Should Designers be Outlaws?
Mark Lakeman is the founder and executive director of the City Repair Project in Portland, OR. For twenty years, the City Repair Project has ignited grassroots activism around a passion for place-making. Organized in 1996, the City Repair Project has steadily grown and has spawned imitators in numerous cities across the U.S. and the world.
In it’s own words, the City Repair Project is . . .
“a multi-layered process within which citizens foster active, engaged relationships to the spaces which they inhabit, the landscapes of their lives, and shape those spaces in a way which creates a sense of communal stewardship and lived connection. This is most often accomplished through a creative reclamation of public space: projects which take the form of benches on street corners where neighbors can sit, rest and talk with each other, kiosks on sidewalks where neighbors can post information about local events, needs and resources and street paintings in the public right-of-way that demonstrate to all who pass through that this is a Place: inhabited, known and loved by its residents.”
The City Repair Project is perhaps best known for its “intersection repair” projects. Such projects begin with conversation: neighbors are asked to explore what aspirations they might have for an intersection in their neighborhood. The aim is to consider whether an intersection might be something more than merely a space where vehicles pass by one another. Intersections can eventually become piazzas, or places of community gathering.
Every spring for ten days, the City Repair Project also organizes the Village Building Convergence, which draws residents and activists together to design and build their own community amenities. The convening provides hands-on training in permaculture, ecological building and public art. Beyond the practicals, residents are coached in CRP’s philosophy of self-empowerment and change.