Monday, April 19, 2010

The Village Bottoms

The Black Dot Cafe, which we blogged about last week, is part of a larger effort of The Village Bottoms community in West Oakland to re-claim and re-vitalize their neighborhood. Anchored at one end by the Black Dot Cafe and at the other by the Black New World cultural center, the three block stretch of Pine Street has the potential to become a vibrant historic and cultural focal point of West Oakland.

Besides the Black Dot Cafe, we are also working with Marcel Diallo, and other members of the Village Bottoms Community, and EcoCity Builders to upgrade the Black New World space so that it can once again become a cultural events gathering venue. Between the Black Dot Cafe and the Black New World are other cultural and historical attractions as well as the beginnings of a large community garden. The lot where the garden is situated is big enough to have space for a sizable greenhouse and an aquaponics system.

Right now we are primarily helping with the drawings and documentation for the two spaces at either end of the district, so that they can begin functioning and drawing people to the neighborhood. Funding the improvements necessary to getting the permits and licenses is as always the major challenge. Anyone who wishes to help please check out the website of Friends of the Black New World. Or be in touch with us -- we’d love to have your involvement!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Black Dot Cafe

The Black Dot Cafe in West Oakland, CA is going to be a cafe and cultural center. It will hopefully be an anchor for the African-American community there in a recent wave of gentrification. Located in the new Woodside Zoning Area, the cafe includes sitting and performance spaces.

fDC is helping draft the permit documents to have this space go from a studio apartment to a cafe. We've taken as-built measurements, documented new appliances and fixtures and, along with EcoCity Builders, conferenced with the Health Inspector.

This cafe is the much beloved project of Marcel Diallo. Read more about Marcel and his work here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I spent a good part of the day yesterday at CCA's [California College of the Arts] open studios for potential grad students, since I've been accepted into the Masters of Architecture program there and intend to enroll this fall. I found myself filtering much of what I was hearing through the lens of my experience with our developing organization and wondering how my MArch education at CCA will enhance my work with our mission as an organization. There were many areas where I saw a dovetailing of purpose with our real world work and the academic pursuits of the CCA School of Architecture. One example: Last year students from CCA's architecture and design program entered the Solar Decathalon jointly with engineering students from Santa Clara University and created the Refract House. The design is one that is potentially low cost and sustainable while being simple and elegant. Although it incorporates some hi-tech and, at this juncture, costly elements to drive its energy efficiency, it is nonetheless exciting to see academic design institutions involving themselves in real world concerns using holistic approaches. Our goal is to find solutions that make high performance, good design available to all, in collaboration and conversation with communities and organizations that want and need that design.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Umbrella Structures, anyone?

Wow...I feel cheated. I guess now I understand how all the "greats" feel when an idea is spawned from them, yet credit is not attributed in the line notes. Sure, we're probably not the FIRST group to use umbrellas in an interesting way (see us in, but i do feel strongly that in some way, shape, or form, we may have helped others find both tranquility and excitement through the mundane and tattered.

Our friend and group member Stephanie found this link/image and passed it onto the group...why do i feel so "hurt" and cheated? (See ...SAME WEBSITE, nonetheless!) Isn't mimicry the most sincere form of flattery? Since our group is still in its infancy, I'll shrug it off and not call in the Intellectual Property lawyers. Our "greatness" can be kept to the small few for the time being...we know what we accomplished and how to replicate efforts like these in the future. Thanks to committee member Sarah for bringing a great idea to the group and allowing us to aid/support that vision.

One thing's for sure...if the Dutch are imitating us, I guess we're doing something right! ;)