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Monday, 26 September 2011

48-hour blitz

John Bielenberg
Ideas, ideas, ideas.
In Week 3 of the Fall 2011 semester, John Bielenberg from Project M spent a week with us - working and living in our space. John engaged us in a "48-hour Blitz". The goal of the Blitz was to create something memorable that benefits the East Baltimore community, then document it in a 48-second video. We were assigned the same group as for the 10x10x10 assignment the week before and quickly sat in the studio and brainstormed ideas. Mobile library? Library-café in the community garden of the church? Ideas, ideas, ideas.

I quickly looked through many articles that I had written for a few old clients and found several great ideas hidden in those blog posts that influenced my proposed idea. The day after we were assigned the blitz, the neighbourhood had a meeting in our space regarding the proposed demolition of the 8-acres of row homes directly near us, in order to make way for a new school. There were several serious issues discussed during this meeting, including potential health hazards such as dust, rodents and lead. We regrouped that night with John and thought maybe we could do something to raise awareness about what is happening in the area. We agreed this should be a group assignment as opposed to taking it on in teams of two. Then we discussed our ideas with our professors during our studio time in the morning. We realised we weren't thinking about this the right way and went back to brainstorming. We all proposed other ideas. Many of the ideas being thrown around, like a circus for example, were, in my opinion, elitist ideas that don't benefit the community but are what students want to see for themselves. I felt strongly about mine and teamed up with my colleague Julie who also thought the idea was viable.

Discussing the prototype with Mike and John B.
The idea:

By this point we had about 12 hours and went straight to work. I decided I should target the following problems facing the neighbourhood:
  • Lack of transportation in the area
  • The unemployment rate amongst males 16-40
  • Food desert
Julie's professor worked on a project offered by the health department called Baltimarket, an online and in-person grocery ordering system that delivers your groceries to the local library. Customers had a one hour window to pick them up and take them home. But what if you're still more than 2km away from the library? That's a long walk. Although I think Baltimarket is necessary and brilliant, it still didn't deliver groceries to people's homes. Furthermore, it didn't make fresh produce directly available to the immediate Middle-East Baltimore area (yep that's what the area is called!).

So, basing my idea on the Fruixi concept and the drug dealers who deliver on bicycles in Montreal, I came up with what is now called "Bike Box". Bike Box is a bicycle grocery delivery system that is available in-store (there is still a digital divide in this area) and online and delivers your groceries directly to your front door. It also functions as a cart that rides around the neighbourhood selling fresh produce to the residents from the nearby farmer's markets at reasonable prices. We sat down and wrote a proposal and decided that we would use recycled bike parts, hire the youth to ride the bicycles and teach them how to repair them to increase their skill set. We began working on a prototype. Luckily, we didn't have to have the finalised product, just a prototype that functions properly and document it (we already have an idea what we want the box to look like and the materials to use). Julie worked on this while I focused on creating a website, documenting the process, editing the video and the branding component.

Here's what we came up with:

Stenciling ain't a thing.
The logo. Adjustments likely to be made...eventually.
Thankfully, Bike Box is a necessary concept that works and something we can expand on further as we will be working on it with the Health Departments "Healthy Baltimore 2015" initiative where we are attempting to redesign communities to prevent obesity.

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