“CHANGING PERCEPTIONS THROUGH DESIGN”
01. Start with a flat, lifeless lot and some plywood of similar quality.
02. Select the size of the desired installation; from XS to XL, the possibilities are endless.
03. Cut plywood into simple geometric shapes according to the patterns provided.
04. Join the pieces together with a metal angle after matching up the edges with equal dimensions. As the volumes aggregate, a landscape begins to form.
05. Fill the volumes with grass, herbs, flowers, recycling containers, light – life!
06. When summer fades, don’t be disappointed. Take the plants to a deserving home or community garden. We’ll make sure your recyclables move on to serve new purposes. Clean up and package up the boards to bring it all back to life next summer.
In 2010, the Chicago chapter of Architecture For Humanity organized the Architecture for Humanity Chicago Street Furniture competition. The brief was clear and straightforward: design a series of urban elements that could activate vacant lots in the city during the brief summer months.
Our entry to the competition was titled Cut.Join.Play. and the goal was to create a new artificial landscape that invited community involvement. That was achieved through the aggregation of a series of volumes built with simple hardware store materials, organizing the site and providing multiple containers for different uses: benches; flower, grass, herb and native planting; light box; and recycling and garbage container were some of the possibilities we imagined. It was critical to the success of the project to engage the community and make them an active participant of the proposal.
The project, initially scheduled to be on site for the summer months, lasted six months, double the intended duration. In the end, the project built in Little Village exceeded our expectations. The design addressed the goal of the competition: we had activated an area that until then was used primarily as a parking lot. But more importantly, it changed the way residents perceived this formerly vacant area of their neighborhood. The project showed them that any aspect of the built environment around them could be understood as an opportunity, as an asset and not as a problem. And that, most of the times, small interventions produced with limited resources can change the way you interact with your environment. This collaborative effort not only changed the perceptions from the residents but also from the City of Chicago, who, after seeing the results of the project, allocated $100,000 to turn the area into a permanent park. Not bad for a project built entirely with common materials in a single day.
MAS Studio is a collaborative architecture and urban design firm directed by Iker Gil. The studio takes a multidisciplinary approach to its work in order to provide innovative and comprehensive ideas and solutions. In 2009, the office started the quarterly design journal MAS Context, now a non-profit organization.