CommuniTree Gathering Space

Students and faculty in the Site/Environment/Communities class at SAIC are working together to create sustainable art and design projects informed by and in response to local communities. We are working on individual and group projects for a community garden located at 407 N Kedzie as a part of CommuniTree’s new urban agriculture green job training program.

Jaime Castro, an Interior Designer and student in the AIADO department at SAIC, and Kyunghwa Shon, a student in the MFA Painting department at SAIC are collaborating to create a multi-use space that will serve as an educational gathering space and for eating, resting and recreation for the city farm workers, the firefighters, the local school children and neighborhood residents. Our goal as artists and designers is to lend our skills to the momentum of the urban greening initiative on the Westside of Chicago, which is intended to create safe public spaces that foster the building of relationships, learning about nature and community food systems.

CommuniTree’s gathering space is created by the use of (6) modular trapezoid-tables, which are made of wood and feature (2) built-in benches that fold inward for easy storage and portability. The tables are designed to be very versatile to accommodate different activities and programming.  The individual units can be arranged in a hexagonal conference table, around a planter or around a tree, in a “v” shape in front of a presentation board in a classroom setting, arranged in an “s” shape, or other configurations, and the tables can also be used individually to read, draw or relax. The tables are designed to move around and also lock together for security at the end of the day. Underneath every table-top there is a simple door latch that allows it to be attached to another table on each side.

By designing interactive furniture intended for outdoors, we can encourage the community to come together and develop closer relationships through creative activities. We will create a link between the residents and the community garden by encouraging their participation in the decoration and surface treatment of the tables and benches. We will organize a one-day decorating event and invite local elementary school students to come to the community garden and become involved in personalizing their space. We will make stencils of patterns such as flowers, leaves, trees and bugs to incorporate into the sides of the tables and the table tops using colors found in nature. Finally, we will weave sturdy and decorative seats for the folding benches out of recycled plastic bottles and colored fibers.