The City is a House

community activism project | Summer 2020 | team: freedom by design | SITE: Food for lane county dining room, eugene, or

This is a space where in rain or shine, unhoused citizens of Eugene would gather in the parking lot below, looking for food, shelter, and community. Menna explains the idea of the project being, “For this community, which is disenfranchised, they don’t have the right to have an experience of housing in the city they live in. Isn’t it justice that this city would be everybody’s house?” Menna also made us question, “How do you design a house outside of the normative structure of society, and outside centers of power and economics?” How could we produce a cultural installation that also transforms into a shelter—an installation of compassion.

My experience on site was impactful as it made me really realize the importance of contributing and being an active member of my community. It was eye opening to work that closely with the unhoused community. You learn and understand that like you and me, they are people with endless stories and interesting lives and perspectives. This opportunity was rare as for the most part in architecture you are not immersed in the community and culture of your user group. Having this in person hands on experience helped the project excel and succeed as we all developed further compassion, empathy, and understanding of our neighbors needs. The acceptance and gratitude for the work we were doing pushed us each day to continue.

During the on site work for this project. I helped mainly where needed doing any task that was thrown at me. I spent hours cleaning and prepping the site for remodel. This included tasks such as weeding and powerwashing. I also helped the team paint the exterior of the building. Other tasks included gardening, attempting to weld, and just lending a hand to whoever needed help. I enjoyed doing physical hard labor out of love of community. It was extremely rewarding to have community members pass by and smile and thank us for doing impactful work.  Not only was the labor rewarding but so was demonstrating to the surrounding community that if we as students can create change, so can you. 

During this project, we learned that the unhoused population has the right to have an experience of dignity in the city they live in. To make a difference as a designer and an architect, one doesn’t need to complete a large project or building. Small design interventions can have instant and lasting impacts as well. This project created an impact in our community. It serves and honors those who are often overlooked in the field of architecture. It offers a haven of safety and belonging for them within the city. It inspired change in the community and in our personal lives.

Check out the full project here: