If you follow this link, then you can read a bit and see a short video about the work of the bcCorps in the Dolphin Heights neighborhood of South Dallas: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2010/01/as_bcworkshop_moves_into_dolph.php.
The work is also ours; we’re funding the building of the nine homes through a grant we got from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program; and it’s also Central Dallas Ministries’ work as well; most of the people you see in the video are AmeriCorps members working in Dallas through the program administered by CDM. Finding a way to pay for a project isn’t always the most glamorous part of a partnership—and usually doesn’t get you in the news, but nothing can happen without someone footing the bill.
In any event, our work isn’t limited to helping fund this project. We spend a lot of time working on budgets, cash flows, compliance, legal requirements and all the nuts and bolts of the work that are necessary. Sometimes we even get to participate in the fun.
Last Friday I was one of two reviewers to which the bcCorps presented the penultimate version of its presentation of its home designs—the final reviewers will be the community in Dolphin Heights. The designs were excellent, which doesn’t mean we didn’t have a lot to say about them. As a real estate developer I always have to think of the end use and the bottom line—a house doesn’t become a home until someone buys (or rents) it and moves in. Thinking that way gives you a different approach to a project. Some of the designs were brilliant as designs, but probably would not appeal to the target community.
Architecture is an applied art (except perhaps for museum projects) that always has to compromise between beauty and use. Most young designers are more concerned with beauty—even Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs are infamous for problems with constructability and livability. So part of the job of the reviewers is to put a reality check in front of the designers.
If you can’t build a design, and if nobody wants it, then nothing else matters. Fortunately, the real critique is yet to come. Community members know what they want, and if the designs presented to them don’t fulfill their needs, then it will be back to the drawing board.