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Reflections on a Day of Community and Architecture

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Architecture-design practice, Design Advocates, have proposed some creative pavilions to be built in the garden at Concourse House. The pavilions were designed to encourage gathering and learning outdoors for the resident mothers and children. Each pavilion was designed with sensory learning in mind; there is one for sound, one for taste, and one for light. One word comes to mind from this experience: Thoughtful. Throughout every step of the process, Design Advocates were thoughtful about who they were designing for, as they made sure to include them in the process.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

Design Advocates came directly to the residents at Concourse House to visit and to host a series of workshops related to their design ideas for the garden. Fauzia, a member of design advocates, taught us mothers and our children how to be creative minding space, light, and the senses. One particular workshop that my son and I enjoyed was the wind chimes workshop. Deena, another member of design advocates, led the workshop and presented to us all of the possibilities in designing audible and soundless wind chimes. I made a wind chime out of bamboo and brass bells to create a soothing rainforest noise. I shook it up to test the sound, and my son somehow immediately knew the best way to enjoy my creation. He laid on the ground underneath it and looked upward, listening to the percussion and watching the pieces wave and jingle. I can’t explain how happy I was to see him take pleasure in this manner.

We were delighted that Design Advocates thought to come to us and build a relationship with the mothers and children of Concourse House. This simple exchange is an important one that not many organizations think to do. It allows us to learn about them, and allows them to learn about us, so that we can all feel welcome, have a bond between communities, and potentially make beautiful and useful creations. And yet, most of us did not yet know what potential creations were in the making.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

On Thursday, June 10th, Design Advocates presented their designs for the garden at Concourse House for resident mothers and children to discuss. The designs were displayed on large boards next to their correlating sections of the garden. We were encouraged to write our thoughts and suggestions on sticky notes to post on the design boards. It was thoughtful to present us the drafts and spend plenty of time with us to hear our input. Based on conversations, it seemed to me that the general consensus was that the residents were enthused about the designs. This may have been the first time that I have seen so many mothers in the garden at once. The gathering was cheerful and conversational. I was surprised to hear so many comments and discussions about the presentation; everyone was truly engaged in a positive way that I have not seen until this event. I felt a greater sense of community than I have in some time, because everybody was eager to talk about our space and relate to one another.

I believe that these designs will attract more mothers and children to inhabit our outdoor space. They will allow the garden to be not only more spacious and functional, but inviting, therapeutic, and educational as well. The taste pavilion will offer a spot to enjoy the garden plots and more space to gather and eat; the light pavilion will allow us to play and learn outdoors where the weather would previously force us back inside; the sound pavilion will soothe us and help us slow down. These pavilions were designed for mothers and children to maintain a sense of sanctuary outdoors, to learn about the world around them, and to discover their senses. I would be happy to see future residents enjoy these spaces, and I am grateful to have been a part of the thoughtful creation process.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)

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