Articulating residents' design priorities

In the last issue of Metropolis Mag, there is an intriguing article entitled "Found in Translation: Laying the foundation for more sensitivity within a community's public spaces". It's mostly about how urban designer can articulate residents' design priorities. What is interesting, is this project they mention: "Hester Sign Collaborative": Those students, interns with a nonprofit design outfit called Hester Street Collaborative, are investigating how Chinatown's jumble of signs, icons, and sidewalk food vendors can reflect a look that residents actually want. With the supervision of Anne Frederick and Alex Gilliam, Hester Street's full-time staff, students create "nonverbal tools" for residents who don't speak English (or design jargon). Last year, intern William Chung designed a board game, Bad Design Darts, to serve as a community survey. Hester Street would post a neighborhood map at a town hall meeting and the block that residents hit most frequently with darts would receive a cleanup or gardening campaign initiated by civic groups.

Jenny Chin, another of the collaborative's interns, developed Step On Your Neighborhood, in which the collaborative lends residents a small handheld paver. People would take the pavers around the their streets and stamp impressions of found objects in concrete. "Here's this way of making things that could be beautiful and are entirely specific to that neighborhood," says Gilliam of Chin's innovation, "This is something many ages can do." (...) The collaborative will soon install a ribbon of symbols to inject more immigrant histories into the flow.

Why do I blog this? I find relevant to study how people think in terms of urban planning/design ideas, especially in diverse neighborhoods. This idea of 'non-verbal tool' is simple and appealing. Besides, I really like this: "the Hester Street intern demonstrates how making casts of found objects can feed a useful English-free design lexicon": (Photos courtesy Hester Street Collaborative)