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City Repair Project

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 that transform a spot initially intended for vehicles into spaces where people can gather. Each project begins with a dialog among neighbors to determine shared aspirations and goals. Next, the community works together to design, create, build, and ultimately maintain the space.

Beyond the intersections, City Repair Project is active in ecological landscaping projects throughout the city. CRP designs structures created by using renewable natural materials such as straw, clay, wood, and stone.

Every spring for ten days, 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 on Social Design Insights. Listen to Episode 3 | The Street As a Revolution.