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City Repair Project and Communitecture

The United States historically lacks outdoor community gathering spaces such as town squares. Instead, many US cities were laid out to prioritize roads that follow strict grid patterns. While this facilitates the flow of vehicle traffic, it limits opportunities for human interaction and community building. Portland, Oregon based City Repair Project (CRP) seek to address this by empowering neighborhoods to reclaim public space, then creatively repurposing them to bring people together, the spaces and as tools for community revitalization.

Founded in 1996 by Mark Lakeman, the City Repair Project is best known for lavishly painted street intersections and ecological interventions that transform a spot initially intended for vehicles into spaces where people can gather. Frequently working in collaboration with communitecture, a sister organization also founded by Mark Lakeman, each project begins with a dialog among neighbors to determine shared aspirations and goals. Next, the community works together to erect a social architecture while designing, funding, building, and ultimately maintaining the physical space over time.

Beyond the intersections, City Repair Project and communitecture are both active in ecological landscaping projects throughout the city. The spectrum of infrastructure that is affected by the work spans many scales and types.

Every spring for ten days, the City Repair Project also organizes the Village Building Convergence, which draws residents and activists together to design and build their own community amenities. They provide hands-on training in permaculture—a system of design that promotes sustainability through the study and replication of systems that occur in nature. Residents are also coached in CRP’s philosophy of self-empowerment and change.

We had an opportunity to have an extended conversation with Mark Lakeman of The City Repair Project and communitecture on Social Design Insights. Listen to the episodes below.

3 | The Street As a Revolution


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "Dumb" by Nirvana from their album "In Utero."