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Re-Imagine Raleigh

A creative urban planning project

Last updated Jul. 29, 2015 - 12:46 pm
Re-Imagine Raleigh

The Raleigh Urban Design Center, sponsored by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance recently engaged the public in a creative planning project (watch the video) in order to raise awareness of the upcoming downtown plan update, called the Livable Streets Plan, during the SPARKcon Festival in downtown Raleigh. To achieve this, the UDC collaborated with James Rojas, urban planner and artist to help craft the event.

Contact the artist James Thomas Rojas at 313 S. Cordova Street Alhambra, CA 91801 (626-437-4446)

Watch the video

How did the process work?

Re-Imagine Raleigh invited the public to reflect upon, explore, participate in, and craft the look and feel of downtown Raleigh. The project engaged the public in the urban planning process through a series of activities: an Interactive model of the downtown and two workshops.

The interactive model of Raleigh

An interactive model of Raleigh was created on-site that captured the city's urban form. The model interpreted the key geographical features, street patterns, and cultural landmarks of the city. On this model Rojas created conceptual representations of built form via small one-inch scale buildings. The buildings, made of wood blocks, tile, jewelry, plastic game pieces, tape and many other materials, some of which are painted and designed to capture the essence of the actual real-life buildings and urban vibrancy of downtown Raleigh.

The interactive process was started by arranging the buildings on the model. The model is not static, thus allowing people to place, replace pieces anywhere on the model. Through this process they were able to understand how this city is physically created, experienced and imagined. Through dialogue the UDC was able to glean ideas and themes for the future of downtown generated by the model participants. The adaptability of this three-dimensional model allowed participants to investigate various urban forms that typify Raleigh now, in the future and project their own ideas onto the model about the physical nature of the city. They became an active participant in the creation and evolution of the work and its vision.

Raleigh interactive workshops

Facilitated by Mr. Rojas and the UDC, two workshops were conducted as a new method of community outreach that used creative thinking to re-imagine the urban structure of downtown. After a brief presentation of the method, participants were given 20 minutes to reflect upon themselves and their city by investigating the built environment via their hands and minds. This creative method turned the city into a canvas where people literally build their image of the city. Participants are given thousands of small, colorful, vibrant, and tactile objects, which are intended to trigger their connections to the built environment. Green yarn becomes grass, blue poker chips become water, and hair rollers become apartments or office buildings. By using unconventional objects people were forced to be creative in building their vision for a future Raleigh. After the modeling exercise, the participants were asked to summarize what they created.

What we learned

Over the course of four days, the UDC documented the results of the workshops and interactive model building into a video synopsis and the following summary.

Common Themes:

  • More downtown living opportunities
  • Places for play
  • A safe and rich pedestrian environment with public art
  • Additional cultural destinations
  • More urban open space
  • More employment opportunities
  • Animal friendly
  • Bike Friendly
  • More entertainment venues
  • High quality architecture

More specific suggestions:

  • Grocery store downtown
  • Interactive water feature
  • A park on Dix Hill
  • All Four Squares restored (except the governor's mansion)
  • Farmers Market on more than one day
  • Outdoor movies
  • More retail stores
  • Hacker space
  • Artistic bike racks everywhere
  • Keep the downtown Post Office
  • An independent bookstore
  • A renovated warehouse for multiple black box theaters
  • Buskers
  • Shade trees
  • Movie theater
  • More museums

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