Friday, June 7, 2013

Enterprise Rose Fellowship Redefines Community Design at NeighborWorks Organizations

Blog by Kat Miller, NeighborWorks Rural Initiative
Miller is an AmeriCorps VISTA and recent graduate of Smith College, where she studied architecture.

The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship, is a highly competitive and innovative program that places some of the nation’s finest early career architects in underserved communities across the country to team up with community development host organizations. The program is headed by Enterprise Community Partners’ National Design Initiatives, which offers a variety of programs that help build capacity for design leadership across the community development field.

The Rural Initiative and NeighborWorks America staff with
Rose Fellow Mark Matel (left) at the Bartlett bus yards
NeighborWorks America is proud to have two Enterprise Rose Fellows currently working at NeighborWorks organizations: Geoffrey Barton at Mountain Housing Opportunities in Asheville, North Carolina and Mark Matel at Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.

By bringing designers directly into the communities in which they are working, the Rose Fellowship boosts an organization’s capacity to create affordable, sustainable, and well designed communities. We often think about design as being strictly aesthetic. Good design, however, must be measured more three dimensionally; as something that transforms not only appearance, but also performance. To achieve this, the Rose Fellowship boasts a bottom-up approach towards design. This approach rests upon three core principles:  design excellence, sustainability, and first and foremost, community engagement.
Mark has certainly embraced this bottom-up approach as Project Manager for Bartlett Place, Nuestra Comunidad’s new mixed-use development that is transforming a vacant eight acre bus yard into a “creative village”. Tapping into Roxbury’s rich artists’ population, Bartlett Place will offer a variety of public spaces, commercial storefronts, and housing types to both provide new opportunities for current neighborhood residents and attract new populations.

As Project Manager, Mark is involved with overseeing all aspects of the project ranging from site planning to real estate development to contracting, etc.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Bartlett Place, however, has emerged in between the planning and construction phases of the project. As a liaison between the production team and Bartlett’s primary client, the Roxbury community, Mark has facilitated “Bartlett Events,” as a platform to raise excitement and engage the community in the months leading up to construction. An of example of this is MuralFest, Bartlett’s kickoff event  where local artists came together to beautify the site with murals and sculpture, transforming the old Bartlett bus yards from a drab vacant field of asphalt into a vibrant arts/events space. This new space will be used throughout the summer to keep Bartlett alive until construction starts next fall.  

In addition to providing interim programming for the site, Bartlett Events is also being used as a way to test ideas that can be re-integrated into Bartlett Place permanently. In this way, Bartlett’s design process is fundamentally rooted in the community. 

Our visit to Nuestra Comunidad and the Bartlett Yards demonstrated that good community-based design is as much about dealing with social issues as it is about dealing with architecture and building issues. This concept is certainly evident in the community-based design work that Mark is doing at Bartlett, and is echoed across the country, where a legacy of other Rose Fellows tackle similar design issues in underserved communities. 

Take a look at what Rose Fellow, Geoffrey Barton, is working on at Mountain Housing Opportunities  (one of our newest additions to the NeighborWorks Rural Initiative!) and visit the Enterprise National Design Initiatives website to learn more about the fellowship and their other programs. Applications for the Enterprise Pre-Development Design Grant are now open and close on July 10.