Page 1


CONTENTS

1

3-6

PERSONAL STATEMENT & CURRICULUM VITAE

1

3

2

7-20

2

TANZANIA

21-36

3

SMITHVILLE, TX

5

4

37-70

4

URBAN DESIGN 71-82

5

WRITING SAMPLES


STAT TATE EM ME EN NTT S

I HAVE LEARNED THESE TWO THINGS: that nothing is truly as it seems, yet everything

is connected. Attempting to reconcile this apparent contradiction has driven the direction of my work since I first left college for Africa in search of a more meaningful and tactile experience. This portfolio reflects a personal evolution; realized through a series of projects and explorations that have been defined by a passion for engaging community in order to understand its culture and ecology within a larger context. Learning where and how people interact with the built environment is the foundation of my understanding of a community across diverse landscapes. This has been a common point of engagement in my work from rural Africa to rural Texas, in sprawling Las Vegas, informal Rio de Janeiro, or in post-industrial North Philadelphia. Issues of public health, housing, and accessibility to essential public services have also been consistent themes in my work; each affected by the other and each oriented in a physical space. On the systems level, these issues often are attributed to a cause or distilled to one perspective. Herein lies the duality of my experience: no complex issue of the urban environment ever exists in solitude and therefore cannot be considered singularly — nothing is truly as it seems — the shadow that supports the substance.*

1

In the context of community-based design, the deceptive nature of this shadow became evident to me when working in the small town of Smithville, Texas. This town’s physical and figurative character is dictated by its segregation-era urban design that simply placed a railroad track down the middle of the landscape; a literal line separated the community’s infrastructure, services, economy, and race. It was in this southern pastorale that I began to appreciate the prevalent and scaled-up barriers to accessibility in larger and denser urban environments. By observing the community’s flow of movement (or lack thereof) within this constricted space I became acutely aware of the symbolic influence of design beyond the physical field. On the scale of the individual, the simple act of locating oneself in this terrain has a powerful connotation. Generally, as in Smithville, one’s physical position is directly connected to social status or access to education and employment and significantly connected to one’s physical and mental health. The numerous factors that create communities are never mutually exclusive, nothing is detached — everything is connected. The challenge, therefore, is to apply these insights to practice through integrated design. I hope to build upon the projects displayed in the following pages, trying to maintain a worldview in motion. I have been an effective community organizer across many cultural contexts and developed this into an ability to analyze the community as a system with its many component parts. From rural Baptist church services to city council and community meetings, I learned the invaluable skill of active listening and adopted a holistic approach to development. I wanted to expand this knowledge in graduate school to reflect this integrated philosophy and to incorporate the spatial element of design. Now that I have completed my graduate studies, I hope to be situated between the forces that shape how and where people live. In this regard, I want to work in urban environments where there is the greatest possibility for innovation and where the community has the most at stake.

(3-4)

*The shadow that supports the substance is adapted from a quote from Sojourner Truth.


BENJAMIN PHILLIPS EDUCATION

WORK EXPERIENCE

• UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - SCHOOL OF DESIGN

• SMITHVILLE HEALTH INITIATIVE

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2010-2012

Masters of City Planning, Concentration in Urban Design

• COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

New York City, New York 2006-2008

B.A. English Literature, Magna Cum Laude

Waltham, Massachusetts 2003-2005 Studied Philosophy and Literature

Adobe Creative Suite: INdesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Rhino, GIS

1984 Birth

• SPACE IS THE PLACE L.L.C.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2013

Founder of a project in start up phase that facilitates the devlopment of the many underutilized industrial spaces in Philadelphia through a platform of both data consolidation and creation of comunity benefit agreements to inspire accessible and responsible growth.

Community Organizer

Worked with the citizens of Smithville to create a multi-purpose sustainable, community center which included a medical clinic, arts initiative, educational programming and communal garden.

• BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN North Las Vegas, Nevada 2008

1998 Bar Mitzvah

Field Organizer Responsibilities included: Organizing local volunteers, managing voter registration and get out the vote campaign.

• PETANDI SPECIAL NEEDS SCHOOL

Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Drawing

NOW

Smithville, Texas 2009

• FINE ARTS

is is the the

• SAVE CENTRAL SCHOOL EFFORT

SKILLS • SOFTWARE PROFICIENCY

Founding Member Coordinated the outreach between the clinic and the community. Conducted public health surveys and designed programming for community. The Health Cate Inititative is designed to address diabetes in rural communities by providing fresh produce from a network of community gardens and the primary care from a newly constructed clinic.

• BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY

Smithville, Texas 2009

Arusha, Tanzania 2006

2003-05 Brandeis University 2006 Tanzania 2006-2008 Columbia University 2008 Obama Campaign

Teacher for Blind Children and Children with special needs.

• N’KOARANGA HOSPITAL AND ORPHANAGE

Present

Child care and liason between orphanage and hospital Resonsibilites included: Feeding, changing, and tending to children from newborns to toddlers, identifying and transferring children with malaria from orphanage to hospital, fundraising and acquiring medications and equipment for hospital, and organizing the first well-baby clinic.

