Certain experiences we’ve had working with communities have shaped how we think about our work, what is our role as a designer and advocate. What can we bring to a situation by virtue of coming from the outside, as we often do? What can we learn from a site? What can people there teach us?
It’s important to join communities we work with so we can gain their trust, get to learn their priorities, values, deep passions, and hot buttons. It’s the same with their sites. One of the great values of being new to the problem and the site is the fresh eyes that we can bring to what is really powerful, beautiful, and provocative. These features or qualities may be so familiar that they have been hiding in plain sight.
We hate importations. We’re always looking for those things that the city is already made of, that make cities unique, turning the familiar into the strange and beautiful experiences that resonate with native culture and create vivid memories that could never exist anywhere else.
Healthy design processes are shaped by deep engagement with the client and community, learning their stories and experiences, not just what they wrote on a note card. In the end, the project is about a communal vision that is forged by the values of the public it will serve. Our job then becomes translating that vision into a physical, material sensibility that resonates with people, that feels both familiar and new at the same time. It’s about the hard work of making things fit and cohere, making them practical, logical, affordable, and something you never forget!
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