merav perez [senior] lecturer + [experimental] designer
Seminar for 4th year students at the Industrial Design Department, Shenkar
Co-teaching with Prof. Alex Padwa, Head of the Industrial Design Department
*The course was sponsored by the Israel Council for Higher Education, Planning and Budgeting Committee, Funding for community-involved courses
During the social seminar, the students were challenged to develop design solutions that will contribute to the community life of the underserved population in neighborhood "Daled" in the southern town Beer Sheva.
Working with plants and greenery and using community gardening practices enabled the students to engage in an unmediated way with pressing issues in the community. Furthermore, working closely with locals using urban gardening practices propelled the students to quickly get involved, and to turn theoretical ideas into real life projects - from window farming to "earth balls".
The seminar "Growing Community" emphasized social involvement and was recognized as a community-involved course by the Israel Council for Higher Education, Planning and Budgeting Committee. Throughout the semester, the students collaborated with a local grass-root organization, "The Center for Environmental Sustainability". They've spent time in the neighborhood, met local dwellers and activists, and made observations.
The observation process led the students to the conclusion that the neighborhood has abundant communal spaces that are deserted most of the time due to the lack of outdoor seating fixtures and shadowed areas. Working in groups, they identified a variety of needs and opportunities – turning broken pavements to gardening opportunity; changing dull walls by the help of moss graffiti; outdoor fixtures from mud; personalization of mass-housing units and more. The course ended with an event in the neighborhood, during the event a serie of actions took part: the students invited the neighbors to mold together earth balls with seeds in order to plant them around the blocks in empty yards; The students designed and casted small concrete stools and handed the original mold to the people of the local center for future making; The students presented the process to local activists, representatives of Beer Sheva Municipality, neighbors and social workers in order to start a discussion on future actions and possible finance for extended activity.