2009-2010 Smithville, TX 2010-2012 PennDesign

Arusha, Tanzania 2006

PHONE (818) 612-6210

EMAIL benlev32@gmail.com

(5-6)

ADDRESS 12706 Milbank St.

Studio City, CA 91604


TA N Z A N I A

2


MEN BIKING ARUSHA, TANZANIA

HALF WAY THROUGH my undergraduate degree I decided to leave

school and work in East Africa. While I went with an established NGO, it soon became clear that I had to find my own way at this rural mountain hospital. I would spend the next five months working in a small concrete building, responsible for the care of orphaned infants. Many of the children would routinely contract Malaria and it became my task to diagnose their symptoms and bring the children down the mountain to the hospital. When I took a child to the hospital, I had to tie it to my back and hike down the mountain to wait amongst the throngs of people waiting to see the one doctor who serviced the community of eighty thousand. The health care needed to come to the mountain and I began to beg, borrow, and bribe for medical supplies and nurses to visit the orphanage. There was a fundamental lack of access—a disruption of space and resource. Eventually we were able to start a well-baby clinic that brought visiting nurses to the orphanage and thus began a real change in the perception of health and space in this community.

(9-10)


PORTRAITS OF CHILDREN FROM NK’OARANGA ORPHANAGE

(11-12)


CHILD FROM AIDS HOSPICE AND TOY CONSTRUCTED FROM WOOD AND SANDALS

(13-14)


POLAROID PHOTO PROJECT

(15-16)


BLIND SISTERS IN BEST CLOTHES ON THE DAY THEY MOVED TO NEW SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND

morning work at the orphanage, I would spend the afternoons at a school for blind girls. Typically, the girls would spend most of the day confined in a small room and cared for by the maintenance worker. I did not speak Swahili at this point and was only able to communicate through sound and touch. I was at a loss as to how to engage this small, isolated community without a common language or visual reference. Music became a great equalizer, but removing the girls from their confined space was a transformative experience for them. Without shoes or guides the girls were never able to walk more than the ten feet distance across the room they were kept in— when they would walk, it would always be slow, hesitant, steps with the same foot always in the lead. Getting the girls shoes and walking with them between the rows of corn was liberating, as they gained confidence and a sense of freedom with each step; in this sense, deconstructing the environment provided for a new relationship with space and experience.

(17-18)

GIRL FROM BLIND SCHOOL

AFTER MY


MASAI VILLAGERS WELCOMING VISITORS WITH DANCE


(21-22)

S SM M II T TH HV V II LL LL E E

THE TRACKS THAT DIVIDE SMITHVILLE

3


Presidential Campaign, spending months developing an ability to have meaningful conversations about politics, health, and the economy with complete strangers, I was inspired to continue in some kind of community engagement. I had developed a passion for connection, for conversations that began at strangers’ doorsteps and ended around their dinner table—conversations about where the community was going and how it was going to get there. Following the campaign I was hired to organize a small community in Texas in an effort to re-appropriate a large two-story turn of the century schoolhouse and repurpose it as a community center. The town, Smithville, is socio-economically and racially segregated along train tracks. Upon my arrival, I would soon learn of the narrative associated with this space—one that follows the same line as the tracks themselves.

MY INTEREST IN THE DESIGN AND DISCIPLINES of community

building were born from these experiences. I have witnessed first hand how urban planning affects social dynamics and health—particularly the elements of planning that have historically served to segregate communities and the design solutions that can overcome them. These solutions inevitably reflect a composite knowledge of form and the narrative that precedes it. In the case of Smithville, while the permanent railroad tracks that divide the landscape may never change, the community’s relationship with them must.

(23-24)

SMITHVILLE’S VACANT CENTRAL SCHOOL

AFTER ORGRANIZING FOR THE 2008 OBAMA


SMITHVILLE’S “SAVE CENTRAL SCHOOL” EFFORT

had already been an established group by the time I arrived in Texas, holding meetings and raising money, with an eye on buying it back for community use. Aside from the school’s stature as the largest building in the town, this effort was mainly driven by a collective nostalgia for the school and its place in the community. These reveries, however, were only held by the people who had gone to the school and known it to be safe and welcoming. From its inception, the school was a pillar of the community but also a symbol of segregation and disenfranchisement. The North, or Anglo, side of the community had built the school at the turn of the last century and had moved the previous wood-framed schoolhouse to the South side of town. The architecture of half the town evoked a time past, while the other half reflected the test of time with its vacant lots, trailers, and rusted tin roofs.

Given the historic stigma associated with the schoolhouse, the segregation-era urban design of the town and the health care problems within the community, we reimagined the effort to include a community based health care initiative, bringing the programming once envisioned for the school into the community it would serve. In addition, we created a network of community gardens that provided fresh produce available to the entire town. Simultaneously, a church group from the North side appropriated a large shipping container in order to build a clinic on the South side of town. We brought these groups together, each from one side of the tracks, and they not only became a unified health initiative, but also began an open dialogue about race and the need to overcome the mental and physical divide of the tracks. While the “Save Central School” effort would continue and become part of a larger movement for community development, the spirit and programming intended for the school building would grow beyond its walls as part of a larger design.

