Deon Reed and I taught a No Small Plans Workshop for CAF’s Teen Studios at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial.
We read excerpts of Chapter 2, shared a bit about our own backstory and development of character and narrative around our neighborhoods of Logan Square and Englewood, and got students thinking about their own neighborhoods, particularly examining how they navigate the built environment; “How does design affect you?.” Then…students were challenged to draw a comic illustrating an observation they have experienced. There were a range of responses. To name a few: positive experiences with biking as main mode of transportation, the problem of needing to travel long distances and take several buses in the city to get to the grocery store (the student drew a maze of roads and obstacles), and highlighting the traffic back-up as a result of the design of a single-entry (one way to enter and leave) suburban development.
Here was my example comic, about crossing the treacherous, not pedestrian-friendly Western Ave.:
Finally, we reviewed our comics, reflecting on the process, and on design.
Questions we left them with:
- Why do you think it is that way?
- Who decided or what plans may have led to this moment?
- How could design address the problem?
- What would you change if you could decide?
- How might your changes affect others?
- How could you get involved or do something about it?
Although we did not have enough time to do a meaningful dive into the content and context of No Small Plans, we certainly got them thinking about the design in their neighborhood and how comics can be a mode of observation for critical questioning. And that’s a start!