In an analogous fashion, restorationists must use ecology, and often geology, soil science, and more to achieve results of social value. Often, their results are also of great beauty as well. Perhaps, ‘‘ecological architecture’’ might be a more apt characterization of the work of
ecological restoration, because the term acknowledges the central roles played by both values and science.
- Mark Davis and Lawrence Slobodkin (2004)
The SEED initiative supports efforts to plant beautiful, ecologically beneficial native plants in the Lincoln Central Neighborhood. These plantings support critically important pollinators while lowering water use and eliminating harmful chemicals and emissions. SEED supports the community through participation and investment in the common areas of the sidewalks, streets, empty lots and parks. SEED volunteers also provide assistance to help ensure the health of the planting; however, the residents take on the primary management after installation. Native plants once established are low-maintenance.
Conceptual rendering for SEED initiative in Lincoln Central Neighborhood. (KL)
Lincoln neighborhood is well positioned to become a “signature” neighborhood for the city of Columbus. Despite the Columbus “brand” of world class modern architecture that was developed starting with First Christian Church in 1942, there is no "signature" neighborhood in Columbus. The architectural vision has been contained within individual buildings. Architecture in the last twenty years has been progressively taking a broader approach that includes activism, inclusion, and diversity. While star architects have continued to build large scale, high budget buildings, the avant-garde has focused on our most pressing and complex problems. Community-based initiatives that build opportunities for those in crises, marginalized or with limited resources have become increasingly part of design thinking. Sustainability and ecology are key areas of focus in developing the neighborhoods and community centers of the future.
Neighborhoods should reflect the creativity, ambition and forward-thinking character that the architectural icons of Columbus embody. Neighborhoods represent the people of Columbus whereas the buildings are more easily identified with individuals, groups and institutions. Columbus is a relatively small community and the scale of architecture and design innovation in 2015 also is suited for smaller scale, community-based initiatives rather than civic building projects. It is time to transition to building creative, innovative neighborhoods
We have been building an interdisciplinary team of collaborators from Columbus. We are also coordinating the Spring semester of Design and the Environment AMID C-481 and AMID C-581 to engage Indiana University students in the SEED initiative.
The Lincoln Family Central Neighborhood Family Center played a key role in supporting the SEED initiative and getting it off the ground.
Conceptual rendering for SEED initiative in Lincoln Central Neighborhood. (KL)
Community and IU pitching in to start the SEED plot at TLR - 2016
Ready to plant.
Native seedlings going in the ground. Everyone from expert planters to those who had never planted anything participated with great success on multiple levels.. not the least of being EVERYTHING grew.
The vicious iterative cycle in which insecure and unrooted individuals make insecure and unrooted cities, which make even more insecure and unrooted individuals, was generations in the making and will be generations in the undoing. Shifts that disrupt the unhealthy cycle are essential. This is the great challenge of our time.
- from Design Ecology Democracy
A “seed” project
A community-based design initiative will develop through a series of steps. Neighborhood enhancement is a process that requires many stakeholders to participate through various incentives, policies and actions. A seed project is one that helps people engage in what is possible and mobilizes them for greater action. It draws interest from key parties, supports communication and helps people chart new courses. They are targeted to shift perceptions and therefore the outcomes are typically not direct or easily measured in the short-term. One of the essential aspects of how Mr. Miller promoted real and deep change in Columbus was his patience and commitment to the long term. Getting the right people involved and putting them in a position to succeed is what enabled the architecture of Columbus to become a model of innovation.
Existing community conditions such as a high percentage of rental units are not directly addressed by a “seed” project. However, they are essential considerations in the process as part of a comprehensive approach to community enhancement. Vibrant neighborhoods and depressed ones are never created solely by one factor, nor will one factor lead to their transformation.
Forward-thinking: Mr. Miller said that he wanted someone unfamiliar with architecture to see the work and think “here comes the 21st century.” A signature neighborhood will also inuence others outside the community.
Urban integration: Neighborhoods are oen viewed as internal and or even private entities for those that live within them full-time. In particular, in suburban and smaller cities that lack historic urban density it is easy to separate the neighborhood from the rest of community and civic life. Successful neighborhoods are well connected, walkable and engaged with the commercial and civic life of the city.
Diverse and inclusive (people): Desirable neighborhoods thrive by supporting dierent socio-economic groups, ages, and cultural identities. This initiative is designed to foster diversity.
Innovative: Mr. Miller said "The best is none too good for any of us.” The initiative should foster the Columbus motto “unexpected and unforgettable” without compromise. A good project has to illicit some doubts about whether or not it is possible or advisable. One of the reasons innovation comes from the most depressed communities is because people there are willing to try anything. The most successful individuals and communities believe in themselves and will do things that are unprecedented.
Ecology and sustainability: Sustainability is a paramount challenge for this century. Columbus lacks a “green” identity. This is an opportunity for a neighborhood initiative to take a leadership role as a model for the rest of the city. Interdisciplinary design focus: e initiative should be identiable as part of a design/creative endeavor. The neighborhood focus should be part of a new investment in design in Columbus.
Community touchpoints: The project should have meaningful community participation and interaction that will be determined
in the project concept to proposal phase.
Network opportunities: The project should engage key collaborators from outside the neighborhood and outside Columbus. The first intervention is planned around tranforming marginal, underutilized and negatively performing public / semi-public land into an amenity (see design criteria). Native plantings (naturalized and selected plants) will be used to build natural and human capital in the neighborhood.
The SEED pilot is intended to support a fexible partnership among different fields of knowledge brought together at the confluence of ecological and community rehabilitation. Art, agriculture, and conservation are among diverse fields in this cross-sector endeavor. SEED development is integrated into the inquiry to provide different opportunities for both design and non-design professionals. The immersion into ecological rehabilitation challenges conventional design philosophies and practices. Ecological rehabilitation does not allow for design authorship but relies on a “collective creativity.”
A term for this intervention also called an “urban foodpath” or “nature path.” These terms highlight that community is strengthened by active time spent outdoors within a neighborhood. “Nature” and “local food” are important elements in sustainable urban environments. Unique character and opportunities for education and discovery are embedded within the interventions.
Design Innovation proposes something new and unique. There are always similar and related projects and ideas out there that provide context and support for the potential success of each concept proposal. However, it is important to not do a “me too” or duplicated eort but create something unique to Columbus.
The United Way of Bartholomew County is a generous sponsor of SEED.
SEED speaks to hope, energy and creativity where a neighborhood can grow community. Two summers after SEED at TLR was planted another project of yard signs asking people to stay off meth had cropped up. There is no magic community pill but patience, persistence, love, caring and a bias towards action. Keep trying.