We found the treasure but how do we spend it? What use is it to us today? Where I lie the madness swirling all around carried away.
There are angels in the story you can see, you can see. I wonder if you see the same as me?
Lines on maps lines of wire. Hope and pray no-one tries to leave their holes to come and save us. Still in silence wait and die.
And I wonder what visions you will see, you will see. I wonder if you’ll see the same as me.
We named the guns, the manufacturer. The towns and countries they are made deep in the mud historical footprints, the national treasures of their age
And it’s really just a story that’s been sold, that’s been sold. It’s really just a story that’s been sold
I was tempted to believe.
Now I stand here in a daze over famous people’s graves. Brushing petals from the stones. Get away from me you slimy pimp. Well this isn’t what you think. You know you’re guilty as hell. So believe me when I teil you you’re a free soul.
– Mekons, Arthur’s Angels
OK, yeah, shut up. We all knew this day was coming. I am a weak man, unable to stick a flounce. Rip me apart in the comments, you know you want to and you know you’re going to.
Ahem. Anyway. the reason for this is the things I had to do this week.
Some of you may remember a graphic that looked somewhat like this:
That shows a series of projects I’ve designed, just north of the historic African American district known as Bronzeville, along the commercial corridor of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Four projects, over nearly a decade, comprising over 100 residential units and several thousand square feet of commercial space. The residential units are built through a public-private partnership using Federal block grant support to provide tax credit financing. The tenants are not subisidized, but the rents are managed to allow single parent families and blue collar workers to afford good housing.
These projects operate on two fronts; they allow good folks to move into good housing in a struggling neighborhood; and they also fill gaps in a neighborhood that has been damaged by degradation of the building stock and the economic bleeding of good jobs resulting in vacant sites and decrepit housing stock.
The fourth phase of that project was completed earlier in Our Fun Year 2013, and this week was the formal dedication.
I spent part of the early part of the week preparing a few presentation boards and other artwork for the Big Day. The project consisted of 41 units, 35 new construction, and 6 which were in an existing, near-hopeless building that nonetheless anchored one of the prominent corners of the retail corner. Some time back I posted this picture of the building as it existed:
When I originally posted it, there were a couple of commenters who noticed it was actually two different buildings that had been casually combined in years past, but mainly people wondered why there was any effort to save it at all, it should have just been torn down. There is some validity to that idea, true; but the developer and the BID wanted to try and save it because from an urban standpoint, it was an important anchor to an important intersection. So we did.
On Friday morning, the Grand Opening was held in the commercial spaces of that building, and it was packed. Press, and neighborhood, and local activists, and the BID board, and between all of that, the guys who built it and the guy who designed it couldn’t even get seats. I shook the Mayor’s hand, though. He gave me a ‘good job, dude’ nod when I was acknowledged and picked up my framed acknowledgement.
The building has a little courtyard we added in the back , and the ceremony included the unveiling and dedication of this bust of Dr. King:
These projects have kept me working during the Great Crapfest, although not enough to be able to buy a new car or anything. But that’s not important.
The important part is that these projects have helped to weave a damaged neighborhood back together, they’ve allowed for people of moderate incomes to live in safety and dignity, and they’ve been models of public-private partnerships that make sense and are effective.
They have challenged my skills in design and cost-control. and I like to think that I’ve responded; out of the three prior projects, two of them have received Mayor’s design awards. And at Friday’s ceremony, I saw some of my professors, and some of my competitors, recognizing the importance of these projects. I talked with the developers, and we discussed the projects to come.
But the most important thing wasn’t the ego-stroking, or the prominence of the guests; it wasn’t the free food or the beautiful day. The thing is; real people, living lives of dignity and grace, with at least one of their troubles reduced, minimized, removed. Mothers and fathers and children who are able to concentrate and their lives and their loves and their schoolwork.
You know, the idea of being an architect is ususally imagined to be designing tall buildings, big buildings, or lavish private houses. But when I got into the depth of it during college, I was intrigued by the ideas of improving the lives of normal people.
And dog help me, for all I whine and complain, that’s what I’ve wound up doing.