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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Resilience Convergence

Resilience Map designed by Eugene Park; photo credit Karl Engebretson

Resilience Convergence was a one-day event held on November 22nd 2014 at the University of Minnesota bringing resilience experts together in a program to learn about the resiliency-focused work going on in Minnesota and explore connections of expertise through interactive exercises, with the aim to develop a more connected and innovative resilience research and education at the University of Minnesota.

What is Resilience? Resilience Convergence drew on the definition proposed by the Rockefeller Foundation: Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of stress and shocks, and even transform when conditions require it.

Participants were invited pre-workshop to offer content (focus of resilience work, geographic scales of work, disruptions and time scales of the work) that was included in a Resilience Map designed by Eugene Park, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design from the College of Design, Unveiled at the event, the Map showed each participant and expert's work factored in the growing body of resilience work. The Map is intended to become an important tool to align collective efforts at the University of Minnesota around resilience.

Richard Graves speaks at the Resilience Convergence conference; photo credit Karl Engebretson

Sponsored by the Office of Vice President of Research from the College of Design, welcome remarks were made by VP of Research Brian Herman, Dean Tom Fisher and the event was facilitated by Richard Graves, Director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research.

The first part of the event was a series of Fish Bowl Conversations framed under the overaching question of: How do you define the challenge of resilience?

#1: What does it mean in your work to create "rapid rebound" or the capacity to re-establish function, re-organize and avoid long term disruptions? (Participants: Fred Rose, Ann Masten, Rolf Weberg)

#2: How do communities create flexibility or the ability to change, evolve, and adapt to alternative strategies in the face of disaster? (Participants: Elizabeth Wilson, Lacy Shelby, Patrick Nunnally)

#3: What types of failures ripple across a system? How do organizations create feedback loops that sense, provide foresight and allow for new solutions to design resilient systems? (Participants: Tom Fisher, Patrick Hamilton, Dr. Carissa Schively-Slotterback)

This was followed by Speed dating and a Splendid Table event: What assets do we have in our community to build resilience? How do you combine diverse perspectives to create resilience projects? (facilitated by Richard Graves, Tom Fisher, Renee Cheng and Maura Donovan)

Attendees paired up with other persons who shared their area of focus for resilience to discuss similarities and differences with their work, and assets in the community and at the university, types of research, classes and projects to build community resilience.

Resilience Map designed by Eugene Park; photo credit Karl Engebretson

The question of resilience has come to the fore in many circles, with a range of interpretations from environmental resilience to resiliency in mental health. When Structures for Inclusion, the Public Interest Design conference declares a theme of 'Resilience of Mind, Body, and Spirit' for its 2015 meeting on April 11 - 12 in Detroit, it must mean that Resilience and PID are intertwined and here to stay. What are your thoughts on the intersection of PID and resilience? Tweet @UMN_PID with your answer!

Written by Virajita Singh, a Sr. Research Fellow and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the College of Design, University of Minnesota

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Search for Shelter

This past weekend, over 70 volunteer designers came together in Rapson Hall on the U of M campus for the 29th annual Search for Shelter, a weekend-long design charrette run by AIA-Minnesota that provides pro-bono design services to non-profit organizations focusing on affordable housing in Minnesota.

The event brings professional architects, landscape architects, interior designers, and students together for three days to create a design proposal and present it to the non-profit client. While Search for Shelter began as a nationwide event almost thirty years ago, AIA Minnesota is now one of the few AIA chapters from across the country to still run the event as originally intended.

This year's Search for Shelter began on the evening of Friday, Jan. 30th, with an opening address by some of the organizers of the Search for Shelter and members of AIA Minnesota's Housing Advocacy Committee, followed by a video presentation of the 2014 Affordable Housing Design Award Recipient, Clare Midtown, an affordable residence for people living with HIV/AIDS. The volunteers then split up into eight different groups, which they would stay in for the remainder of the weekend, to meet with their client. The client then explained the project, the parameters of the design proposal they were looking for, and then answered any questions that the design group had.

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Site visit with Search for Shelter 2015 AEON group

The group I was a part of worked with a client from the non-profit developer AEON to develop an initial design proposal for an affordable housing apartment complex for recently homeless youth and mixed-income tenants on a nearly block long site on University Avenue in St. Paul. After touring the site with our client early Saturday morning, we set down to the task of brainstorming and designing, working together to create a respectful building concept that prioritized AEON's goals of fostering a sense of community, instilling a feeling of security, and incorporating strategies to make the building more sustainable. The completed proposal scheme, involving a set of lively rooftop terraces that cascades down and around the building form, was presented to the larger group and to the client on Sunday at noon, and can be seen in it's entirety at this link.

The Search for Shelter was a tremendous experience, offering an opportunity to work with professional designers, for real clients, on an actual project, and represents a wonderful chance to use my skills as a designer to help those in need.

The other non-profit groups assisted during the 2015 Search for Shelter are:
Alafia Place
Alliance Housing Inc.
Anna Marie's Alliance
Avenues for Homeless Youth
Rebuilding Together TC
Salvation Army
Women's Advocates