For those of you accustomed to reaching me at my Tulane email address, I’m going to try to let that one become defunct. From now on, please send me emails at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I was lucky enough to partake in the Small City Center (http://small.tulane.edu/) options studio this semester, which is a design-build project. For the curious, this is our partner for this project: http://rubarbike.com/
I’ve just begun a blog on our group’s behalf that documents our process. Personally, I’ve always wondered what goes into a semester-long DB project at the City Center. The blog is here to answer some questions! Plus, you’ll enjoy a peak into our current project. Here she is: http://rubarb-upbicycled.com
I also want to give a shout-out to my friend Allie for starting up an Instagram for us. You can follow it here: https://www.instagram.com/upbicycled/
As we’re now in the building phase of the project, our collective excitement is through the roof! Stay tuned and send us adrenaline-injected vibes. I’ve embedded the blog’s intro down below.
‘Tis all. Enjoy!
Rubarb (Rusted Up Beyond All Recognition Bikes) is a volunteer-run community bike shop in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward. A chunk of its work centers around teaching and equipping people in the neighborhood and beyond to repair their own bikes. The rest of Rubarb’s work centers around community. All are welcome at Rubarb and can come fix or purchase a bike if they are 3 or 103 years old. If you’re low on cash, you can volunteer for bike bux to help pay off a repair or a whole bike. If you’re young and want to pass the time after school or on Saturday afternoons reading, playing games, doing arts and crafts, and eating healthy snacks, then Rubarb is your place. Rubarb also throws parties for special events like MLK day and back-to-school, and even sometimes takes kids on field trips to places like the beach.
Rubarb launched its operations after Katrina, when its founders collected bikes and bike parts abandoned around the city to restore into new bikes to give and sell cheap to those who needed and wanted them. As donations of bike parts grew, Rubarb moved into its current location, a simple CMU-brick shotgun-shaped building. The building’s interior can be divided into two parts: the “productivity zone,” which is full of recycled tires, seats, chains, frame bits, cables, nuts, bolts–you need it to fix or build a bike, Rubarb’s got it–and the smaller “chill zone,” with tables, chairs, games, books, and art for kids to hang out and pass the time. Separating these zones is a front desk and tire-changing station.
Rubarb’s interior is playful and completely home-made, with brightly painted walls, recycled crates and shelves for storage, and hand-painted labels and signs for everything, giving the space an extra welcoming feel. Art such as a Mardi-Gras-bead chandelier and paintings by the kids and local artists adorn the space; photos of beaming kids at parties and field trips hang over the side-door in the “chill zone.”
About the Small Center
The Small Center (full name: Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design) is the Tulane School of Architecture’s community design center. Among dozens of ongoing projects and activities at the Small Center, each semester a group of Tulane architecture students works together under the guidance of a professor to design and build a project for the New Orleans community.
This semester, the Small Center is partnering with Rubarb. Our professor is Emilie Taylor-Welty.
We, the students, entered this design-build studio knowing very little about our partner and project. Instead, we were given several readings about bicycle equity; a set of fabrication tutorials on welding, metal cutting, wood shop, and concrete pouring; a bicycle assembly tutorial from our neighbors at the bike shop YEP (Youth Empowerment Project); and our first assignment: disassemble an old bike and make the parts into something new but functional.
That say that that assignment was challenging, even for architecture students, is an understatement. I broke the “functional” rule and made a dragon. Others stuck to the guidelines and made unexpectedly beautiful objects such as chairs, tables, shelves, a clock, and in the case of one ingenious student, a steampunk shoe.
Weeks 2 and 3
We then began to learn about our partner, Rubarb. We kicked off this research with an interview on a chilly January afternoon, and then over the next couple of weeks, groups of us volunteered at Rubarb to gain more of a feel for a place and make note of as many observations as we could.
Meanwhile, our site data-gathering and precedent research evolved into thinking about Rubarb’s what, where,and how: where are the design opportunities, and how could we mold this into a creature?
Weeks 4 through 7
This process continued over several weeks. We divided into groups and then reshuffled twice, bringing our printed and modeled ideas alongside pizza to Rubarb at interims for feedback, and then finally agreeing that even though there’s still a lot left to figure out, we gotta start building this thing.
