The Sam Fox School’s annual Informal Cities Workshop will be held again this October. The workshop will launch with a keynote lecture — free and open to the public — by James Rojas and John Kamp in Steinberg Auditorium Thursday, October 26, at 5:30 p.m.
Frequent collaborators, Kamp and Rojas both have backgrounds in urban design and have co-created an interactive model-building process. They also co-authored Dream Play Build: Hands-on Community Engagement for Enduring Space and Places. The book shares methods and insights for facilitating active participation among diverse groups, particularly as it relates to making change in the community landscape.
“I’m excited to bring James Rojas and John Kamp to the Sam Fox School because they are practicing professionals with extensive knowledge and experience within the context of informality, public engagement, and the built environment,” said Matt Bernstine, associate director of the school’s Office for Socially Engaged Practice and a lecturer in urban design.
This year’s workshop will examine the intersections of cultural identity and human agency by comparing informal strategies and practices in St. Louis and East Los Angeles. Students will be challenged to understand the ways in which cultural identity — particularly Latinx Urbanism — shapes the design and use of public and private spaces along the street.
The threshold between public streets and private front yards will serve as the workshop’s project site. Students will become careful observers of this threshold, examining informal design strategies already present and proposing novel design speculations. “Through the workshop, students will explore how design plays a direct role in spatial justice, agency, and cultural and identity politics within public space,” Bernstine said.
Since its initial run in 2014, the Informal Cities Workshop has provided students with intensive, hands-on opportunities to examine formal and informal aspects of a city. This one-credit, weekend-long design charrette encourages students to grapple with frictions and interconnections found within the city. Previous workshops have explored cities in India, Peru, and South Africa, among others.
Students can register for the workshop through Monday, October 2, by emailing Matt Bernstine.
The workshop is supported by the Mellon Foundation.
About James Rojas
James Rojas is an urban planner, community activist, educator, and artist who runs Place It!, a planning, model-building, and community-outreach practice. Through Place It!, he has developed an interdisciplinary, community-healing, visioning, and outreach process that uses storytelling, objects, art-production, and play to help improve the urban-planning outreach process. He is an expert in public engagement and has traveled around the world, facilitating more than 500 workshops and building more than 100 interactive models. His research has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Dwell, Places, and in numerous books. Rojas’ areas of expertise include using model-building as a means of community and planning outreach; working with underserved, disadvantaged communities and bringing overlooked voices to the planning discussion; making the physical form of cities relevant to broad audiences; and understanding how immigrants — especially Latino immigrants — see and understand urban and suburban space in the US and why they oftentimes reshape those forms in the ways that they do. He is the co-creator of their traveling and interactive sound/video/model-building installation Tracks to Build to.
About John Kamp
John Kamp is an urban and landscape designer, licensed landscape contractor, facilitator, and DJ/producer. He runs the landscape, design and engagement practice, Prairieform. Through Prairieform, he has developed innovative tools to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in urban and landscape design, transportation, walkability, climate change, and water conservation. Building on his 15 years of experience in landscape and urban design/build, Kamp translates findings from Rojas’ Place It! community engagement workshops and trainings into designs for inclusive and livable streets and neighborhoods that leave room for all residents to improvise and create a more welcoming public realm.
Kamp and Rojas are co-authors of Dream Play Build: Hands-on Community Engagement for Enduring Space and Places and co-creators of the traveling and interactive sound/video/model-building installation, Tracks to Build to.