Small Interventions Yield Big Community Returns

Amenta Emma values involvement in Hartford-based design initiatives for temporary and long-term action. Members of our team participate in initiatives for the betterment of the communities we live in and serve. Recently, the Hartford Climate Stewardship Initiative sponsored the “Dream Green, Hartford Eco Design Competition.” I participated with a university cohort; another of my Amenta Emma colleagues also entered. Entries addressed issues of storm water management, urban gardening, and vacant lot development.

Dream Green Hartford Eco Design Competition – submission by team Barker Divenere

Temporary programming of unused lots or niches in the urban fabric, as addressed in the competition, help to improve neighborhood vitality. Some temporary installations garner public and political support, paving the way for long-term change.

These types of urban competitions are popping up all over the country, promoting small interventions that yield big community benefits. The most publicized probably is New York City’s High Line, a 1.45-mile elevated linear park, greenway and trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan. 

“Quartyard,”  in San Diego, CA.

San Diego has a program called “Quartyard,” to provide programming for vacant lots. Repurposed shipping containers house a coffee shop, event space, and beer garden, and can easily be moved if the lot is slated for development. In Norfolk, Va., an enterprising group of young architects raised money and collected material and plant donations for a space called The Plot. It created a lush green gathering space on a prime downtown lot that sat vacant after funding dried up for a planned convention center. Another convention center eventually was built, and The Plot moved to an empty lot in a developing arts district.

Hartford has included initiatives in its “iQuilt” strategic plan, which means to knit elements of walkability, placemaking, and cultural innovation into our urban fabric. One example is GreenWalk, a one-mile chain of parks and plazas connecting our State Capitol in Bushnell Park to the waterfront along the Connecticut River.

Dream Green Competition Winning Submission by team Hoff Gonzalez Scanlon Ahmed Spichal – “5 Corners: Live. Work. Play.”

The winner in the Dream Green competition was a “pocket park” concept that has the potential to be a social and recreational hub for an underused lot in a North Hartford neighborhood. The design includes an informational kiosk to teach about sustainability, a community garden, raised planters, a play structure for children and a reading bench paired with a community lending library. Prize money was donated to help realize construction of the project.

I am proud of our profession, as we put our skills to work to tackle social challenges and to achieve a holistic approach to design, blending urban programming with architecture to improve and enrich our communities. This is how we make change, one project at a time.

Picture of Alexis Hoff

Alexis Hoff

Alexis is a Project Architect in Amenta Emma’s Senior Living studio. She is also a member of the firm's Sustainability Committee.

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