Design Build manager Emilie Taylor works at the Tulane School of Architecture as a lecturer and as senior program coordinator at the Tulane City Center where she directs projects and develops community partnerships that provide opportunities for faculty and students to engage ‘real issues’ in the community using design as the vehicle for these interactions.
During our conversation, we visited a range of the Tulane City Center and other agencies live projects across New Orleans, mostly within areas that had been particularly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. The projects were incredibly varied and not all of the projects we visited seemed to respond successfully to the stakeholders needs. As Emilie pointed out, ‘after Hurricane Katrina, there were a few design equivalents of ambulance chasers dashing into New Orleans who were very keen to help address some of the huge problems that the city was facing in the aftermath of the storm. Not everyone got it right in working out what kind of resources were most needed by the community.”
We also talked at length about the difficulty of managing students as well as community members expectations. It was agreed that often students have a very strong desire to make a tangible and conspicuous impact within a community. However sometimes the solutions need to be more sensitive, or often the timing of the project realisation extends beyond their academic schedule, leaving them unable to enjoy completing their projects.
In terms of community members, many of them have high expectations about what can be done that does not always match the resources available. Timing/duration is an issue that both groups find hard to negotiate. As a live project educator, Emilie explained that managing the expectations of all participants and stakeholders is the most demanding aspect of the role.
However, we also discussed why community design centers seem so successful at attracting community projects, which is Emilie’s view is due to the, ‘city’s need for nimble responses to difficult situations.’
Another subject for discussion was the issue of students accreditation for working on live projects. In the absence of a salary, this kind of learning ‘credit’ is hugely important in terms of both recognising the work of the students and also cementing their commitment to the project itself.