The Washington Street Civic Projects will showcase innovative work created by five mission-driven organizations dedicated to using architecture, art, and design to improve people’s lives, connect communities, and catalyze efforts to make cities more equitable and sustainable.

As part of the 2019 exhibition, their projects will activate sites on and around Washington Street, Columbus’ downtown commercial and civic corridor, and will highlight the diverse efforts of the following organizations from across North America.

Borderless Studio (Chicago)

Extrapolation Factory (New York)

LA Más (Los Angeles)

People for Urban Progress (Indianapolis)

PienZa Sostenible (Mexico City)

Borderless Studio is an urban design and research consultancy focused on shaping communities through collaborative design. The Chicago-based studio, led by Paola Aguirre, explores comprehensive city design solutions that address complex urban systems and equitable development, with emphasis on research and communication across disciplines and fields of practice. Borderless leads Creative Grounds, an ambitious initiative that responds to Chicago’s unprecedented number of school closures. Aguirre identifies the closures as an opportunity to have a collective conversation about the future of the city’s social infrastructure. With partners across the fields of art, design, architecture, and community outreach, Creative Grounds seeks creative solutions to support, accelerate and amplify repurposing of closed public schools throughout the city. Borderless developed a prototype for repurposing West Pullman’s school and organized a series of design interventions at Anthony Overton School in Bronzeville. Aguirre is also co-founder of the City Open Workshop, a platform for cultivating the interdisciplinary relationships fundamental to Borderless Studio’s practice.

Image credits: Creative-Grounds at Anthony Overton, photo by Steven Vance; The Subject is Chicago Exhibition.

At BORDERLESS, our focus is shaping communities through collaborative design agency and we do so through connecting communities to design and interdisciplinary connection. Promoting design excellence and community service in parallel – I deeply believe in the power of art, design, and architecture to inspire and cultivate stronger communities.

The Extrapolation Factory is a design-based research studio for participatory futures studies led by Chris Woebken and Elliott P. Montgomery. Based in NYC, the Extrapolation Factory helps communities shape future narratives that diverge from those promoted by Hollywood directors or political figures. Many of their projects explore new territories for democratized futures, like the recent “Testing Hypotheticals” at the Queens Museum. Extrapolation Factory invited Queens residents to rapidly imagine, prototype, and analyze visions of possible futures for their own neighborhood. The project outcomes were displayed at Milan Design Week 2018 and awarded the Lexus Design Awards’ grand prix. Another project, “Transition Habitats,” which grew out of Extrapolation Factory’s residency at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, imagined future cross-species communication. After a participatory visioning and prototyping phase, Extrapolation Factory created mailboxes designed to help the public listen to non-human indicator species, and then to interpret their messages as proposals for future action to protect the environment.

Our projects are experiments in co-created futures. Local communities are challenged to envision social tests that could radically reimagine our societies. Through the process of building future props and testing their impact through role play, participants have chances to deeply consider the details of their evolving future scenarios, and to discover unforeseen opportunities, twists and challenges.

LA-Más is a non-profit urban design organization, led by co-executive directors Elizabeth Timme and Helen Leung, that helps lower-income and underserved communities shape their own growth. Based in Los Angeles, LA-Más creates projects that are alternative models for development in neighborhoods that have been historically disinvested in and shut out of formal planning initiatives. Their approach achieves lasting local impact even with small-scale projects like redesigning family-owned local businesses. Timme’s training in architecture and design and Leung’s background in public policy and planning allow LA-Más to engage thoughtfully with the communities they serve. Faced with LA’s housing shortage, LA-Más has not only designed the city's pilot project on accessory dwelling units, but also advocated for more backyard homes and is creating a new resident-led affordable housing program using the Section 8 program. LA-Más just unveiled “Welcome to Western,” a public realm enhancement project that engaged pedestrians, community members, and small businesses along Western Ave in a year-long community-driven design process.

Columbus demonstrates how to build contextually with the resources of a small-town. In the same vein, our work does the same thing. The communities we support lack the fiscal resources to be able to make all of the changes they need so we fill that gap by playing a blended role. Our expertise in architecture and policy not only allows us to build with the community in mind but to set a foundation with government partners to improve the process altogether.

People For Urban Progress (PUP) is an Indianapolis non-profit that advances good design and civic sustainability by developing products and projects in connectivity, responsible reuse, and making. With founder Michael Bricker as director of public design, PUP’s work is about rethinking the future of cities as it relates to the lifecycle of its materials, matching these resources with existing community needs. Indianapolis’ sports tourism industry has provided the materials for PUP’s most visible projects: Super Bowl street banners and Hoosier Dome textiles become stylish bags in PUP’s workshop. PUP has salvaged thousands of bright plastic seats from Bush Stadium and given them new life as bus-stop seating around the city, diverting them from landfills and enhancing the city’s transit infrastructure. A recently completed project— IUPUI Redwood—saw PUP studying the redwood boards that clad several campus parking garages and designing new outdoor furniture to reuse the wood, complement the campus’ modernist architecture, and activate public spaces.

Our work at PUP is about rethinking the future of cities as it relates to the lifecycle of its materials. We’re working to match these resources with existing community needs. People help make it happen, and design is our mechanism for transforming materials and spaces into products and places that are inclusive, welcoming, and integrated into the narrative and history of the community.

PienZa Sostenible is a non-profit association that promotes the research, study, analysis,implementation, monitoring and coordination on the current situation in Mexico. After the devastating 2017 earthquakes, PienZa Sostenible helped form ReConstruir México, an initiative that brings together architects and professionals to make knowledge and techniques available for the reconstruction of affected homes in vulnerable areas. More than 40 distinguished architecture offices are now building 154 houses in seven of Mexico’s most damaged communities. Architects and families work together so that each house responds to social, economical, and geographical circumstances as well as residents’ needs. PienZa Sostenible is led by architect Carlos Zedillo Velasco, who also works with INFONAVIT, the largest social mortgage company in Latin America, as Head of Research Center for Sustainable Development. His work with INFONAVIT implementing a national strategy to measure the prosperity and sustainability of Mexican municipalities was awarded UN-Habitat’s Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment.

Mexico is a diverse country, and these condition forces us to think of housing as an element that represents culture and environmental conditions of each region. This means that each house responds to a particular geographical and human need. As an architect, our work is not just limited to the creative process, we have to respond to social, economical and geographical circumstances in the best way.