(25-26)

FLYER USED IN PREPARATION FOR COMMUNITY MEETING FOR SAVE CENTRAL SCHOOL EFFORT

S SA AV VE E C CE EN N TT R RA A LL S SC CH HO OO O LL

While the school building is the only space of its size, only half of the town felt nostalgic about saving it, as it was only integrated in the early 1970s. What was originally a symbol of segregation became a catalyst for a more equitable change throughout the community.


THE SMITHVILLE COMMUNITY CLINIC

(a)

was initially conceived by a church group on the North side of town as a facility to address the community’s ubiquitous health issues. The church group had acquired both a vacant lot on the South Side’s Martin Luther Kind Blvd. and an empty shipping container. The development of the project had moved slowly in part because they had limited interaction with the local community that the clinic would serve. My daily conversations with people in the community had revealed one health care disaster story after another. Whether it was the Katrina refugee who had three wives each die from diabetes and was himself suffering from a botched surgery when the storm hit or the 86 year old woman who spent her life caring for her sick relatives, but would have no one left to care for her through her own illness in her tiny trailer. Not to mention the endemic and epidemic health issues like diabetes that can actually be managed when there is access to adequate health care and nutritious foods. The clinic became the anchor of what would become the Smithville Health Initiative. The overriding concern was that this clinic would be in the community, yet not of the community, while the community gardens where very much a local initiative. Many were wary of the clinic, as it was perceived to be an inadequate solution and took offense, while others desperately welcomed any assistance. We brought these groups together, one from each side of the tracks, and they agreed to become a unified health initiative for the entire community. They also began a dialogue on the necessity for these new institutions to be accessible, equitable, and collaborative. The clinic, literally built by the community, shares a fundraiser with the community gardens and is now managed by Lone Star Family Health Centers.

(b)

(c)

(27-28)

(a) SMITHVILLE COMMUNITY CLINIC ORGINALLY AS A SHIPPING CONTAINER (b) TOMMY DAVIS (c) CLINIC UNDER CONSTRUCTION

C CO OM MM MU UN N II TT Y Y C C LL II N N II C C

Tommy Davis, a former engineer, government employee, instigator and prognosticator, built the Smithville Community Clinic with one other person from a donated shipping container.


THE SMITHVILLE COMMUNITY GARDENS

is a diverse group of citizens that responded to an obvious deficiency in the community, connecting an existing practice with a structure to serve the neighborhood collectively. The church was the impetus, as the first garden was on church land, and was inspired by allegories of biblical and metaphorical Edens and themes of feeding the body and soul. Church services would let out on Sunday mornings with the deacons walking the rows of the gardens, thoughtfully picking up any debris or weeds that might have emerged over the passing week. Soon other churchgoers, passersby, and neighbors would congregate in and around the gardens, a simple and instinctual design for a community. The first garden became a network of gardens planted in vacant parcels throughout the town; the only transcendent spaces in the divided community. The strategic placement of gardens in vacant lots across the tracks, thus encouraging transects throughout the town, was my first understanding of public spaces and the community’s place within it. The community gardens would become the foundation and model for what would be the Smithville Health Initiative. A coalition between the gardens, the emerging clinic, and the school evolved into a diverse and unified group both in and of the community. Dinners from the gardens accompanied by music from the local gospel choir became annual fundraisers, as food became a source of nutrition and cultural exchange.

(a)

(b)

(29-30)

(a) FIRST CROP FROM THE COMMUNITY GARDENS (b) JUDGE CULVERSON (RIGHT), FOUNDER OF COMMUNITY GARDENS

COMM CO M M U N NIT IT Y GA R D ENS EN S

Judge Culverson, an ex military man and founder of the Smithville Community Gardens, was the first African American municipal judge in the county and the first to build his house out of brick on the South side of the town.


(a) PASTOR JR OF NEWFLOWER BAPTIST CHURCH DELIVERING A SERMON (b) FELIX, A LOCAL SMITHVILLE RESIDENT AND LABORER

(a)

(a)

(31-32)

(a) WOMAN SINGING IN CHURCH (b) HOUSE ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF SMITHVILLE

(b) (b)


(b)

(33-34) (a) DEACONS AT MT. PILGRIM CHURCH, SMITHVILLE (b) WOMAN IN CHURCH

(a)

(b)

(a) MAN SITTING ON PORCH, SMITHVILLE (b) HOUSE AND JACKET ON SMITHVILLE’S SOUTH SIDE

(a)


SMITHVILLE IS a small and pious town with a high density of churches.

(35-36)

(a) CASTILLE, THE CHOIR DIRECTOR AND ORGANIST AT NEWFLOWER BAPTIST CHURCH, SMITHVILLE

(a) WOMAN SINGING IN CHURCH, SMITHVILLE

The churches represented organization, and therefore an ideal place to engage the community. I soon became a regular at many of the Baptist churches, which were also segregated amongst themselves despite common denomination.


