The Playbook Studio

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This summer, YARD advised a 7-week intensive planning studio at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning (DAAP). The studio was born out of the Neighborhood Playbook’s Demand Discovery process. The goal of the studio was to help people rethink what investment might look like in an overlooked space in Cincinnati’s Camp Washington neighborhood. Our own hope was that the studio would give students a unique opportunity to work outside of the classroom to re-creating a space in real-time with virtually no budget.

Here are four observations from working with this energetic bunch:

1. WHEN YOU’RE NEW, YOU CAN BE TOO QUICK AND LEAN

While quick and lean has many upsides to improve a place, seven weeks is a bit of a shock for people who have lived and worked in a place for years. With more time, the students could have built more relationships within the community and turned that into real ‘ownership’ of the process. This would have ensured the project lived on long after they were gone.

2. NO BUDGET, NO PROBLEM

It is amazing how creative these students became when dealing with the desperate situation of having zero dollars. They did end up raising a few bucks at a couple bake sales, but their resourceful use of found items was pretty inspiring. This included one of the students taking bamboo from his parent’s yard to help build a screen along the street edge of a parklet.

3. GET OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

We must find ways to connect our future designers and planners to the work on the ground in neighborhoods. Too often they spend the majority of their time in the classroom talking theory when the intangible communication and social skills needed for practical community work are not taught. Fortunately, these students learned a lot about this skill over a short seven weeks and came out stronger as a result.

4. EMBED INSTIGATORS AND INFLUENCERS

The final event included an art wall and it was impactful to see several art students from DAAP at the event working with and painting alongside several neighborhood residents. The planning students smartly thought to embed these artists in the space to inspire others to join in co-creating the art wall experience. This same tactic might be applied to a number of situations to ensure that the space you create is engaging the audience it attracts in new and meaningful ways.