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Elizabeth Real                                      Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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March 6, 2016                 
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                                    Photo - Youth Action Team 
A Youth Action Team works on the new building's design

How would you design a building? Members of the East Palo Alto community were invited to join the Youth Action Team, a group sponsored by the nonprofit organization, Live in Peace, for a planning meeting last February to discuss possible design options for East Palo Alto's new Youth Arts and Music Center.

The meeting was a charrette, which means that it was an intense period of design and planning.

Isaiah Phillips, one of the leaders of the team, told everyone that they were there “to learn and give input on the design of the physical building.”

Community members were split among three different tables. Professional designers and engineers were placed at each table to lead the discussion. Big, laminated maps covered the tables to give everyone a better visual of the space where the center is to be built—at the corner of Pulgas and Bay Road.

Small, colored, foam blocks were also placed at each table. Each of the blocks represented a building: café, theatre, storage, and others. Community members were encouraged to move the pieces around the map wherever they saw fit.

As the discussions began, community members were given the opportunity to give their ideas—no matter how big or small. “Know that you’re here because you’re an expert on what you know,” Phillips reminded them, “Don’t feel embarrassed or scared to say anything.”

Even some of the children, who were present, were invited to give their ideas.

Many ideas were shared throughout the charrette. Some of the community members felt, for example, that the café should be placed in the corner to attract more people. Some suggested that a bike trail be included that goes through the campus. Others took that concept to the next level and suggested that the bike trail should go over the buildings.

The design process was part of an ongoing effort. The designers and engineers announced that they would attempt to put all of their ideas together and come back with options.

Another charrette is scheduled for March 10, 2016 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the East Palo Alto Family YMCA, which is located at 550 Bell Street in East Palo Alto. Dinner will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and the session will start promptly at 6:00 p.m.   


The author of this article, Elizabeth Real, can be reached by email at epatoday@epatoday.org