We spent over a week deciding which site to work on. Even though choosing a site from our school would be much simpler, it was not exciting enough. We decided to look at Live 155. We made four visits to the site, and talked to the President of Western Builders, Chris, at our first meeting. He invited us to the construction crew meeting that same week. There we met the other project managers and stakeholders. We came back on another occasion to interview Lynne, one of the project managers, Chris again with follow up questions, and then another time to interview the architects and landscape architect. Through our time meeting with the project managers we realized the project itself was very thorough and thoughtful. We also observed the excitement, and engagement that we saw from their behavior towards us as an interested group of students wanting a window into what they do. They said things to each other that made us believe that the construction crews may be lacking a sense of appreciation for their work because this disruptive work is often seen as a nuisance to the community. The problem we discovered was a need to highlight the people working behind this as a way to fulfil a sense of joy and appreciation in the crews through an understanding of the value of their work from the community.
Our point-of-view statement was Team Live155 envisions their building as a respected citizen of Northampton. But they feel that the inherent annoyance from construction inhibits the community’s ability to appreciate, understand and connect to their work.
We ideated through playing an outdoor ball game that we improvised. Each time we caught the ball, we had to shout out a potential idea that could address our users’ need. Then we had to record our ideas on post-its and stick it on our bodies. By the end of the game, we were able to come up with over 40 ideas. Later, we chose chain-link fence art as an idea to work on.
From our ideating process as a team, we began to build off of our first prototypes. Initially we constructed a grid using local materials: magnets and cardboard and writing down different ideas we had for effectively realizing our missions for the project based of the POV. We familiarized ourselves with the laser cutter and printed off acrylic tiles based off of the measurements of the individual chain link fence spaces to experiment with how the light and color affected their readability. We tried using different colored markers and glitter glue to see how they interacted with the acrylic tiles and settled on using a few colors based off of our limited materials and wanted to keep the installation clear, consistent, and readable.
We initially wanted to create individual profiles of the crew but we ran into technical problems when we realized that the light had to hit the tile in a very specific way in order for the image to appear correctly. We also realized that we could not feasibly craft tiles for all of the “100s of people who worked on the project” and by making tiles for the project managers who we spoke with, we would be highlighting already powerful voices while failing to represent the other hardworking crew members.
We tried out our acrylic prototype on a chain-link fence outside the studio and chose our colors based off of what was easiest to read in the light. We decided to use wire to hold the tiles in place from experimenting with using pipe cleaners. We were ready to install and test our idea!
Our first prompt was “what do you think of the idea of ‘building as a citizen’ is?” After we installed our prototype on the fence, we received positive feedback and enthusiasm from the construction crews. However, we also received some comments that showed that there was a lack of clarity in our prompt. Some of the participants were confused about our project, and wrote, “I don’t get this” on the tile. So we included more context on what our project is about and a clearer instruction to our next installation, “use the empty pink tiles to share your thoughts, thank you for participating!” We received many interesting comments such as, “be an architect of universal destiny” and “building citizenship as a way of building community.”
If we had more time, we would love to try different prompts and see how responses might change. It would be interesting to continue to put out new blank tiles and potentially hold an event when the building opens, getting direct response from those moving in. As our product naturally collects information on the thoughts and feelings of the workers and community members who interact with it, we could eventually gather the tiles into a data set that could be shared with project managers to inform future sites. This could also be offered as a kit for future site management companies. Most fences are used in the same way and this could be prepackaged to sell to communities as a way for voices to be heard and dialogue to happen between habitats and builders.