Which brings us to now. Our current work focuses on a canopy for shade and rain protection mainly on the exterior of the “chill zone,” which occupies the building’s western corner (along Piety Street). Systems for seating, bike storage, and water catchment contribute to our strategy. The canopy structure relies on the language of a bicycle frame, especially the part called the chain stay.
Follow us as we document our project from original Rubarb to the Small Center’s finished intervention! We hope that fellow and future design-builders and casual onlookers alike can gain from our process.
Some optimistic thoughts concerning me. Probably don’t read.
None of my college summers, except for the first one (business minor), have gone as planned. Yet again, another one of my summers is starting to be turned on its head. I have big dreams, for which I lose sleep while applying with all my heart and soul for gateway opportunities, and then I’m turned down in favor of, usually, my classmates. Which makes me feel awfully embarrassed and inferior.
But also, every time I apply for something, I gain false confidence. I feel good that I pushed myself out there for the opportunity and gave the application my very best, infusing the essays or proposal with my experiences, passions, and promises. I feel confident because I’m a good writer, which hopefully makes me persuasive. And I feel confident because I’m confident…because I’m confident, because I’m confident.
Call it a dangerous upward spiral.
All of this paves the way for a very sore loser. I’ve always been an incredibly sore loser.
I think I’m bad at acknowledging that it all still works out for me. I gave up on music, only to choose a profession that–while delaying gratification via abusive schooling–will earn me more money and a more mentally stable Erica. Music always made me go a little bit crazy.
I earned my first summer internship back home here in Greensboro (…I wanted it to be in New Orleans), where I could recover after a treacherous second year of architecture school and start learning small bits about the professional world. I am forever in Lindsey Architecture‘s debt. (Sorry I was so timid and inexperienced! I’m much better now!)
I had thoughts of leaving architecture school, but my Ph.D parents implored me to persevere, and man, were they right. They’re backed by a bit of personal experience, you see.
The following fall semester was lousy, but then for Comprehensive studio this past spring, I got the professor (home-boy Scott Bernhard) and project (artists’ housing!) of my dreams. I could have been a better student still, but it was my most positive studio experience yet.
I seriously considered staying in my comfort zone last semester and doing a studio in New Orleans as always, but my entire support system of family, friends, and faculty told me I just *had* to go abroad. So I chose Rome and came out of it a new, more inspired, and more independent person.
I keep losing opportunities I wanted and despondently ditching plans, reflecting on how I must be inferior to my classmates and viewed lowly by my professors, and generally feeling bitter toward architecture school–but why on Earth?! Erica, are you crazy? –Yes, I definitely am somewhat.
I persevered, kept applying, kept trying, and DID NOT GIVE UP. And all went well. With perspective, I realize I’m in a beautiful place. I’m doing incredible things.
Yesterday I went with Mom and Dad to watch Darkest Hour. (Digression: other movies on my to-watch list are The Post and The Last Jedi, so don’t ruin the latter for me! I still haven’t seen it yet, and I want to!) It was extraordinarily well-done and also a nice supplement to Dunkirk. The movie ended dramatically with this Winston Churchill quote:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
*self-righteous mic drop*
A couple of weeks ago, I got into the A&E TV show Hoarders. It was my escape from dealing with 1.) sending Leigh and Juliette back to the shelter, and 2.) deep-cleaning my house so that my new roommate and subletter can feel comfortable moving in starting next week. The latter still hasn’t been accomplished. But I did begin.
I watched an episode about a historic home near downtown Greensboro, the Julian Price House. It was a well-executed 2-hour special, but also very very sad. The happy news is that the family moving into the home is focused on not only returning it to its former glory, but making it a great family house for raising two twin daughters.
Then I read an article about the architect, Charles C. Hartmann: http://ncarchitects.lib.ncsu.edu/people/P000118
Long story short, this guy is the architect of Greensboro. He designed the Jefferson Standard Building, Grimsley and Brooks schools (the “million dollar school” for white students), Dudley High (the black-student counterpart), the facade of the infamous Woolworth building (hint: February 1960 sit-ins), and several prominent houses such as the Price one.
Which got me thinking. I don’t give the Triad architectural community a lot of credit. Cities like Greensboro and Winston-Salem are expansive, serious, and somewhat urgent projects. A lot of development has been happening in my beloved Greensboro, but I just don’t pay much attention.
