Taking In the Wider Local Design World

While I am in Chicago, I took the opportunity to connect with the wider local design world.

First, with Katherine’s help, I met with Iker Gil, a public interest architect and product designer. Iker showed me his studio and samples from his portfolio. Most intriguingly, Iker noted how he doesn’t subscribe to the “public interest design” at all. He says that all designers should see their work as a part of building life, and therefore he doesn’t see the need to securely define himself as such. I couldn’t’ agree more, which is why I see so much overlap with architecture and design and urban planning. I also asked Iker what advise he would have for someone such as I whom is transitioning into the design profession. He said that being open to new ideas is essential to design thinking, because where others see limits, a designer sees possibilities. It’s that very outside-of-the-box and even beyond-the-box approach to problem solving that attracted me to the field in the first place.

On the weekend, I went to the latter portion of the Youth-Police Conference at the University of Chicago. The conference was aimed at raising the challenges between Chicago youth and CPD, and what resolutions could come from cross sector discussions. There, I was able to meet Miriame Kaba, a violence prevention activist and founder and director of Project NIA. I had used Kaba’s curriculum for own youth violence prevention program I co-founded in Boston. Although they may not initially appear connected, Miriame’s work is as important to urban development as is urban design. Her focus on community trauma and healing creates a space for design thinking in social interventions. For example, at the conference she discussed the prospects of that just having youth play a role on the many speaker panels, but also to have them have seats on boards and commissions — the very groups that are formed to address youth and community issues but rarely have youth and community members at the table. It’s that very outside of the box practice that helps us to resolve ongoing urban problems.

Lastly, I visited the Chicago Architecture Foundation museum. It was so much learning about the evolution of the city, examining the model replica of the city and flipping through Big Data tools using the touch screen technology. Yet what had me most excited is the Design Studio and the featured Lego workshop where children and parents together designed their own model cities. At some point in the near future, I would like to launch an organization dedicated to educating youth and citizens about urban design, urban planning and how they can get involved in their own communities’ social change.

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