P PE EN NN ND DE ES S II G GN N

This is an excerpt from my application to graduate school in the discipline of design. Spring 2010

I HAVE BEGUN

to perceive communities as series of narratives, each corresponding to a physical space. Over the past five years I have worked in three distinct communities (Africa, Las Vegas, Smithville), each different in culture and landscape, yet similarly affected by their disconnect between design and community. It is with this desire to understand how narrative and space interact with community that I seek a graduate degree in Urban Planning..

4 (37-38)


ABANDONED TROLLEY LINES, NORTH PHILADELPHIA

a profound and transformative experience in my understanding of communities, public health, the built environment and the role of City Planning and Urban Design in development. The firstyear workshop was an exercise co-designed by Penn and the City Planning Department of Philadelphia. The city was divided into 8 districts, each comprised of 4 or 5 neighborhoods. The district that I worked on in North Philadelphia is known to be one of the more economically depressed and demographically diverse in the city. It was our task to analyze every aspect of the district from land use and infrastructure to the economy and the built environment.

NORTH PHILADELPHIA

is home to vibrant communities, but it suffers the economic and social woes of its industrial past. In addition, it faces a number of interrelated public health issues that became the common thread of our recommendations. The group’s determinations were intended to leverage the district’s unrecognized strengths in order to: • Lower barriers to market entry for the district’s many entrepreneurs who lack access to stability and economic opportunity. • Spur private investment through a set of targeted strategies in order to stabilize neighborhoods, commercial corridors, and to build equity. • Bring together the area’s health institutions to address chronic health problems that currently plague the district. We concluded that the path toward economic regeneration and reconnection is based in the community’s physical health. As such, these recommendations were not only meant to reconnect the district with the larger city, but to strengthen its connections within the North Philadelphia community. Connecting individuals to health and wellness resources and providing economic opportunity to all residents are strategies motivated by an inherent truth:

THERE ARE NO HEALTHY PLACES WITHOUT HEALTHY PEOPLE (39-40)

N NO OR RT TH H P PH H II LL A A

PENNDESIGN’S FIRST YEAR workshop was


LAST REMAINING ROW HOUSE LEFT ON A BLOCK, NORTH PHILADELPHIA

VACANT FACTORY WITH COLORED WINDOWS, NORTH PHILADELPHIA

(41-42)


(a) MAN IN FRONT OF “NORTH PHILADELPHIA’S BEST BUY” THAT HE CONSTRUCTED IN VACANT LOT TO SELL SECOND HAND HOUSEWARES

IN THE ABSENCE

of more formalized economic opportunities, a number of residents have created sophisticated networks of informal commerce. These economies are integral components of many low-income communities, where, in the absence of traditional markets, residents depend upon these services as low-cost, easy access alternatives. These “entrepreneurs” face a number of barriers to market entry, as the quasi-legality of their operations precludes them from many of the privileges enjoyed by legitimate business owners. Combining the informal economy with the reality of vacant land proved to be a complimentary solution. We proposed using vacant parcels near commercial corridors as community spaces with temporary modular structures that would be used for gatherings and informal commercial activity. Such spaces would transform vacant land into a community asset. Based on the casitas model, established in many Latin American communities, these modular structures serve as vernacular centers of commerce, culture, and congregation for the district’s residents.

(a)

(b) (b) VACANT PARCEL, NORTH PHILADELPHIA (b) MODULAR STRUCTURE INSPIRED BY LOCAL PRACTICE OF BUILDING INFORMAL STRUCTURES FOR INFORMAL ECONOMIES

(c)


ABANDONED RAILWAY AND INTERVENTION AS A GREENWAY THAT CONNECTS EXISTING HEALTH NETWORK, N. PHILADELPHIA

THE CENTRAL PIECE of our proposal for North Philadelphia was a focus on community health as an integral part of a larger socioeconomic and spatial environment. It was meant to transcend the philosophy that design alone could adequately confront endemic issues caused by nearly 75 years of divestment and deindustrialization. In so doing, we created a HEALTH IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT (HID). The HID utilized the prevalence of health institutions in the area to confront the inadequate and inaccessible health care of the local residents. NORTH PHILADELPHIA

is home to the largest concentrations of hospitals and health care facilities outside of University and Center Cities. At the same time, North Philadelphia has some of the city’s highest incidence of diabetes, obesity, asthma, and hospitalizations due to chronic illness. To address this problem it was imperative to reconcile the relationship between service availability and health quality.

COMMUNICATION BETWEEN health-care providers may be insufficient to solve the problem alone, as public health disparities in places like North Philadelphia are not solely related to quality of care. Unemployment, divestment, and lack of amenities are all factors that can contribute to poor health and wellness. Therefore, any strategy seeking to promote public health in North Philadelphia must approach the issue from an economic development perspective as well.

(a)

THE HID

is a consortium of care providers, business leaders, and community partners that will drive holistic, community-based strategies for health and equitable development. The HID combines the best practices of an accountable care health organization with a neighborhood improvement district to address the public health disparities and economic welfare concerns simultaneously.

