DP: Mid-Semester Thoughts

This project began (for me) as somewhat of an obscurity. Not knowing a lot about what I was getting into, I instinctually jumped on the project after hearing "El Dorado", "branding", and "Troost". The prospect of collaborating with a team who had already been hard at work on the issues—I thought my job would be to think more critically about the issues, while bringing my abilities as a graphic designer to the table. This was not what this project was about.

Instead, it was our job to think about new solutions: solutions the architecture students hadn't thought of, that didn't align with traditional notions of "architecture," or maybe even solutions the community hadn't seen immediate value in. How could graphic design change a community? This is what we kept asking ourselves.

So first we turned to the architects. We thought they knew the community (and their needs) well, and that residents of Troost were playing an active role in their designs, but this wasn't the case either. The architects often, we found out (from going to their classes every Friday evening), would use case studies from Washington D.C., Nashville, or Chicago to justify their design; But Troost (and all Kansas City, actually) is a very different beast. Some latent issues have kept any real progress from happening, issues that are specific to Kansas City. I mean, Whitney Terrell (author of "The King of Kings County") wrote an entire book about why Kansas City so messed-up! And when we asked if any students had actually talked to anyone who lived there, they looked at us funny.

So we set out to know Troost. We took to the streets, talked to people at the bus stop, and became regular attendees of Troost Folks, an alternative think-tank for residents and advocates who want to see a more positive outcome in the community. With our talent and ideas we thought interacting with these positive, focused groups would inform us and thereby shape our solutions. It most certainly has.

After experimenting and thinking and beating my head against the wall, the problem that became most obvious to me was that Troost didn't need some shallow attempts (on my part—as an outsider) at bringing Troost together; It needs a new identity [period]. As any KC native knows, you steer clear of "Troost," "Prospect," and "Paseo." Word-of-mouth and the media have told us this, but I've walked the streets and there's a community there I didn't expect at all. Beautiful homes that have fallen under hard times line the corridor, and a great bit of business buzzes in the day.

A nice conversation with Chris made me realize where this identity would come from, and it boiled down to "the stories". I had always been interested in collaborative storytelling as a tactic for bringing the neighborhood together, but my audience was all wrong and it became clear that the stories needed to be told to everyone else. Troost's identity isn't unclear to Troost; It's everyone else that doesn't "get" them. My job now is to capture these stories and organize them into a way that exhibits who Troost is, and where they're headed (this is very important too). Will their vision align with the architecture students?

What I thought would become a tool for the residents to build their community has now become a tool for the rest of us to understand it.

Okay, now to "concise" these thoughts.