CivicDIY (Civic Design Internship for Youth) was a 6-week summer program that my PhD supervisor and I developed as a follow-up to 701 Meaning of Home. I developed the pedagogy, taught the sessions, and supervised the participating youth. Students worked through CivicDIY on translating what home meant to them into physical and digital interventions that could be implemented on Roosevelt Island. We treated the youth as experts on their urban environment and engaged them in complete research (including site visits and user observation), analysis, ideation, and prototyping cycles. After three guided iterations, the youth had the freedom to come up with whatever they felt improved social cohesion on the island. The youth proposals included a floating shopping mall, a spa kingdom, a BMX park and mall, un underwater train, a VR zoo, and a cultural center. There was one more (quite controversial proposal), for destroying a luxury apartment complex on the island with amenities such as tennis courts, gardens, and an outdoor pool, and not replacing it with anything else. We held the final presentations on the island senior center to help probe the internship outcomes.

Mapping activity in our lab
Final presentations at the senior center
Group pinup
Designing a prototype with Minecraft
BMX park sketch model
Prototyping with playdough

Below are some of the youth proposals (rendered by me) shown on the same site in Roosevelt Island. The last proposal has served as a steering point in my doctoral journey for many reasons. It captures so much of real life (e.g. gentrification and war) and is polemic compared to the other “happy” or seemingly “benign” proposals. It also made me pay attention to the role of destruction (or unmaking) in design. I am currently theorizing unmaking as it unfolds in the real world for my dissertation.

VR zoo proposal
Spa kingdom proposal
Condominium destruction proposal