Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) architecture students chose to address the direct needs of Mission Hill residents for a class final project last month.
The class, called, “Designing for Social Innovation,” is a research-based class focused on the intersection of design and public service, professor Dunja Vujinic told the Gazette last month. It is focused on “the need of our profession to expand its process to include the economic, political and social dynamics of the places where we work,” she said.
“It was important for us to understand how the community felt about an issue and learn from what they know in order for us to pinpoint what they really need,” student Tory Lam told the Gazette. “Without actually talking to the community, we would have been blindly working towards a solution [about] which they may feel differently.”
While half the class chose to look at Boston Public Schools, the other half chose to interview Mission Hill residents and representatives, including Gazette Editor John Ruch. The stories that were collected focused on the lack of affordable housing and the effects students have on the health of the overall community and resources, Vujinic said.
“A highlight for the students was to be able to engage in a discussion at the completion of the semester with community members around this important topic. Some students made a promise to uphold themselves and the architecture profession to a certain level of social and moral responsibility in order to add value to society as a whole,” she said.
“I learned a lot about how the identity of Mission Hill is changing,” student Michelle Lopez told the Gazette. For example, Mission Hill is beginning to blend into other neighborhoods. In planning, Mission Hill is considered a part of Jamaica Plain, but in crime rates it is considered Roxbury. I also learned that it is becoming harder and harder for a family to buy a home on Mission Hill.”
Lam said he definitely felt more WIT classes should involve the community.
“I believe that learning through experience has a much stronger impact on our ability to understand a subject. Being able to communicate and learn to listen is very important. We can research all we want through the Internet or books, but it will never replace the communities experience and knowledge,” he said.
Lopez said she also feels this has already benefited her upcoming career.
“[This class] has made me become more aware of social issues and how to identify them. As a result, I am now more inclusive when making design decisions,” she said.