SANTA FE RIGHT-OF-WAY / A COMMUNITY BASED PROJECT
The Santa Fe Right-of-Way is a 3.1 mile strip of vacant land in Berkeley, California. The SFROW is a former railroad right-of-way made up of fragmented spaces, transected by streets, interrupted by several housing developments, and often used by the surrounding residents. This strip of land is seen as an invaluable public greenway for a variety of open space uses.
In the Spring of 2006, I worked with two colleagues, Jennifer Natali and Patricia Algara, to explore possible design solutions for the future of the SFROW. Our analysis work and subsequent investigations encouraged us to challenge the role of the ‘designer’ for a public space that affects the local community so strongly. We also challenged the traditional methods of engaging community members in the design process, including the industry standard surveys, forums, and design charettes. We focused less on a final design for the space and more towards designing a methodology for approaching similar public spaces while creating new ways to empower and engage community members in public design. We created a model involving a sequence of activation, interaction, envisioning, and creating. Our work included a progression of temporary, ephemeral installations, neighborhood social gatherings, participatory public art, a blog forum for ongoing information and discussion, and a community generated permanent design installation in a section of the SFROW.
We created this short film to document some of our work along the SFROW and our interactions with the community members. We generated public interest in the site and the project with friendly, inviting gestures, including the tossing of wildflower seedballs, creating mad-libs, and hosting barbeques in the neighborhood.