THE HID’S CORE OBJECTIVES:

(b)

• Foster collaboration among health care providers, the community, and

local government to implement targeted public health programs. • Connect hospitals, health centers, childcare facilities, and schools through a physical network of active parks and greenways and way finding systems. • Link health providers and local growth industries, and incubate start-up firms. • Repurpose vacant industrial sites for use by health industry firms and organizations as well as develop a local workforce in the health and science fields. In conclusion, the HID would create physical and programmatic conduits to existing health care networks that would in turn subserve economic development and a system of preventative care.

(c)

(a) LOGO FOR HID (b) MAP SHOWING SPATIAL NETWORK OF EXISTING HEALTH FACILITIES IN N. PHILADELPHIA (c) MAP OF HEALTH CLINICS IN N. PHILADELPHIA

(45-46)


VACANT FACTORY, N. PHILADELPHIA


BIKE LANE AND PEDESTRIAN PATH CUTTRHOUGH FORMER BIG BOX STORE

PUBLIC REALM

(49-50)


THE AUTOMOBILE

is considered the transformative force in city design for the 20th century -- the single most determinative element in city design. This studio entitled, Public Realm: Thinking Beyond the Car was an exercise in imagining cities beyond the private automobile. The studio considered the question, what might cities be like if we imagine a more balanced future, one in which the private automobile is not the dominant force? How do we design cities in ways that facilitate other modes using both known and future technologies? How might new ways of communication and connection affect how we live and reduce the need for the automobile?

MAN AND WOMAN WAITING FOR INFORMAL VAN SERVICE, BROOKLYN

In this studio we looked at four northeastern cities - Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore - that have been adapted and, perhaps, overrun by the automobile. Each was originally planned in a pre-automobile age, and the DNA survives, although in some cases quite tenuously. Our task was to imagine each city beyond the automobile, beyond how we have designed and subverted the public realm to the needs of auto movement.

NEW YORK - BROOKLYN The evolution of New York’s transit system over the last century has seen the creation of interborough bridges, large scale highway infrastructure projects built during the time of urban redevelopment, and the most comprehensive subway system in the country. New York’s World Fairs of 1939 and ‘64 captured not only the futuristic and optimistic visions of America’s highway systems, but also the notion of manifest destiny and technology accomplished by the personal automobile. These innovations were realized throughout the country and in different scales in the boroughs. Subsequent decades of divestment and development around highway infrastructure have continually forced New York communities to re-imagine their access to transit systems in a more efficient, integrated, and multimodal network.


(a) PEDESTRIAN PLAZA NEXT TO BIKE PATH AND DESIGNATED BUS LANE

(a)

(b) AERIAL VIEW OF ATLANTIC TERMINAL

(c)

(b)

(53-54)

(c) AERIAL VIEW OF ATLANTIC TERMINAL AND INTERVENTIONS


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BY REMOVING

automobile traffic we are also elevating existing yet alternative modes of transit. Car service cabs, vans, and bicyclists all have dedicated infrastructure insuring accessibility to Atlanic Terminal is maintained. Despite Atlantic Terminal having the highest density of subway convergence, there exists many parallel modes of transportation that serve communities with inadequate access to mainstream modes such as the train or city bus. These alternative modes, while often informal, are well used, but lack supportive infrastructure.

ue en Av

(a) MAP OF SUBWAYS THAT CONVERGE AT ATLANTIC TERMINAL (b) PLAN VIEW OF PROPOSED “CAR FREE ZONE” AROUND ATLANTIC TERMINAL

Terminal knows the experience can often be harrowing. Car traffic coming from Atlantic, Flatbush, and 4th Avenues converge at the intersection, making the experience unsafe for pedestrians and drivers alike. With the opening of the new Barclay’s Arena projected to bring 20,000 fans on game nights into Atlantic Terminal, it is more important than ever to reimagine the space as one serving mass-transit pedestrian users rather than private cars. Inspired by the pedestrianization of Times Square, we presented a vision of Atlantic Terminal that is a car free zone. Bounded by Bergen Street on the south, 6th Avenue on the west, the Atlantic Car-Free Zone frees up the public realm for pedestrian and bicyclists alike.

(b)

(55-56)

(d)

(c) PLAN VIEW OF PROPOSED DESIGN INTERVENTIONS (d) PROPOSED ROUTES FOR NEW PEDESTRIAN, BICYCLE, BUSWAYS, AND INFORMAL VANS

ANYONE WHO has been to Atlantic


STUDY OF INFORMAL VAN NETWORK, PASSENGERS, AND ITS OPERATORS

look first at which populations were indeed underserved and then to assess existing modes of transit that have evolved in the presence of an absence. We found that there were many informal modes that operated within a certain geography and often within a specific culture as well. Even in areas, such as Atlantic Terminal, that are convergent points for multiple modes of transportation, access to this apex is often difficult. Outlier communities, often at a socioeconomic disadvantage, are not adequately serviced by municipal transportation and therefore must create alternative modes. We observed that many independently operated vans, often displaying advertisements for local businesses or other adornments that make them recognizable, have informal stops outside of Atlantic Terminal. The routes are predetermined, bringing people to and from the Terminal, thus providing a vernacular form of transportation. Many of these vans are operated by and serve the West Indian communities of Brooklyn. Unless one knows of this parallel system, it is clandestine amongst the chaos of traffic and pedestrians of Atlantic Terminal. After conducting a study of the prevalence and cultural significance of this van service, it became imperative that our design scheme not only accommodate their presence but elevate their status in the transportation hierarchy of Atlantic Terminal while maintaining its communal roots.

