The first class began with the “get to know your neighbor” exercise where the paired-up participants inquired each other about themselves and introduced one another to the entire group. The questions were:
- Where do you live? For how long?
- Where were you born?
- Who’s in your family?
- What’s your favorite part of the park? What’s your least?
- What do you hope to get out of this experience?
- How did you get here today?
Some of the participants were living in Queens for decades. Others called it home more recently, thousands of miles away from where they were born and grew up. Some spoke Mandarin or Cantonese, some did Spanish, and some others Korean as their first language. One loved playing soccer in the park. Another participant's favorite thing to do was to sit by the lake.
It was clear after everyone’s presentation that this dedicated and diverse group of community members was ready to create change!
Sarah Lidgus elaborated on wayfinding as the starting point when thinking of new designs for the Park. It’s crucial to consider how to get into the Park, and once inside, how to get around it.
Sarah also deconstructed the magic word ‘design’. “Design is both a noun and verb. We’re going to be doing both. A lot,” she said. Design as a noun might be a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made. Design as a verb, on the other hand, is a strategic approach for someone to achieve a unique expectation in solving a problem.
“What does the design process look like?” was her next question. It starts with research to understand the problems and opportunities. Ideas are born making these concepts visual and tangible. Then other people are asked for feedback. The design gets refined; it evolves and ideas get eliminated to reach the best answer.
Sarah’s homework for the participants was to “see the park differently” and draw it on the blank maps we provided for the next class. Are you curious to see what our community advisors will come up with? Stay tuned for our next story and you can follow all project-related activities at #WorldsPark!
Thanks to the efforts of our Community Organizing Fellow José Serrano-McClain, the project's community advisors are comprised of highly enthusiastic individuals of all ages and diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, who are interested in getting equipped about organizing, design, architecture and art in public spaces, and want to take part in potential improvements to Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
As part of our initial outreach about the project, we asked applicants to send us five to ten images of any type (photos, drawings, painting, collage, etc.) with a brief caption where the theme is 'Problems & Opportunities at Flushing Meadows Corona Park'. We also asked them to include at least one image that considers the park’s ‘connectivity’, thinking of entrances, pathways, signs, places where people share the park, places of information (or lack of information), or one’s own ways to conceive about connectivity.
The community advisors selected for this creative education project will participate in ten hands-on learning events and group homework assignments through March 2015. A final exhibition at the Queens Museum in April will display the collective design work of the community advisors, educators, and other collaborators in the process, and help advocate for the design improvements for FMCP.
The participants of our Community Design School will leave with knowledge and confidence to present ideas to city agencies, participate in further planning and design of the Park, and motivate neighbors to do so too. The participants will also gain a comprehensive understanding of the economic forces that shape park planning, maintenance and design in NYC.
The World’s Park project aims to form a creatively-empowered group of park users that can shape the park’s future for years to come. We will develop, with the help of our community advisors, new proposals for how the access, connectivity, and circulation of FMCP can better serve the public’s needs. We will then advocate for the proposals for funding.
We trust and expect a lot from our community advisors. We can’t wait to see the new ideas and perspectives born out of their inspiration and collaboration.