“If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.”
Walking down Manhattan’s 6th Avenue I was turned onto a community chalkboard sprouting into a welcome embrace, this initial inspiration bearing the question “What’s Your Obsession“. Before adding my own input I stood and watched a crowd of strangers share chalk and room on the board that served as scaffolding to shield a newly abandoned storefront. This interaction, this peek into the sweetheart of New York City, has become a total highlight of recent memory. My ensuing internet search party brought me to Candy Chang‘s interactive public art project entitled “Before I Die“. The fundamental notion explored in Candy’s project, more-than-likely responsible for “What’s Your Obsession”, is that public space should inherently be designed to facilitate community engagement and collaboration. Not surprising, these themes find appreciated evolution and intersection in her Columbia University graduate thesis [highly recommended]. In collaboration with Civic Center, “Before I Die” saw its first site installation across the side of an abandoned house in New Orleans… and within the last year has collected over 25,000 responses in 7 countries from 12 walls. Go team.
The notion of turning a neglected space into an active invitation to engage with your community and get to know your neighbors is a wonderful embodiment of enlightened urbanism. What’s more, it’s a reminder that not all meaningful social platforms are accessed through a screen — an inspired antidote to the Foursquarification of urban social quasi-interaction. –Brain Pickings
This project is growing on a daily basis, and everyone has the chance to become involved. Visit “Before I Die”‘s project site to engage in direct collaboration, or help out with funds by purchasing a sweet lil’ toolkit for your inner urban do-gooder. Both Candy Chang and Civic Center are gorgeously imaginative, so make sure to read about their other projects here and here.