In response to my recent post “This land wasn’t made for you and me”, my fellow columnist, Anuradha Vikram asked me for examples of humanizing green building projects to compare to my critique of both the San Francisco’s Federal Building’s “public” plaza and the houses built by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation (MIR) in New Orleans that I wrote about back in June. Over the past couple of days I’ve been trying hard to think of green building projects in the Bay Area that incorporate a functional shared public space. Due to my lack of expertise in architecture, I’d like to open up Anu’s comment as a question for others to respond to: What are good examples of humanizing green building projects in the Bay Area?
In contrast to building projects previously discussed, I’d like to briefly mention The Heidelberg Project started by Tyree Guyton in Detroit, Michigan. Back in 1986, East Detroit struggled to recover from the aftermath of the Detroit riots and faced a depleted economy and racially segregated neighborhoods. Guyton, a resident of Heidelberg Street since the age of 12, began cleaning up his increasingly abandoned and blighted neighborhood with an enclave of children who lived nearby. With the materials they gathered from the vacated residences and lots, Guyton and the neighborhood kids collaborated to create art environments and installations in the vacant lots, on street posts, and the facades of homes. The city of Detroit resisted, of course, demolishing a portion of the project in 1991 and then again in 1999. However, The Heidelberg Project persisted and now operates as a non-profit arts organization, hosting a series of year round workshops and educational programs for schools and youth in the area.
Clearly, the context of The Heidelberg Project and the public plaza of the San Francisco Federal Building or MIR differ greatly and the comparison is a stretch, at best. However, I mention The Heidelberg Project as a way to push the possibilities of our collective spaces and as an example of a community-driven public art project that not only functions in the context of an urban neighborhood facing poverty and disenfranchisement, but employs the creative reuse of material and space—a thread that runs through many of my recent blog postings.
On that note, I look forward to hearing from Open Space readers about green building projects and public spaces in the Bay Area.