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Scale It Up: Bridgeport

Scale It Up: Bridgeport was part of Rebuild by Design (RBD), a competition to address the structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the northeast region and developing fundable solutions to better protect residents from future climate events.

On March 8, Van Alen Institute teamed up with architects and ecologists from Bridgeport and New Orleans to lead a youth design workshop called Paths to the Sound that invited local high school students to imagine future scenarios for the Pequonnock River in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The workshop began with a bicycle tour of the River to highlight opportunities to re-design the water’s edge to protect against future floods, provide more open space, and create new habitat for wildlife. At a participatory workshop in a downtown storefront following the tour, students learned to build three-dimensional models representing their ideas for improving the river.

About Scale it Up

“Scale it Up” programs made the strategies emerging from Rebuild by Design tangible and engaging to the general public, and illustrated how design solutions could be “scaled up” or applied to communities throughout the Sandy-affected region.

Van Alen Institute was one of four New York-based nonprofits selected to develop and manage Rebuild by Design, an initiative of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Produced by Van Alen Institute, Scale it Up was designed to achieve multiple goals:

  • Engage key stakeholders in a planning group to develop and produce each event
  • Make the work of RBD design teams immediate and tangible through hands-on activities or temporary interventions in the built environment
  • Attract diverse audiences, including those that might not normally participate in design and planning workshops, through performances, music, participatory workshops, and other tools
  • Support local planning and design initiatives to promote resilience or strengthen communities, in order to leverage each one-day program to have a larger impact after its completion.

Based on geographic and demographic diversity and the involvement of one or more design teams in the area, Rebuild by Design selected five locations to host these events:  Asbury Park, New Jersey; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Far Rockaway (Queens), the Lower East Side (Manhattan), and Staten Island’s North Shore in New York City.

Beginning in December, in each community Van Alen Institute invited local residents, nonprofit staff, business owners, and government officials – many of whom were learning about Rebuild by Design for the first time – to participate in planning an event centered around the theme of resilience as they defined that term. Over the next 2-3 months, Van Alen convened regular Scale it Up planning meetings while also coordinating closely with the design teams. This process ensured that each event had elements uniquely tailored to local communities that were also tied to themes and strategies proposed by the teams. Stakeholders felt greater investment in the larger RBD project, while the design teams were able to incorporate input from the Scale it Up planning meetings or adjust their outreach meetings accordingly.

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