The HWS Architecture department has recently partnered with the City of Geneva’s newly created Office of Neighborhood Initiatives (ONI) and the Geneva Neighborhood Resource Center (GNRC) on a program devoted to curricular and community development and future building projects.
As the public face of the Initiative, the Resource Center provides, as their Web site says, a variety of design advice to residents, from the selection of exterior paint colors to oversight of kitchen renovation projects. Resource Center staff work not only with individuals, but with groups of neighbors to improve their blocks, streets, and neighborhoods. The Center also serves as a marketplace for thought, education, and discussion about the history and the future of Geneva’s built environment.
Assistant Professor of Architecture Kirin Makker is excited about the possibilities this partnership holds, both for HWS students and for Geneva. “We specifically want to involve architecture students in community engagement so we have not only political, social and cultural changes in Geneva but noticeable, physical changes too,” Makker says.
HWS committed $5,000 toward the Center’s programs-which include steps to repair the Geneva housing market, strengthen existing relationships and build new ties among neighbors, and build public-private partnerships of local government, organizations, businesses, and residents to take actions toward making Geneva a great, more livable and financially sustainable city.
This year, HWS and the Resource Center will offer two 10-week paid summer internships. Each intern will do design-build projects in Geneva neighborhoods and at the Center, putting in 20 hours per week, while living in the apartments at 380 South Main Street, kitty-corner to the Resource Center. Also on the horizon for next term is an advanced architecture studio “Geneva Studio: Green Building in the Urban Realm” that will take place downtown in a storefront with students able to work in the space outside of class time.
This semester, the Architecture Department, the Environmental Studies Program, the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning and the Office of the Provost will host Emily Pilloton, founder and Executive Director of Project H Design, an initiative designed to connect the power of design to the people who need it most, and the places where it can make a real and lasting difference.
Pilloton will hold an exhibit in the Project H Design 1972 Airstream trailer in front of the Scandling Campus Center between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., on Friday, March 26 with 36 smart-design products and projects, which have been featured in the book “Design Revolution.”
Co-hosted by the Resource Center, Pilloton will also give a lecture at 12 p.m. in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. These events are free and open to the public.
The mission of the Initiate and the Resource Center is to “build confidence and pride in Geneva’s neighborhoods through collaboration, education and thoughtful design,” which dovetails with many of the core goals of the HWS Architectural Studies department.
“I want one of the foundational ethics of the architectural studies major to be about design and social and environmental responsibility,” Makker says. “Architecture is ultimately about improving the places in which people live, work, and play. At the beginning of the 21st century, that formula has to include strategies for green building and consideration of who has access to good design. These collaborative projects with the GNRC will be instrumental in bringing these fundamentals home to the students.”
With guest lecturers like Pilloton and last fall’s Engaged Citizenship Speaker, John Cary, a national leader in the growing field of public-interest design, the Architecture department has been “bringing people to campus who see design as something that can affect the larger population,” Makker says. “It’s important for students to see the principles and theories they learn in class integrated and applied.”