Friday, February 20, 2009

Design Your Own Center

Image courtesy of Ryan Patterson. You can click on the picture for a larger version.

Since July, a group of people in Baltimore has been gathering regularly to discuss the creation of an urban design lab here. It's been an incredible transdisciplinary endeavor with lots of voices and good ideas. Out of these regular meetings—composed of a diverse group of constituents including schools, non-profits, practitioners, government leaders, and community members—a shared vision for a center is emerging. First and foremost, there is a shared belief that the city and the region would be stronger if there were a bigger emphasis on design and that any kind of a center should be a neutral entity dedicated to advancing the role of design thinking.

It is important to note that the word “center” indicates a desire to create centrality around the promotion of design and does not speak, necessarily, to one physical location. In fact, the question of what this center will physically entail is still up for debate. Two weeks ago, we invited John Bielenberg to town to help us with a creative visioning session about what, exacltly, a center might be. John led the group in his famous "Think Wrong" process and the ideas that emerged were pretty compelling. One concept that came out of the evening was the idea of a temporary space to host design activity. A few people have continued to play around with the idea and they just sent me the following text, as well as the image pictured above:

Salsa Bowl; a Temporary Design Center, Potato Print Press, and Sno-Ball Stand

"To help with the forward movement and investigation on what a design center might be it is proposed that a temporary center be enacted in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District for one month this summer. This will comprise of one box to operate out of (shipping container or other), one vacant lot, one extension cord with power, one ice grinder and assorted flavors, one printing unit (Xerox or ink jet most likely), and 30 evenings of open to the public design production.

This project should be entirely funded by the sno-ball stand and volunteer labor. Each evening different groups of designers will be asked to conduct productive work at this site. The contents of that work will be determined at a later date."

I sure hope this happens. And that they have egg custard for the snoballs.

What's been so interesting about this entire endeavor, is the level of creativity, inclusivity, and action. This is a great time for Design Thinking in cities and it's definitely happening here in Baltimore. Want to join us? There's an open meeting for the Design Center group this coming Monday at the Load of Fun Warehouse on North Avenue in Station North. You can learn more on our Facebook page.