Co-designing a parklet that serves as a platform to amplify Black arts, community, and culture in San Francisco


Co-designing a parklet that serves as a platform to amplify Black arts, community, and culture in San Francisco


Co-design, leadership, prototyping


11 months


parklet arch model
parklet prototype

The challenge

After a government initiative called redevelopment, the African American population in San Francisco fell from 13% in the 1970’s to 3% today.

Since September 2016, we’ve been partnering with the African American Arts and Culture Complex (AAACC), which holds more Black art companies than any other institution in the Bay Area and is a magnet for community events and artist expression.

The opportunity

Our work was inspired by a 2015 local residents’ ethnographic study that described the area around the AAACC as a “social gathering desert.” The residents shared a vision of the AAACC becoming “a beacon or symbol to outsiders of excellence in Black arts and culture.” 

The two goals of the initiative are:

  1. Providing a space for the community gathering
  2. Increasing awareness of the AAACC

The audience includes people who work in the building, visit the building, and live nearby. A secondary audience is broader San Francisco residents and visitors.

big rich interview
They always push the problem with the gentrification. I would like for our new neighbors to come and check the building out. Let’s embrace them.
— Big Rich, Founder of Project Level and longtime resident

The team

Our team includes Louise Laub, Katie Jacquez, Shiv Kehr, Aditi Mathur, Tetiana Muraviova, Georgia Came. My role involves (rotating) team lead, partnerships and community engagement, communications, grant writing and presenting, and workshop facilitating.

Our team of Design Fellows includes Lani, Bibi, Journey, Dyncan, and Cam.

Photo by CCA Photography
fellows and cca

The approach

After receiving a $10,000 grant from CCA’s Impact Awards, we launched our Design Fellows Program. We selected five local youth who are interested in art and have strong leadership skills. For eight weeks over the summer, we facilitated design workshops and experiences with the youth covering research, synthesis, insights, prototyping and iteration. Key activities included interviewing 15 community members, developing prototypes, gathering and addressing feedback, and organizing two community events.

mood board with fellows
bibi outside parklet community event
That was the one of the most successful meetings at the Center.
— Micah Morgan, AAACC Artist-in-Residence and Youth Program Coordinator
bibi vanessa sketching

The output of the Design Fellows Program serves as a foundation for our architects to bring the fellows’ and community's ideas to life. An additional $36,000 grant from the San Francisco Community Challenge Grant funds the materials, construction, and permitting for the parklet.

Next steps

In September, we'll start the permitting and approvals process from numerous city organizations and the AAACC Board. We expect the parklet to be open in summer 2018.