(57-58)

SCHEME OF OVERHANGS MEANT TO SHELTER INFORMAL VAN PASSENGERS, WATER CATCHMENTS, AND SOLAR PANELS

OUR APPROACH to envisioning New York “Beyond the Car� was to


THE PRIMARY mission of this studio was to re-imagine Rio de Janeiro’s industrial

port, as it evolves and reconfigures its operations to adapt to new economic dynamics and development inspired by the upcoming Olympic Games and World Cup scheduled to be held in Rio. At the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay coast lies the Port of Rio. The history of Rio is intimately tied to the Port and its surrounding neighborhoods. While the port has evolved from a fishing village to a regional economic generator and defining characteristic of the city’s waterfront, the nature of the port activities has created a negative environmental and developmental impact that disproportionately affects the communities around the Port. Port infrastructure cleaves neighborhoods from the rest of the city. In addition, heavy traffic and port trucking create hazards for pedestrians, while pollution also poses serious health risks. The studio was divided into two sections: one addressing the complete redevelopment of the newly accessible waterfront, creating public space, economic hubs, opportunity for investment, and the new operational realities of a port with a smaller footprint; the second group focused on the area to the North (designated by dashed box) to create a plan that leveraged port consolidation by reconciling the relationships between the informal but historic community and the neighboring wastewater treatment plant. In this proposed scheme the community would create a new system of industrial ecology, using existing water resources and previously detrimental land uses to create new business activity to help generate jobs while improving the environment. Responding to a landscape that had both industrial and informal residential uses next to one another, we produced a design that was both reactive and sustainable, creating a self-reliant and energy independent neighborhood.

(59-60)

R RIIO OS STTU UD DIIO O

PORT OF RIO DE JANEIRO WITH ADJACENT NEIGHBORHOOD OF CAJU HIGHLIGHTED


CAJU WATERFRONT BEFORE AND AFTER REMDIATED WATERFRONT INTERVENTION FACING WEST

activities have left Guanabara Bay and its tributaries in a state of severe environmental degradation. According to the State Secretary of Environment, 68% of the metropolitan region’s wastewater flows untreated into the bay. Petroleum and ship breaking industries deposit oils and heavy metals such as mercury, lithium, cadmium, lead and antimony into the water of the Bay. The poorest residents of Rio who inhabit marginal and undesirable land in the city disproportionately shoulder these negative effects.

THE POLLUTION of this historic fishing village has affected the livelihood of the

community and poses significant public health concerns, most prominently dengue fever. The creation of green infrastructure would address issues of environmental justice and remediate contaminated areas. The construction of wetlands with specific plants that treat storm water and sequester carbon would facilitate the ecological solution of bioremediation.

(61-62)

CAJU WATERFRONT BEFORE AND AFTER REMDIATED WATERFRONT INTERVENTION FACING NORTH

DECADES OF RECEIVING waste and runoff from industrial and urban


COMMUNITY KIOSKS THAT PUNCTUATE NEW PATHWAYS AND INFRASTRUCTURE

WITH THE CONSOLIDATION

of Port operations, much of the interior supporting land uses could be repurposed to provide public space, infrastructure, and connections between marginalized communities and the waterfront. The yellow parcels indicate existing informal communities and the green land currently used by the port that will be freed after consolidation. These contiguous land uses would create a public armature designed to link existing neighborhood nodes with new economic, social, environmental and transportation nodes. This armature, while linear, would facilitate secondary and tertiary networks punctuated by kiosks (pictured on opposite page) that provide safe, active spaces for socializing and neighborhood monitoring.

(63-64)


CAJU STREET CONDITION FILM

THIS FILM

was produced for the Rio: Waterfront Design and Development studio as a study of large freight trucks travelling through a residential neighborhood to gain access to the Port. The four frames proceed simultaneously. Each individual frame reflects an aspect of an experience, but collectively they are meant to convey the condition of the street and the incompatible relationship between industrial and residential uses. The top frames are grouped together, as the frame on the left is the view from a neighborhood bodega, displaying the density of truck traffic passing by. It is complimented by the top right frame which is an interview conducted with a truck driver about the inefficiencies of using a narrow, residential, cobblestone streets as the primary trucking conduit and staging area for the port. The bottom two frames are opposite views of the same street, together expressing the claustrophobic and dysfunctional condition of truck traffic and the looming high walls of the adjacent military base.

