pecha who? pecha what?

PECHA KUCHA! So how mystical is it that my beloved hubster was just explaining to me the concept of Pecha Kucha last week...and then today I get an invitation to present at the inaugural Chicago Pecha Kucha night on May 29th! I am beyond excited...and totally honored that someone thought of me. I'm further delighted that the "someone" is Peter Exley of Architecture is Fun! I've totally admired their work, both from the design standpoint (children's environments), philosophy (mixing architecture + education), and at least at surface level their business model...the whole husband-wife team, doing what you love, making a difference...complete package. love it. and can't wait for pecha kucha!


Green Carnival

I met with a class of students a week or more ago at the School of the Art Institute. This particular class is working on sustainability in arts education and community development. They are working with an elementary school in East Garfield Park (a rapidly gentrifying area on the west side of chicago) on a variety of projects. the one they wanted to involve me in is installing a green roof at an elementary school...I hope to get some horticulture students involved in the project as I try to make the case for building a landscape architecture arm of the programs i work with. anyway...the conversation stretched into doing other environmentally based and quasi architectural interventions...like a solar energy collecting pavillion housing a marketplace etc. the students interested in this were discouraged by some potential partners about doing permanent structures on 'vacant' land. apart from encouraging them to be creative with the idea of what a structure is and what permanence is...i mentioned to them an idea that at one time considered fleshing out in a thesis...which was the idea of the carnival. what better precedent is there for a temporary, structurally rigorous, socially magnetic spectacle in communities??? and in chicago...its usually low-income communities of color on a vacant lot, or in a large park. i walked way dreaming about this "green carnival"...what about taking those same concepts and making them meaningful in an environmental or social awareness way. i left it at that...as i'd totally love to explore that idea further in my own creative practice! But it was an exciting and refreshing experience. i got to talking to them and was reminded of how thrilling it can be in academia. having that space to dream is often not afforded in the "real world"...it reminded me of how important to me it is to hold on to dreaming and imagining something new but also not stopping at the idea or the theory...but taking that next step of putting it into practice....which is truly the hard part. balancing your "creative ideas" with the reality and buy in of stakeholders and the relevance to real world concerns...apart from just scope+scale+budget. i've long been wrestling for next steps on "building out" my thesis typology...where, with whom...for what express purpose etc. its very important to me to not just leave it at the paper stage...but to also go about it a not so "academic" way.

The student's projects in particular did not send me into my following thought process, but in wrestling with the issues and circumstances of these types of projects...i also later began to ponder why it is that for some reason "community" for many people has become synonymous with "poor or underserved neighborhood". similarly as, "inner-city" or"urban youth" is a euphemism for poor youth of color...when i always thought urban...was just a literally a descriptor for "city". i would love it if we could start recognizing that "community based" work isn't just important for impoverished or gentrifying neighborhoods...or for people who supposedly "who don't know better"...this to me puts a different spin on the issue of empowerment through design...



There is a program called ACE which we (Chicago Public Schools) partner with to try to get students to participate. This year 90 of our students participated in once weekly afterschool mentorship with professional mentors from some of the biggest and best architecture, construction and engineering firms. these firms range from Turner construction, Bovis Lend Lease, Perkins + Wil, OWPP etc. I went to their final presentation a week or so and was blown away by the quality of work. This year the 5 teams worked on a master plan for the olympic village if chicago were to be chosen. These presentations were complete with physical models, 3-D models, analysis, drafted drawings etc. ACE holds an annual luncheon to raise funds for scholarships for the youth that participate and the participating firms often offer internships to students over the summer. I was so impressed by the work that this organization is doing....and I couldn't help but wonder...why an organization like NOMA doesn't have something like this. Maybe they do and I just don't know about it. But this seems to be a key factor in increasing the interest of students of color in architecture...hands on experience, personal relationships and tangible rewards (dollars for education and employment). There's no reason for 'us' to be complaining about underrepresentation in the profession if 'we' aren't doing anything about it. i'm making it my business to try to connect with NOMA on this and further more, the AIA diversity committee when those nominations come around again this summer!

more on architect magazine

i got this email today from a guy named kole pointing me to his audio blog where he talks about the article...and my mistake in particular of pointing them to my blog where i talk in depth in a post or two about the issues related to diversity in architecture. i hereby apologize to black women architects everywhere for not representing aiight? i agree that it was a mistake to point them to the blog but i thought i had some articulate solutions in those posts...including, exposure, mentorship and funding how would i know they were going to spin it into "complaining" and not mention all of the positive things i said in my interview? i share his criticism of the magazine for not including more 'facts', perhaps a historical vantage point (who was the first black woman licensed?), or completely overlooking organizations such as NOMA. i have to tell you that something positive has come out of this in that, i have made some connections with people that i didn't know before. one example is, a black woman that works for chicago public schools in the capital improvements department contacted me after reading the article and i went to visit her and found like 4 other black architects! she related to the difficulty in speaking both pro architecture and also speaking honestly about some of the difficulties that women and people of color face. i hope to interview her and post some of her experience here. i am also happy to connect with others that have emailed, like kole and len. if the article got dialogue going...maybe its not so bad. i dunno.