Note: This component of the project yet remains unrealized in physical form.
The narrative – by Kofi Akakpo
The social fabric is constantly under pressure in our community from various social and economic forces. We envisioned a process to begin to ‘patch’ these ‘ruptures’ by activating dormant vacant lots and spaces in the community and creating in them spaces of communal creativity and expression. These spaces will be the ‘patches’ with which we will begin to repair the rips in the social fabric. To realize this, we asked ourselves four questions.
WHY BUILD ANYTHING?
Building has historically been a communal enterprise. It is a way for friends, family, neighbors and the community at large to come together to realize something. It is a way to activate the social dynamics of the community and it compels people in the community to participate. The final work is something people could behold as that which is achieved together. We therefore believed we could use the process of building to galvanize the collective forces of the neighborhood.
The second reason for building is to produce a physical and tangible expression of an idea. It is a way to take abstract thoughts and make them tangible. Doing this helps to reinforce the ideas being promoted such as communality, unity, building together etc. through the hands-on practice of realizing a physical representation of ideas.
WHAT TO BUILD?
Our idea for activating the dormant lots in our neighborhood involved creating just enough of a spark and then encourage the neighborhood to take over the process. While we would have liked to create several built projects on several lots, we had to stay sensitive to time and budgetary constraints. We therefore concluded on building elements that satisfied the following criteria:
Transparency: to ensure participants were at ease when interacting with the structure.
Visual connection between spaces: so as to reinforce the themes of community, openness, shared experiences.
Adaptability: the structural elements can be easily disassembled and rearranged in other configurations to suit other purposes. Parts can also be taken and assembled on other lots to facilitate their activation as well
Mobility: in order to make dismantling, storage and reassembly easier.
The form was inspired by the ‘X’ symbol used by utilities companies in Philadelphia to indicate a block where utilities had been cut off. The elements came from ‘dismantling the ‘X’ and hopefully starting a process to reattach a community cut off from the rest of society.
The assemblage looks like it is in a state of disrepair and incompletion which reflects the neighborhood in many ways. Participants can help build it and suggest and implement ways to ‘complete’ the structure. The structure requires their active participation to complete just like the community.
WHERE TO BUILD
In choosing a site to begin our activation process, we decided to start with the vacant lot at 10th and Cumberland. This location was ideal because it was on a bus route, was in close proximity to Fairhill apartments (which has a high number of residents) and to Germantown Avenue, a major thoroughfare.
HOW TO BUILD
To build the structure, we want to harness the communal involvement that was historically essential for the completion of any building project. The aim is to galvanize the collective forces of the community. This will be achieved through passing out fliers, word-of-mouth and engaging in the building process in public so as to be seen by neighbors. We will also pass out refreshments, play music and create a lively and fun atmosphere that attracts people. The building process will also be a good teaching opportunity for students at The Village to get introduced to the construction process.
Kofi Akakpo Bio:
Kofi Akakpo is a designer, writer and poet who currently lives in Columbus, Ohio. He studied architecture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana between 2004 to 2008. He left to work with Joe Ossae-Addo, principal architect at Constructs LLC, where he was greatly influenced by the “inno-native” approach to design before moving to the United States. Kofi has worked on architectural projects in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Finland and the United States. He has also worked as a contrabuting writer for Bleacher Report and as a freelance designer and architectural visualizer. Kofi is currently enrolled at the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University. He is currently working on a project that explores how spaces can retain their unique cultural identity in an increasingly multicultural world.