Urban ACUPUNCTURE for Community Forge
Chitika Vasudeva, Christine Kim, Fon Euchukanochai, Guatam Thakkar, Ghalya Al Sanea, Mariana Alberola Mounica Guturu, Rachel Park, Ritchie Ju, Shariwa Ramakrishnan, Scarlet Tong
Location: Wilkinsrbugh, PA
Taught by: Stefan Gruber
Urban Acupuncture is a semester long design build project where the studio team helps Community Forge, a local non-profit organization offering after school programs and community aid, to rethink and transform their outdoor space into a learning playscape and community gathering space. The project scope starts with conducting a series of community engagements for all members of the community - tenants at Community Forge, students, and neighbors alike, to developing an organizational scheme, and eventually realizing parts of the design. The project developed in collaboration with Community Forge, Pittsburgh Learning Commons and Engineers Without Borders.
A series of community engagement sessions are held to allow the studio team to receive feedback from the community and stakeholders of the outdoor area. From abstract tasks like constructing a memorable scene from one’s childhood using ambiguous objects on the table, to making collages (as seen in the picture above), or on site charades, the studio team aimed to tease out the hopes and concerns from end users of the project without being explicit.
Observations and ANALYSis
Common urban conditions within the borough highlights the blight and displacement occurring in Wilkinsburgh and how that affect the urban fabric. Above is a poster illustrating the erosion of urban corners that common within residential areas of Wilkinsburgh. Of the four corner lots, only one is occupied by a built structure. Interestingly, the swing set seems to be abandoned, but suggests it could be popular among students due to its close proximity to the middle school.
It is important for us to understand the hopes and concerns of customers of Community Forge, neighbors and community members that have a stake in our project.
From the interviews, seating and other gathering spaces seems to be lacking to facilitate interactions between parents and their children while they are at the outdoor area. This concern translated to our realization of benches and a gathering space in the final scheme.
Overall Design Proposal
Final design adopted elements of the schemes, such as the mobile elements, in this case benches, that are placed across the site, a dynamic pattern on the lower portion of the site, and using the island language and color to bring coherence to the design. The island scheme is chosen because it allowed introduction of diverse programs within the small site, and can be incrementally developed as Community Forge receives funding and grants to realize each “island“. Each “island“ and element below are listed in its sequence of completion starting with the Learning Island, two Benches that are realized by the studio team by May 2020, followed by the Play Island (funded by the Play-Everywhere KABOOM Grant), the Red Porch (lead by the Urban Design and Build Studio in CMU), Seating Island and the Gym Island.
Bench Design and Construction Team: Christine Kim, Fon Euchukanonchai , Ritchie Ju, Scarlet Tong, Shariwa Ramakrishnan
Other programs are integrated into the benches, such as a passive music amplifier in the Music Bench and a throwing wall and blackboard in the Play Bench, to facilitate more types of interaction.
Marine plywood is used for both benches, and is assembled using CNC routing and connected by screws. Primer, exterior paint and varnish are selected to help protect the benches from weather to extend its longevity.
Design and Construction Leaders: Ghalya Al Sanea, Mounica Guturu
Inspired by how youths use and alter their surroundings to invent new methods of playing, the learning island aims to integrate mathematical relationships along with abstract patterns to develop a dynamic surface that can host a variety of games and events Community Forge may organize.
As painting is mostly done by hand and does not require much prior training, a community volunteer day is organized not only to engage the community but also to instill a sense of authorship to the end users and stakeholders of the outdoor space.