in a relationship with: modular housing. it’s complicated.

James Arentson, a first year Enterprise Rose Fellow with Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, talks lessons learned about modular, affordable housing in this post on Enterprise’s Field Notes blog. It’s hard to believe James is only in his first year of the fellowship when you read his insightful and honest assessment of the challenges and potential within the modular industry, but even more impressive is the Community Development Investment grant James helped SWMHP win through Artplace. This award means serious funding, and recognizes SWMHP’s commitment to local culture and residents. Nice job, James.

Modular1

Photo credit SWMHP and James Arentson

baptist town community center is hiring

Baptist Town Community Development opened the new BT Community Center in May. We are looking for someone passionate about connecting people to resources (such as education, health and employment related opportunities) to join our team in the early growth stages of this community led neighborhood hub.

To apply for this one year Americorps VISTA appointment send a resume to Emily Roush-Elliott at emily@deltadb.org. More information and application links coming soon.

gardening 10_13_15 3

Thanks to local Food Corps member, Sara Hazelnis, a Healthy Habits youth class is happening at the Baptist Town Community Center on Tuesdays this October. Yesterday’s class planted vegetable seeds. We’re looking forward to peas in November.

redesigning japan’s work place to welcome women

It wasn’t long ago that sustainability was an uncommon term, but the need to use resources efficiently becomes clearer with each year that the global population increases, climate change advances, and we become more connected to each other through technology. Within this context, the concept of what is excess, a bi-product, or otherwise deemed unnecessary is shifting. Recycling, upcycling, and a variety of product streams illustrate this change within society. Within my own work, the idea of discovering value where it was previously unnoticed has become a core value extending into material and building reuse, access to capital, but most importantly partnering with and leveraging the skills of traditionally marginalized communities.

Carrying this ideology with me, I was honored to be selected as a participant in a non-governmental diplomacy exchange, the Junior Chamber International of Osaka’s Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP), that took me to Osaka and Tokyo during the first week of September. As a component of this cultural experience, I was interested to see what insights Japanese culture, so well-known for attention to detail and valuing beauty, might provide in regards to not just efficient, but excellent use of resources.

The TOYP program provided a wealth of opportunities to expand my network to include Japanese acquaintances (including a family who hosted me in their home and took me to visit Tadao Ando’s Church of Light) and fellow TOYP participants, visit important landmarks (such as the Osaka Castle and the Ikutama Shrine), and experience Japanese culture (through a formal tea ceremony, outstanding culinary experiences, and the art at the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum). Perhaps most impressive, the JCI Osaka organized an audience for TOYP participants with Their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, with whom we spoke about our projects and our motivations. Through each of these experiences Japanese culture and architecture exceeded my expectations; beauty and efficiency were visible throughout.

Despite this culture of excellence, Japan struggles with many of the same issues that we grap20140531_ASC071ple with in the United States including an affordable housing stock inadequate to meet demand, and persistent gender inequality in the workplace. Within the TOYP forum, where I presented my work as a social impact architect
and builder, the focus was on how women can be more included in the work force. This issue is particularly pressing in Japan where parallel statistics: the declining national population[1] and the low participation rate of females in the labor force, are threatening future economic growth for the country. Within this context, the potential contributions of women in the business and economic sphere can no longer be overlooked in Japan. This resource has shifted from unnecessary to valuable.

As JCI Osaka makes strides toward accessing the resources of female employees and entrepreneurs, this is only one example of a shift in attitudes toward uncovering, rather than overlooking, valuable assets. Globally, it will take a broader and faster moving application of this type of thinking to have an impact on the wicked challenges that face us today if we hope to achieve goals of equitable and sustainable practices in our cultural, economic and physical environments.

[1] http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/original-size/images/print-edition/20140531_ASC071.png

Baptist Town featured in HUD magazine

We are excited to be featured in PD&R Edge, the online magazine of HUD (the US Department of Housing and Urban Development). An excerpt is below or read the full article.

“The cottages are part of the Baptist Town neighborhood revitalization project, which includes new parks, streetscape improvements, job training, and a community center… According to Emily Roush-Elliott, an architectural fellow…, the built environment often reinforces social and economic inequity instead of helping residents. One of the goals of the Baptist Town Cottages is to reverse some of that inequity by providing desperately needed affordable housing and helping residents build financial equity through homeownership…The installation and finishing of the cottages were seen as a ‘joint investment in both the built environment and human capacity,’ says Roush-Elliott, and were used to enhance the job readiness of some Baptist Town residents [who] received on-the-job training in carpentry and other building trades as they helped complete the cottages.”

‘tour de farce’ is for real

In 2013, eight Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellows received $5,000 grants through a partnership between Enterprise Community Partners and the Fetzer Institute. While creative placemaking is becoming increasingly common, these grants added the important, if not imperative, lens of love and forgiveness to each project.

Last week, these small projects were featured (with a focus on Yakima’s ‘Tour de Farce’) in an article published by Next City. In particular, the grant recipients cited the freedom that these small grants gave to allow a truly local response and to take risks while working to catalyze larger efforts. Read about how we used the grant here in Greenwood for GOOD@ Community Day, and keep an eye out for a book that will soon come out with “recipes” for how to conduct love and forgiveness based placemaking in your own community.

Hirabayashi Place 07-08-14

Photo credit: Joann Ware

happy places

Last month I wrote a blog post for Enterprise linking the inspiration I have gained from Lina Bo Bardi’s work, particularly SESC Pompeia, with the aspirations our team has for the Baptist Town Community Center.  I reference a quote of hers that I read in Rowan Moore’s Why We Build about when she first visited the site:

“’I thought: it has to continue like this, with so much happiness. I returned many times, Saturdays and Sundays, until I really got it – understood those happy things people were doing.’”

As we celebrated the opening of the Baptist Town Community Center, I was reminded of the lessons I learned from SESC. Here, we similarly (albeit within a shorter time frame and smaller budget) worked with the bones of an existing building. We set up shop within the Baptist Town neighborhood and attempted to make small and useful additions to a place that is already vibrant with life and energy.

After one month of operations, I’m not ready to write any grant reports about “measurable impacts” or “long-term outcomes”, but the number of people who are participating and enjoying the center is really promising. In June we had Zumba classes, community movie nights, and offered job application assistance. Yolande’s art classes were a huge success, sometimes drawing more than twenty-five people. To me, this is the goal of social impact architecture; to make a space like the Baptist Town Community Center a happy place.