Community. Design. Initiative.
  • The Community. Design. Initiative. is a partnership between archiTEXT and ESS developed in 2008 after an initial conversation on art in orphan spaces in priority neighbourhoods. The ESS is a social services delivery hub in one of Toronto’s thirteen priority neighborhoods, servicing over 50,000 community members a year in a 4,000 sq. ft. former police station. A relationship was established to expand the building to 8,000 sq. ft. through a youth-led “Community. Design. Initiative.” – having the youth involved in every aspect of the building project – from concept to manifestation. 
    In November 2009, a design charrette, organized by archiTEXT, with 47 youth from the Kingston-Galloway area at the Design Exchange, as the first step in developing a framework to engage youth in a priority neighbourhood with designers, planners, architects and other creative professionals. It became the vehicle of conversation and allowed youth to explore opportunities otherwise not available to them. This is a model that we are currently developing into a framework that can be applied towards any priority neighbourhood in the city, province, or country.

    As part of the mechanism to help reduce poverty in a priority neighbourhood, archiTEXT has developed a design curriculum that has engaged over 50 youth over the course of 16 months in the process of design/build. In our weekly 3 hour sessions, youth learn about the design process, from concept to construction, they attend seminars regarding the mechanics of green building, eco-food hub design and urban landscaping, as well as frequent opportunities to engage with various industry professionals, such as engineers, project managers, general contractors, architects, interior designers and landscape architects.

    This unique method of design engagement has allowed these youth to see what other opportunities exist in career development while, more importantly, allowing them the opportunity to take ownership and design a building that they can be proud to call their own.  This is a model that we are currently developing into a framework that can be applied towards any priority neighbourhood.
    The project has been recognized as a Case Study for Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, a City Building Project by the Metcalf Foundation, and engages several dimensions of economic development, youth capacity building, place-based poverty reduction, and authentically bridging design professionals in work in the inner suburbs. 
    For additional information, visit Sustainable.TO.