i recently had the opportunity to engage with stanford d.school again, pitching in on a fun “pop up class” which took place in a set of alleys between San Francisco’s Noe and Mission districts. the class, which invited a multi-disciplinary group of students to participate, along with neighbors and city officials, was designed to introduce students to new tools for observing spaces and also to learn about neighborhood-level sustainability, public space, and urban ecology efforts.
i help the group start getting comfortable in the alley space, and get to know one another, with a fun interactive game of “walking tag” (more difficult than it sounds!), then d.school teaching fellows hannah and nihir led the group on to the main part of the day – observation in the alleys. the group was generously hosted by neighbors on the alley, who are active participants in the neighborhood’s “green alleys” action plan to improve the environmental sustainability and community resiliency of their little corner of San Francisco.
the workshop participants broke into groups based on different “lenses”, including: stormwater management, culture and politics, and stewardship. each group took a walk throughout the mapped areas, noticing (and noting) elements that stood out to them within a particular lens, such as drainpipes that dumped directly onto pavement, murals, native plants, unmaintained property, seating, color, and scent.
concluding the workshop, students marked areas of particular interest, success, or future improvement on a large map of the area, and shared back what they learned about neighborhood and community work, environmental sustainability, and design thinking.