The LSU School of Architecture Mid City Studio is hosting Mid City Speaks on Sunday, October 6, from noon to 4 p.m., at 1730 North Boulevard. Mid City Speaks is part of the 2013 Mid City Studio project, Food + Shelter, a workforce development project for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Baton Rouge.
Each academic year, LSU School of Architecture students and faculty work with the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance (MCRA) and the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority (EBRRA) to identify a project, client, and site to fulfill the community design, service-learning requirement of the Bachelor of Architecture curriculum at LSU.
The studio is designed to push architecture students to act as socially responsible professionals by developing real projects with real people in their own communities. Past Mid City Studio projects include the Laurel Street Fire Station Museum and rekindleMIDCITY for the Baton Rouge Fire Department.
“This studio embodies what it means to be an architect. We are working with the people as well as for the people. It feels great to have a purpose, which helps others in the long run,” said Kathryn Seal, a fourth-year undergraduate architecture student at LSU.
This year’s studio includes fourth- and fifth-year architecture students from both LSU and Southern University. The studio is part of ARCH 4001: Architectural Design VI, a six-hour studio course led by LSU School of Architecture Professional in Residence William Doran and Associate Professor Jason Lockhart.
“Building a stronger relationship with the communities in Baton Rouge is a goal of the School of Architecture, which is furthering the concept of the town and gown partnerships,” said Lockhart. (Town & gown refers to partnerships between the government sector, the private sector, and the non-profit sector.)
The Food + Shelter project focuses on two specific issues in Mid City: providing fresh, healthy food options to underserved parts of Mid City and addressing the prevalence of homelessness.
The project site is located on the south side of North Boulevard near the recently built railroad overpass in Mid City—an area with a high concentration of homeless people. Mid City is also home to several areas declared as food desserts, which the US Department of Agriculture defines as any area with at least 20 percent of its residents making below 80 percent of the area median income and at least 33 percent residing one mile or more from a store that sells fresh fruit and vegetables.
“It’s funny, the little things in life we take for granted. Say, for example, the simple task of strolling into a grocery store to pick up a few bananas, or a head of broccoli for tonight’s dinner. But what if the grocery store is more than a mile away? How about 10? And what if you don’t have a car?” said Chip Boyles in an interview with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana regarding Mayor Holden’s Healthy Baton Rouge Initiative. Boyles is vice president of administration and programs at East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, the LSU School of Architecture’s primary contact at EBRRA.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is at the center of much of Mid City’s efforts to work with the homeless and supports services such as shelters, cafeterias, and workforce development facilities. Students in the Mid City Studio were challenged to develop ideas for a fresh produce market and café that would engage St. Vincent de Paul’s workforce development program while providing healthier food options to Mid City residents.
During Phase I of the project, students were divided into nine teams of five; each team had its own research assignments and responsibilities. The program for this project was developed through research in three specific areas: food systems, homelessness, and housing. Student teams were tasked with assessing community needs, studying precedents, and developing a viable program for each of the components of the project.
“This class has been a great opportunity to investigate the needs of a community and actually try to meet them. Getting to know the residents of the neighborhood —our clients—has really enriched this process,” said Tyler Detiveaux, a fourth-year undergraduate architecture student at LSU.
Students were also charged to directly engage community partners, document site conditions, develop community engagement strategies, and host a community event to promote the project and get feedback from residents and other stakeholders.
As part of the project’s community engagement goals, students met with representatives of MCRA, EBRRA, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who represents Mid City’s District 10, to build relationships with residents and business owners and to create a working list of ideas to develop community engagement events.
“I am so excited about the Mid City Speaks project and the involvement of such a diverse and energetic group of students working together on this project. This is an area that is full of potential and possibilities. I look forward to the plan coming to life,” said Councilwoman Wicker.
