2014 - Meet our volunteer super couple! This spring, architect Alexa Bosse and her husband, landscape architect Ari Miller, led the Collaborative volunteer team in generating a plan for a pop-up park in Frankford. The result is a vibrant design that uses sound activated lights and a whirlwind of “loud screaming pink” to turn a forgotten space into an entirely unique experience.
Their design will be installed in Frankford for the spring of 2015, through the Destination Frankford initiative. The Frankford CDC is hopeful that this temporary park will lead to the construction of a permanent park in the future. As Ari explained, “When you get it out there and people fall in love with it… Then that’s it. You don’t have to do anything else.” Listening as an active activity As they see their plans beginning to come to life, Alexa and Ari sat down with us to explain their design process and experience with the Collaborative. The volunteer role within a Collaborative project begins with visiting the site and leading a community meeting. Ari described how in these early meetings, “the client came with their preconceived notions about the space, and we came with our preconceived notions about the client—which were completely blown away.”
These meetings require effective communication, and Ari said, “Listening is not a passive activity, it’s an active activity. That’s something that’s really hard to master, and it’s something that the Collaborative has allowed us to hone and practice listening to clients and communities. That’s the lesson we’ve learned, what we’ve gotten better at over time.” Alexa added, “You’re not just volunteering; you’re learning stuff as well.”
Through this listening process, Alexa and Ari discovered that the Frankford community was willing to take risks, and wanted to do something bold with their space. This was exciting to the design team because, as Ari puts it, “very rarely do you get a client that really wants to do something wild. This gave us a great deal of license. A lot of the credit for the design goes to the Frankford CDC as much as it does the design team, because of their ambition to have something that was unusual and bold and unique.”
Jumping up and down!
With their client in mind, the Collaborative team explored options for creating a vibrant neighborhood attraction. When they presented their initial ideas in a later meeting, the bold pink design was an unmistakable success.
How did they know? “Because they were jumping up and down!” And they assured us that’s no exaggeration. They recalled how Ian Litwin, the founder of Destination Frankford, could not contain his excitement. With the Frankford Pause, this type of celebration seems to be a common theme.
The Frankford Pause
The Frankford community also gave the design team the perfect name for the park. Alexa remembered this moment: “As we were visiting the site, we were talking to Kim [Washington, executive director of Frankford CDC] and a train came by and she said ‘hold on – Frankford pause’ because it was very loud, so we stopped and the train passed. And then we picked up the conversation.” Soon after, they named the park the Frankford Pause, reflecting this distinct aspect of the neighborhood.
Alexa and Ari’s popular designs were also inspired by the noises of Frankford. They started with larger-than-life pink loops to unify the space, transforming an uninteresting lot into an exciting gathering point. “The idea of these loops is to be a distorted megaphone that is acknowledging the sound that’s very present on the site, whether it’s from the train or the event that’s happening,” Alexa said. Sound-activated lights overhead will react to the noise from the site and from the El, “like the jumping of an equalizer on a stereo, but through the whole park,” Ari explains. This bold plan will allow the Frankford Pause to“build memory in space, memory of a thing that happened there,” Ari said. Shocking Pink Their color choice was also designed to make the space memorable. “It’s arresting, it’s unusual, it’s not a color you see in the urban environment. In fact, the color we were trying to match it to is called ‘Shocking Pink,’ which I was thrilled by,” Ari said. “Because that’s exactly what we’re going for. This pink is celebratory.”
So celebratory, in fact, that the reveal of these designs was incorporated into a Destination Frankford block party, attended widely by community members excited to see the changes occurring in their neighborhood. This was especially rewarding to the design team because, as Alexa said, “Often times with Collaborative projects, you do it and it gets handed over. You always sort of want a party. And we didn’t just get a party, the mayor came and introduced our project for us.”
Designing for that initial push
Projects like the Frankford Pause remind Alexa and Ari of why they choose to volunteer with the Collaborative. Firm believers that good design should be available to everyone, they aim to use their professional skills to make an impact in the community.
Ari explained, “90% of architecture is for 10% of the people. There is a disparity between who can afford design and who gets design, and having it be accessible for all people is important to us, and really is very much a part of why both of us-“ Alexa finished for him, “want to be designers.” In agreement, he continued, “we want to be able to affect positive change. And to be honest, in a lot of work it’s very difficult to see what that change is in a broad view, and the Collaborative gives us the opportunity to do that.”
Alexa added, “To give [nonprofits] an avenue to be able to raise money to afford design services, sort of giving them that initial push. That’s really what we’re doing. Just trying to make people’s lives better. You know, just that minor thing.”
“Just that minor thing” has led this pair to make tangible differences in communities across the city. As their shockingly pink ideas become reality, we’re looking forward to whatever celebration comes next!