Change can come through marches and protests. At the University of Houston’s Community Design Resource Center (CDRC) change comes through design.
The Collaborative Community Design Initiative, a project of the CDRC, is a partnership between the College of Architecture, city officials, building and planning professionals, architects and community leaders who pool their time and expertise to focus on strengthening neighborhoods.
“The purpose of the initiative is to engage community leaders in looking at design as one of the tools they have to use as a strategy for change,” said Susan Rogers, assistant professor and director of the CDRC. “For example what would it take to turn a church parking lot into a court where you might play big checkers or have tables for dominos. What does it take to make some vacant lots into gardens for people?”
The year-long pilot project examined four corridors—Airline, Independence Heights, East End and Northside—and asked community leaders, with the help of partnering professionals and faculty, to imagine their communities at their best. The groups gathered for planning and visioning meetings. Rogers, who also teaches at the college, said some ideas were small. Some were big.
“In street widening, which is the case in the Airline corridor, how do you thicken that corridor so that it includes civic and public amenities and spaces,” Rogers said. “With Independence Heights we talked about how we might use the cooperative model of economic development where the neighborhood might actually own, collectively, a small grocery store. Design helps you think outside of what is being done.”
The neighborhoods benefitted from more than 12-thousand volunteer hours of study, research and planning, including work by 4th year architecture students. The findings will be presented to communities and their elected officials.
The initiative was awarded a Collaborative Practice Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture
“I like my students to think about design as a process to imagine not just ‘what’ but ‘how’ you create change,” Rogers said.
The Collaborative Community Design Initiative is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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