A Casual Day of Class

Today, our class of six met up at The Bon Shopping Center just north of campus to speak to the owners of the strip mall and to one of the owners of a coffee shop within the strip mall. Our final project in this class is to present a redesigned model of the shopping center to the owners of ‘The Bon Center’ in the hopes that one of the designs will be picked up and implemented, at least to a partial degree.

Upon arriving at the shopping center, the owners invited us into a newly vacant shop within the mall where Rj, a member of our class, proceeded to interview the two owners about the shopping center. We learned that they have owned and managed the business since they were teenagers, and that because the demographic of customers who use The Bon Center on a regular basis tend to be older, any changes they make would need to cater to their loyal older clientele. Some of us were disappointed, seeing as we wanted to convert it into a hopping place to hang out in coffee shops while sipping on Maté in the Old North End, but one of the most important things we are learning in this class is how to use a combination of GIS (geographic information systems) and our own ideas to create a design that will fit into the neighborhood.

Next we interviewed the owner of Stir, a recently opened coffee shop that looks like every CC student’s dream – it has modern art hanging on its walls and vintage adornments throughout. Upon stepping into the renovated garage, it was immediately apparent that this shop was an anomaly among the rest of the shopping center. Young hipsters were lounging on old dentist’s chairs, and it was obvious by the number of visible laptops and smart phones within the perimeter that wi-fi was readily available. The owner, a young single mom, told us that she would love to see some renovations at The Bon Center, mainly involving the generic signs of all the stores.

From here we parted ways. Two in our class went back to campus, while the other four (myself included) jumped in my car and went to a local 88-year-old man’s residence for another interview. He and his dog live alone in a quaint home with a beautiful garden a few blocks from The Bon Center, a place he used to frequent often. Our main goal was to see what he thought of the place and if he could think of any changes he would like to see at the shopping center. Because we are trying to really understand what kinds of people visit the center and why, it is important that we speak to people who have different relationships to it.

Next we headed off to our final interview location of the night : our professor’s house. Marie Davis-Green is an internationally recognized designer who currently uses her talents to teach college-aged students how to open their eyes to a new way of thinking. She welcomed us warmly into her home with nicer snacks than most of us have seen in ages, and introduced us to the three men we would be interviewing for the evening. We ended up sitting around a table in her patio listening to the three men speak about their relation to The Bon Center and what improvements they would like to see. After two and a half hours, we realized it was 8:30 p.m., and therefore coming up on our departure time. We thanked the interviewees and headed back to campus to get started on transcribing all of the interviews we had heard throughout the day.

The beauty of the Block Plan is that all 2,000 of us have three hours of allotted class time in the morning, and save for lab classes, we have the rest of the day absolutely free. We can either head to the mountains for some fresh air, play a game of pick-up soccer, do homework, or run around all day conducting interviews for our class. In this case, Marie has taken advantage of the Block Plan and is really making us live and breathe our project. It is hard to not get excited about what you’re learning when it’s what you’re focusing on and doing all day long. After a long day of interviews, I feel much more connected to the community surrounding The Bon Center, and I’m excited to design a plan that will make them proud.