(65-66)


CAJU TRANSECT FILM

THIS FILM

was produced for the Rio: Waterfront Design and Development studio and was designed to document the different conditions and land uses along the eastern transect of the site. Each frame depicted here represents not only a different land use but provides information regarding how each use affects and interacts with the community. This transect is juxtaposed in a split screen with a plan view of the site in the right frame, while a moving red dot in the left frame indicates its position as it moves along the map.

(67-68)


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illustrated our scheme of creating a sustainable industrial ecology that would act as the central framework of our design interventions. Industrial ecology is an approach to capital planning that views industrial systems as a closedloop ecosystem in which flows of materials and energy are never wasted but rather become inputs for new processes and products. This approach has multiple advantages: it emphasizes efficiency and sustainability, maximizes capital investment in infrastructure and resources, encourages synergies and unconventional partnerships between firms, and promotes environmentally sensitive design and business practices. We proposed that this particular industrial ecology should be based on a wasteto-energy framework that makes use of existing inputs to repurpose municipal waste and generate new manufacturing and industrial co-location opportunities.

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THE PROPOSED industrial ecology in this area would be supported by the adjacent

NNCCRREETT CO O

wastewater treatment plant that would be transported through an underground pipeline to anaerobic digesters that would break down the material to further manage waste and release energy. The process creates biogas that can be used in a variety of ways, from cooking fuel to sustainable natural gas-quality biomethane used in natural gas vehicles. The biomass gasification process in this scheme could also generate combustible gas to power turbines for energy production and distribution at a local power plant. The anaerobic processing also produces a nutrient-rich digestate that can be used in the production of agricultural fertilizers and building materials such as concrete. The production of energy from waste on-site would not only reuse materials (thereby reducing total waste) but would also alleviate energy equity issues for local residents.

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(69-70)

(b)

(a) AERIAL VIEW OF CONSTRUCTED WETLANDS TO REMEDIATE WASTE FROM TREATMENT PLANT (b) AERIAL VIEW OF INDUSTRIAL ECOLOGY FLOW

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The adjacent photo was taken in the Morro de Providência favela in Rio de Janeiro.

BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AFTER GRADUATING

in the Spring of 2008 I left New York for Nevada to work for Barack Obama’s campaign for president. As a field organizer I was responsible for outreach in a district in Northern Las Vegas. This area of the country represented the community with the highest foreclosure rates and lowest volunteerism per capita. In many ways North Vegas is a frontier existence, as the desert provides a stark moonscape that brings the highly manufactured and manicured track housing into high relief. These developments are the tip of the spear that juts its way across the Mojave and leaves one with a disconcerting feeling of displacement. My interactions were a narrative of desperation and the need for health care. While the backdrop of spacious, identical houses and yards did not immediately evoke a sense of despondency, the problems were real even though the wealth may not have been. It was as if the landscape was foretelling the social topography—the desert was pushing back against its displacement. Many residents flocked to Nevada with promises of low taxes and health care provided by the hotel/casino industry. With the recession, the already fragile dynamic between space and resource collapsed, leaving a community prospecting for security in unforgiving territory.

(73-74)


This writing sample was taken from a paper for an urban planning theory class that asked us to write about a revolution in planning theory or practice.

SIMPLE HOUSE OF ETERNAL SPACE:

SAM MOCKBEE, WALKER EVANS, AND THE RURAL STUDIO

THE GENIUS OF MOCKBEE

was to create the Rural Studio to house his dialectic on the meaning of design—the curriculum prioritizing the academic process as the virtuous path. Planners, in academia and practice, can use the Rural Studio model as pedagogy to demonstrate the role of the planner as it engages and changes the built environment. The Rural Studio, while regional, is not urban by definition and could therefore have a companion in metropolitan environments guided by the same mandate of advocacy and social equity. It is not surprising that Mockbee would be inspired by James Agee and Walker Evans’ work in the region because what they achieved through the written word and image, reflects what he would do through design: that is to say he understood the community and space that was Hale County as inherently divine and used his art to reflect this truth. Indeed, Agee reflects on the built environment of Hale County in the section entitled, “Shelter” in “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men:” “A look of being most earnestly hand-made, as a child’s drawing, a thing created out of need, love, patience, and strained skill in the innocence of race. Nowhere one ounce or inch spent with ornament, not one trace of relief or of disguise: a matchless monotony, and in it a matchless variety, and this again throughout restrained, held rigid: and of all this, nothing which is not intrinsic between the materials of structure, the earth, and the open heaven.”

To appreciate these words is to acknowledge that a respect and emulation of what existed before is not a looking backward, but moving forward.

(75-76)


This writing sample was written for a GIS class and accompanied a theoretical map meant as an attempt to map something “unmappable.” Map not included here.

