Author Archives: Candice Bowman

The Accidental Playground: A Talk with Daniel Campo

Daniel Campo Lecture (2)

The Accidental Playground explores the remarkable landscape created by individuals and small groups who occupied and rebuilt an abandoned Brooklyn waterfront. While local residents, activists, garbage haulers, real estate developers, speculators, and two city administrations fought over the fate of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT), others simply took to this decaying edge, transforming it into a unique venue for leisure, creative, and everyday practices. These occupiers and do-it-yourself builders created their own waterfront parks and civic spaces absent every resource needed for successful urban development, including plans, designs, capital, professional assistance, consensus, and permission from the waterfront’s owners. Amid trash, ruins, weeds, homeless encampments, and the operation of an active garbage transfer station, they inadvertently created the “Brooklyn Riviera” and made this waterfront a destination that offered much more than its panoramic vistas of the Manhattan skyline. The terminal evolved into the home turf for unusual and sometimes spectacular recreational, social, and creative subcultures, including the skateboarders who built a short-lived but nationally renowned skatepark, a twenty-five-piece “public” marching band, fire performance troupes, artists, photographers, and filmmakers. At the same time it served the basic recreational needs of local residents. Collapsing piers became great places to catch fish, sunbathe, or take in the views; the foundation of a demolished warehouse became an ideal place to picnic, practice music, or do an art project; rubble-strewn earth became a compelling setting for film and fashion shoots; a broken bulkhead became a beach; and thick patches of weeds dotted by ailanthus trees became a jungle. These reclamations, all but ignored by city and state governments and property interests that were set to transform this waterfront, momentarily added to the distinctive cultural landscape of the city’s most bohemian and rapidly changing neighborhood.

Drawing on a rich mix of documentary strategies, including observation, ethnography, photography, and first-person narrative, Daniel Campo probes this accidental playground, allowing those who created it to share and examine their own narratives, perspectives, and conflicts. The multiple constituencies of this waterfront were surprisingly diverse, their stories colorful and provocative. When taken together, Campo argues, they suggest a radical reimagining of urban parks and public spaces, and the practices by which they are created and maintained.

The Accidental Playground, which treats readers to an utterly compelling story, is an exciting and distinctive contribution to the growing literature on unplanned spaces and practices in cities today.


Grand + Woodward Holiday Stop

The North End has amazing, beautiful, creative entrepreneurs! Just a sneak peek at what’s in the works…

rogueHAA is working with The Untitled Bottega to create beautiful spaces for the Grand + Woodward Holiday Stop. Volunteers have been cleaning the (previously vacant) storefronts. And entrepreneurs are getting their goods together.

Volunteers are still needed! Meet us at 6560 Woodward, 5pm 12/4; 6pm 12/5; 10am 12/7, and 10am 12/8!)

The Grand + Woodward Holiday Stop is a program brought to you by Vanguard Community Development Corporation, with support from the following partners: Detroit LISC, ProsperUS Detroit, Henry Ford Health System, the DEGC Revolve program, rougeHAA, the Untitled Botega, and NAI Farbman.

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rogueHAA unveiled its third installation for the Detroit Design Festival last month. The work’s title, ‘Mene Mene’, is an Aramaic idiom meaning ‘the writing is on the wall’ and was chosen by the group to signify the rewriting of Detroit’s often negative story into a more positive message that includes the city’s multiple voices and narratives. The installation, designed to activate an empty pocket parking lot in Detroit’s North End, was constructed with a series of grass terraces combined with blank writing walls to engaged members of the local community. “Rather than creating static object to be viewed from a distance, we wanted to create a literal platform for conversation and reflection,” says rogueHAA member, James Witherspoon. Each section of the installation included a different provocation as a means to catalyze and frame a conversation about the city.

The installation, located at 2871 E. Grand Blvd., invited the community to participate in an interactive event that was equally fun and thought-provoking. Through partnership with Let’s Save Michigan, Festival attendees were encouraged to share a meal, conversation, and ideas for placemaking in their neighborhood. Throughout the festival, visitors were encouraged to write their ideas, thoughts, challenges, and pictures on the walls of the installation. These were collected and will be curated as part of an online gallery to promote engagement with a larger audience, and longevity beyond the festival itself.

This fall, the collaborative is also planning to continue its lecture series aimed at promoting critical thought and creative dialogue in the design community. Stay tuned for details to come!