JUNIOR DESIGN OFFICE
It was during our second year in the design program at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, that we started to notice that design at school felt very disconnected from design that was happening, or could be happening in Vancouver. We had little connection to industry or any professional input from designers outside of our faculty. We were practicing designing with a brief at school, but not always with a client. And even when there was a client present our professor would be the one in contact with them, and we had little means of really learning from the client-designer relationship.
This iteration of Junior Design Office was in partnership with Architecture for Humanity's Vancouver Chapter. We worked with them to build a concept applicable to their Chinatown Revitalization Project.
Architecture for Humanity Vancouver is collaborating with the City of Vancouver (COV) and various Chinatown stakeholders in an effort to revitalize Chinatown - our main strategy is to activate the lane-ways. This project seeks to give character to the alleyways of Chinatown, to upend their current characterization as dank and dangerous locations to be avoided, and highlight new potential uses. It is a part of the COV’s mission to revitalize Chinatown while preserving its unique heritage (see COV website in Appendices). AfH Vancouver has conducted a variety of research and produced a report outlining its vision for the development of the alleyways.
To gain a full understanding of the problem space and context we conducted two site visits to the lane way in Chinatown. Here we discovered the limitations and opportunities for design. One of the main challenges was that we were not able to attach anything to the street, or buildings around, so anything that we proposed needed to be free standing. Inspiration was drawn from the angular nature of the lane way, and we set out to explore what structures could be built using tension and pressure.
Small scale models were created to test out our theories, before moving to full scale. By the end of the week we were prototyping at 1/3 scale, bringing our design as close to reality as possible. This prototyping phase allowed us to fully grasp what an installation in the alley would consist of, and which elements were essential to the design.
Engaging with the client on an ongoing basis was fundamental to the process of Junior Design Office. We developed the brief with the client prior to the project start date, and hosted client presentation twice during the week to discuss preliminary concepts, and to present the final prototype.