ADAE MAE EAST: Between Heaven and Home “LET ME TAKE YOU HIGHER”

THIS MAP IS derived from a conversation I had with a 93-year-old

woman in Central Texas named Adae-Mae East. Her day-to-day existence was fairly simple and constrained; considering she spends her days between the church (choir practice, cleaning, teaching Sunday school and just feeling the spirit) and her humble home only 50 feet away. Despite her daily routine, which is quite simple and limited, her spiritual practice and imagination exist in an entirely different and infinite space. She believes her faith and practice are essential to her entrance into heaven and the pastor’s word is mandate. While she spoke with confidence about her path, she had questions about what heaven would be like. She was unsure, for example, about which husband (she was married twice) she would spend eternity with and how she would recognize people she knew on earth because angels don’t have faces, according to her… she was confident that the pastor would be able to answer these questions easily and wrote herself a note to do so after the service. I decided to make a map of Adae-Mae’s perception of heaven—and the journey towards it—because while she has made a clear vertical delineation about the space in which these realms exist, in actuality they are substrata of each other. While she physically occupies and travels within a modicum of space, she is simultaneously creating and occupying a space far greater; one where she has options, divinity, and maybe most importantly questions yet to be answered, which creates hope. I tried to convey the transference of her earthly space and certainty of spirit upward towards her perception of heaven—one space bound by circumstance, the other defined by the lack of it.

(77-78)


“YOU CALL THIS LIVING?”

Robert Weaver: The Creativity and Compromise of Fair Housing

THE NARRATIVE

of racial segregation in the United States is not only told through the theoretical and symbolic notions of equality, confronting bigoted ideas of the “other” or inferior, but through the fight for equal accessibility to material resources. Racial discrimination, beginning with the Emancipation Proclamation would manifest in the restricted access to housing and labor markets, as “superiority” would represent an economic construct, motivated by an abuse of the democratic principles that the country is founded upon. Structured racial inequality plays out in America as amenity value, a reinforced pattern of socio-economic disenfranchisement further entrenched by the modern industrialized and subsequently de-industrialized city. The vast complexity of this system necessitates innovative remedies that reflect the historical, racial, and economic subtleties of the American segregated experience—all relevant and none mutually exclusive. Robert Weaver’s story, both personal and professional, are important when dissecting how these remedies evolved, and continue to evolve, through the establishment and enforcement of fair housing legislation. Through Weaver we observe an African American, a civil rights leader, an early witness and contributor of modern New Deal urbanism, and the first African American cabinet member as the Secretary of HUD. Weaver’s projects, beginning with his early New Deal innovations were based in the harsh socio-political environment of Jim Crow. These interventions, while explicit in their intention of providing opportunity and an equal stake for AfricanAmericans and other minorities, were compromised, implemented both slowly and iteratively. The enforcement of these hard fought legislative victories was the great compromise of Weaver’s fight for equitable urbanism. His life’s work, however, from his early compromises in segregated WPA and Homestead developments, foreshadowed his future innovations to secure better housing for African Americans at all costs. His creativity and savvy, founded in his scientific approach to sociology and economy, made him a practical integrationist and humanist. While he is deserving of criticism for many of his policies, he confronted prejudice as a system of inaccessible amenities, a playing field needing to be leveled. His work would allow for ground breaking precedent and for creative remedies, such as the Gautreaux Program, to be implemented. Residential equality, however, is still a dream unrealized, despite the Fair Housing Act and its subsequent amendments. Even with the election of an African American president who is versed in the public housing disparities of Chicago, solutions to these problems yet remain experimental and ongoing. In the revisited preface to his 1948 book, The Negro Ghetto, Robert Weaver closes with a sentiment, which still epitomizes the present state and nature of U.S. housing policy:

(79-80)

“The problem of residential segregation in the North and the serious difficulties for minorities and the community that it occasions are continuing phenomena. It is, therefore, difficult to bring this narration to a close…”


The End Was in the Beginning

AN EXPLORATION OF RACE RIOTS AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

ANY

assessment of race riots in American cities cannot rely on a single inceptive moment to describe those social phenomena. Race riots, and the perception of race relations in the United States in general, cannot be quantified by a single or collective group of indices, but rather by the presence of an absence. The prologue to The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison begins, “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” The social and infrastructural mechanisms which define the majority of the African-American experience from the antebellum period through the 1960s has created this transparency. It is the interpretation, or misinterpretation of this experience, this community, and these destructive moments in space that perpetuate the sense that African-Americans and those that are not afforded equity in our society are merely apparitions, rather than active participants. It is apparent that riots are the collective accumulation of inequities in the urban environment, thus a community is forced to destroy itself in order to retain power over the social and physical space. ...In this analysis of the race riots of Philadelphia (or any racial violence for that matter), the riot itself cannot be justified or interpreted as either a means or an end in itself. Race riots are multivariate in their ideology and function and should always be considered the reflection of a complicated mosaic of urban dysfunction. Once again—as reflected in the last line of The Invisible Man—Ellison seems to be the best interpreter of the nature of race riots and their meaning in urban environments; the landscape itself forges this experience and is thus destroyed by it. Understandably Ellison concludes the book with the phrase, “The end was in the beginning.”

(81-82)


Ben's Portfolio  

An overview of projects, experience, and graduate work.

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