One such community event is Mid City Speaks. The studio is working to collect the stories and perspectives of the community in four specific Mid City locations:
- St. Vincent de Paul at 220 St. Vincent de Paul Drive
- New Sunlight Baptist Church at 1777 America Street
- Family and Youth Center at 1120 Government Street
- One Stop Corner Store at 431 17th Street
Each location has a community board designed and installed by the students to prompt feedback from community members on topics specific to the market and café project. The boards pose questions such as, “What do you like about your neighborhood?” and “Where do you buy your groceries?”
The collected feedback will be shared with the community at Mid City Speaks, on Sunday, October 6, from noon to 4 p.m., at the site of the old Romano’s store at the corner of North Boulevard and Brice Street. Residents can also submit feedback online at midcitystudio.org/midcityspeaks.
For the second part of the semester, students will work in groups to propose designs for the market and café program developed in Phase I. The design proposals will be on display at a public pinup at Letterman’s Blueprint and Supply on Government Street, from 6 to 10 p.m., during Mid City Merchants’ White Light Night on November 22, 2013.
Students will revise design work based on public feedback and digitally publish their work on the studio blog (midcitystudio.org). The blog publication will be utilized as a visual aid for a formal, final presentation of the students’ work to faculty and community partners at the end of the semester.
“This studio is critical for architecture students because it reveals their potential to make a difference in their own communities—for us it’s Mid City, right here in LSU’s backyard. It puts them into the reality of making something happen on the ground,” said William Doran. “Until this point in their education, most students have not dealt with a real client, handled a real budget, or even swung a hammer. Everything is on paper in school. With this class, students are out in the streets—building things, asking questions, and confronting the problems of the real world. And we essentially operate like an office. The students are given responsibilities like raising money, conducting meetings with community leaders, and coordinating construction and material costs. The students do everything,” Doran added.
The Mid City Studio thanks the following businesses for their contributions and hopes to gain further support and funding to successfully develop the project. Visit midcitystudio.org/funding for more information about funding opportunities.
Thank You, Mid City Studio Sponsors!
Bogalusa Family Practice
Caillou Island Towing Company, Inc.
Robert A. Neilson, CPA
About William Doran
William Doran has been teaching at the LSU School of Architecture since 2010. Doran was hired as a Professional in Residence for a three-year term to focus on community design and engagement efforts in Baton Rouge for the School of Architecture. Alongside teaching, Doran recently began working with the Stephenson Disaster Management Institute on a research grant through LSU’s Coastal Sustainability Studio to develop affordable, resilient housing models for South Lafourche Parish. He has also worked professionally in architecture in Baton Rouge on residential projects with Montgomery & Waggenspack Architects since 2011. Doran received a Bachelor of Architecture from LSU and a Master of Architecture in design build from the University of Kansas. His collaborative design-build work at the University of Kansas won a 2011 Residential Architect Design Award. The winning design was a LEED Platinum and Passive House Certified single-family residence.
About Jason Lockhart
Jason Lockhart has over 13 years of architecture, design, planning, and project-management experience as a planner for the City of Gahanna, Ohio, Department of Development; assistant project manager at Stephen Wen & Associates, Architects, in Pasadena, California; and partner and chief planning officer for Sinektiks, LLC in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Lockhart received a Bachelor in Architecture from Southern University and a Master of City and Regional Planning from Ohio State University. Formerly assistant professor at Southern University School of Architecture, he was assistant director of the Community Design and Research Center (CDRC) and assistant director and program manager of the Urban + Rural Community Design Research Center (U+R CDRC). Lockhart specializes in community planning with a focus on delivering integrated business and design solutions.
About LSU School of Architecture
LSU School of Architecture students develop a solid foundation of traditional design, hand building, and drawing skills and learn to use computer and technological resources. The architecture program at LSU provides a balance between broadening educational experiences and discipline-focused coursework. In addition to learning how to make buildings, students develop a sense of professionalism and leadership in shaping the world by learning how to see, think, and act creatively. For more information, visit architecture.lsu.edu.
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