At my job last summer, I saw that the coffee-shop and micro-brewing scene on South Elm has gained significance in Downtown’s new identity. But then I came back to school in New Orleans and forgot about it all again. I had been a tourist in my hometown:
-I watched the demolition of War Memorial Auditorium
-saw with dismay that the Steven Tanger PAC construction was delayed for lack of funds
-discovered the new Center City Park that was part of a larger master plan for the development of Downtown Greensboro
-discovered that the architecture firm I worked for had close contact with the Carrolls, a very wealthy family funding a lot of Greensboro’s redevelopment. (High-school me had performed a string quartet gig in their brand-new penthouse apartment for an arts fundraiser.)
It doesn’t end there, as I recall the architectural significance of all of my coming-of-age Greensboro adventures:
-Blandwood Mansion, with my junior prom in its carriage-house
-the sprawling First Presbyterian Church, where I hung out after Kindergarten while my sister took extracurricular classes
-the heavily-secured American Hebrew Academy, where I was a cafeteria-lady for a summer…
-and on that note, the well-hidden Greensboro Jewish Federation with its labrynthine layout (I’m not Jewish! Who let me into these places?)
-the old houses in the Tate-Mendenhall neighborhood east of UNCG, where otherwise-studious college kids throw excellent parties (New Year’s Eve crew, wya?)
-UNCG’s beautiful music building itself, where I had lessons and youth-orchestra rehearsals since I was 12
-the ancient simplicity of Guilford College, which was a major underground-railroad hub and also weirdly my high school
-the Greensboro Public Library’s giant Church Street branch, where I helped hand out meals to hungry people on Tuesday evenings as part of Guilford’s Community Kitchens club
-the Greensboro Urban Ministry, another CKC site and not far from North Carolina’s largest food desert, where I also went to middle school across from Dudley High (see above)
-the train station, yet another CKC site and where I joined the Greensboro Philharmonia last summer for rehearsals while the Cultural Center (where I went for artsy summer day camps as a little kid) underwent renovations.
But I’m really from High Point. Dozens of my elementary-school peers and neighbors would leave their houses during the yearly Furniture Market, which repurposed people’s homes as showrooms for wares from the furniture capital of the world. Red House Furniture, the location of Rhett and Link’s famous commercial, is in the center of town. High Point Theatre is where I saw such acts as Stanley Jordan, Chuck Mangione, and The Machine with my parents as a groovy young teen. John Coltrane grew up in High Point.
Then there’s cute little Jamestown, with its creepy public library, quaint shops, first bar where I enjoyed a drink with my dad and his coworkers on my 21st birthday, and, of course, the church where I went to preschool, Sunday school, and Girl Scout meetings up until high school.
Everything is significant. Every spot has a complicated and fascinating history. I wrote an editorial for a class in fall 2015 titled “New Orleans is not better than your city”–I’m proud of that paper, but I don’t practice what I preached. In middle school, my friends and I would make fun of our city as a typical Southern barren wasteland. Many of us thought anywhere could be better. I went through high school dreaming of earning a big enough scholarship to an out-of-state university that I could go somewhere “cool” for college instead of the cheaper close-to-home options. I achieved this, and I’m in New Orleans. I love this city; I’m extremely thankful to be studying architecture and music here, of all places.
But geez, how on earth can I not be homesick? You don’t appreciate what a rich upbringing you actually had, surrounded by loads of interesting sights and scenes, until you spend a long time elsewhere. That’s when you want to go back and appreciate your home from a new perspective. For me, I realize it’s a gem.
All of this to say: don’t underestimate the place you grew up in. I haven’t been home in 7 months, so I miss it a lot these days.
I’ve been down the rabbit hole of a lot of social networks, but I’ve decided that using each as a surrogate “get to know me” is driving me in circles. Not a single social website lets me do everything I want when I’m online. A blog is pretty close to what I’d like, but it doesn’t let me categorize the parts of me like I want. I’m a writer, artist, musician, and architecture student. I want these facets to work together cleverly. (But not complicatedly.)
I hope this website can help me create more expressively. But furthermore, I’d like it to be a “home base” when I’m hopping on the social web. Instead of relying separately on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and a half-dozen others for sharing (and having to remember which parts of me I’ve put where), it’s all more or less cataloged here.
I also really wanted to get in on that “dragonviola” domain. Victory!