.


Image description: a drone-perspective of stacks of blocks on a satellite screengrabbed google map of the site, from the N Ashland Ave and N Rogers Ave intersection. Yellow blocks are labelled "Affordable Housing", a pink block is labelled "Library", red blocks are labelled "Retail" with suggestions such as food trucks or a brewery/bar, green planes are labelled "green roof" or "greenspace", and peach planes labelled "Plaza".


While we were excited to test the live formation of a 3D model, being stuck behind a screen definitely limited the hands-on aspect of the in-person sessions. Lisa pointed out that participants were totally dependent on designers to translate words into models, certainly a power dynamic that to be cautious of. In fact, there often seemed to be a disconnect between what was being discussed versus what was being modeled. Designers had to balance actively listening to residents and designing a model live at the same time, sometimes even having to digest multiple ideas at once.


Finally, the DIY kits (put together by Annie, Athena, Genevieve) have about 10% of the original 50 kits distributed returned. These were visually similar to the in-person set up, however lacked the facilitation used to draw out local knowledge of the site. MPC followed up already to this point and sent out two surveys for participants to respond to, mimicking the precedents and reaction boards from the in-person sessions. These visuals would help relate the interaction more easily for folks. Annie suggested layering multimedia outreach styles - a really exciting idea that could better take advantage of all the social media and online opportunities out there.


The take-home kits as a mode of engagement would definitely benefit from feedback from someone without a design background to better understand the challenges & things that worked from the kit. Anthena also inputs that right now could be a stressful time for folks and they don’t want to think about just another thing - survey and session feedback that people may have opinions and want to be involved, but may require multiple sessions outside of this under-facilitated space.


Image description: One resident submitted their DIY Kit as pink-colored foam blocks stacked in three tiers, facing various directions, in one corner of a spread of green paper atop the site map.


Since MPC had rescheduled the original design summary meeting to November 12, the original time slot for tomorrow evening will turn into “Office Hours” to help answer any questions people with DIY kits may have. Check out their main page to access previous presentations and conversations.

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

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