Leveraged spatial storytelling to address the effects of systemic loss on the identity of a community
As a society, we often avoid honest and open conversations about difficult subject matters like race, privilege, social exclusion and urban violence. My senior capstone for Carnegie Mellon School of Design involved engaging and working with members of the greater Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA to better understand how losses affect the identity of a community and how, in the aftermath of loss, memory of place changes overtime. The goal was to understand how these types of inequalities result in misunderstanding, racism, and loss of social capital.
We worked to address these issues by partnering with the Center of Life (COL), a faith-based, community-empowerment organization that serves residents in the greater Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Together, this collective knowledge helped tell a story about this community in an effort to invite conversation.
Role Systems thinking, research, exhibit design, experience design, interaction design, visual design, rapid prototyping
Contributors Carnegie Mellon Design Class of 2017, with special thanks to our instructors, Dylan Vitone, Kristin Hughes, and Tim Smith of the Center of Life, as well as the Greater Hazelwood community
There is no good reason to bury a child. There is no justification for why this unnatural act has become normal in Hazelwood. Here, we recognize the countless individuals who have felt the pain of saying goodbye to loved ones whose lives were cut short by street violence. Their stories of loss encourage us to share our own, and through this exchange, we take part in something bigger than ourselves. We become a community empowered by our vulnerability, strengthened from our compassion, and engaged with the issues that matter to us.
“I lived, We live, What did we miss?” is an exhibit that describes the journey of Hazelwood and asks us how we have arrived to a world with such systemic loss. We question the larger forces in our society, as we strive to find peace in our personal histories. We look for opportunities for positive change, and recognize the power of this community many people call home: Hazelwood. The exhibit was composed of six areas that shaped the narrative addressing systemic loss and created a space for the community to come together.
Aspirations We Hold The people of Hazelwood are living and breathing stories of inspiration and resilience. From olympic medalists to entrepreneurs, the community is filled with champions of hard work and talent. However, amongst these bright stars are also quieter voices whose stories of compassion and determination remain untold. Here, we recognize the different kinds of strength that live in Hazelwood. As you read inspiring stories of individuals’ success, consider your own future ambitions.
Systems We See As Americans, we are promised the rights of freedom, justice, and equality. But how are these rights fulfilled if communities struggle to put food on the table and keep their children safe? Battling systemic issues like poverty, racial inequality, and urban violence starts with open eyes and honest conversations. Take a moment to read newspaper stories and community quotes about Hazelwood’s challenges alongside the promises from our Founding Fathers. Where do these promises fall short? Join the conversation by writing your thoughts on the table top.
Spaces We Shared A community cannot grow without spaces to call its own. Although Hazelwood used to be a thriving neighborhood, it lost countless resources like schools, grocery stores, and jobs when the steel mills closed. Neighborhood treasures like ice cream shops and community swimming pools are now fading memories. By looking at artifacts from Hazelwood’s past, we reflect on what this neighborhood used to be. We recognize the loss and change that has shaped this community and acknowledge the places where we can still continue to gather and grow.
Together We Remember There are times when it is difficult to remember the loss of our loved ones because the pain is too great. However, when we can voice our grief to others, suddenly we are no longer alone. The countless individual stories of young lives cut short in Hazelwood build a larger narrative of urban street violence. Coming together over this shared experience creates a system for support and healing. As you reflect on your own loss, please consider leaving keepsakes or sharing memories of loved ones in our community display.
United We Will Hazelwood is a beautiful mosaic made up of unique individuals who each play a role in the community. Whether they are artists, activists, leaders, role models, or supporters, these people all share the desire to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Through the years, Hazelwood’s strength has rested on its ability to come together in difficult times. As you reflect on your own personal identity, consider your role in this community and how your contribution can impact our society and our world.
A variety of touchpoints throughout the space invite people to reflect and further engage in the discussion.
Ultimately, our aim was to create a meaningful narrative in a fixed environment that helps individuals convey the voices of forgotten lives, hopes, and dreams.
*photos courtesy of joe lyons