Candy Chang is an urban planner, designer and artist. She has conducted several projects that help to reimagine urban spaces. My favorite project of hers, and one that seems like a great one to replicate around the world is called “I wish this was…”. Candy began this in 2010 when she noticed lots of vacant store fronts in her New Orleans neighborhood. Here’s a description of this ‘civic input on-site’:
“Many of us walk by underutilized areas of our cities and have opinions of what we’d like to see there. What if we could easily say what we want, where we want it?
As an experiment, Candy created fill-in-the-blank stickers that say “I wish this was ____.” She placed boxes of free stickers in businesses around the city and posted grids of blank stickers and a permanent marker on vacant storefronts, so anyone walking by could fill one out. The stickers are vinyl and they can be easily removed without damaging property. Responses ranged from the functional to the poetic: I wish this was… a butcher shop, a community garden, a bike rack, an affordable farmer’s market, a taco stand, a place to sit and talk, Brad Pitt’s house, full of nymphomaniacs with PhDs, a source of tasty healthy food I could afford, my art gallery, your dream, Heaven. It’s a fun, low-barrier tool to provide civic input onsite, and the responses reflect the hopes, dreams, and colorful imaginations of different neighborhoods.”
While there’s no special mention of kids’ involvement in ‘I wish this was…’, I can imagine it to work very well with kids. They would have fun writing about (or drawing!) their ideas, and I think they would get a kick out of the very open-ness of the phrase.
In New Orleans Candy’s project generated lots of feedback. Since so many responses seemed full of enthusiasm and there was lots of overlap of what neighbors wished those empty spaces were… the project actually grew into something much bigger. Here is the info from Candy’s website:
“After seeing people respond to each other’s stickers (I wish this was a grocery too, 3 votes for that, If you can get the financing I will do the baking), Candy wondered, what if we want the same thing? What if we could prove there was a strong enough customer base for a new business or service to open? How can we make it easier for people to come together over shared goals? Thanks to the Urban Innovation Fellowship from Tulane University and the Rockefeller Foundation, she and her colleagues have taken this idea a few steps further and created a tool called Neighborland to help us join forces and build on ideas together.”
Neighborland, the organisation that grew out of the project “empowers people to take action on local issues. It’s a new way for people to share insights, identify resources, and connect with decision makers to make great ideas happen. We are providing neighborhood organizations, economic development groups, and municipalities with a powerfully simple platform to engage with people both online and on the street.”
For more information check out www.neighborland.com
To find out more about Candy Chang and her other projects, visit her website www.candychang.com and listen to her TED talk.