We’ve invested quite a few person-hours over the past few years removing the ubiquitous drop ceilings from the Huss Project, as well as the commercial carpeting that covered the original maple floors. Some of the drop ceiling materials made their way to a local church, and some of the carpeting is keeping the weeds down under the footpaths in the community garden. Much of the framing from the ceiling has headed to our local recycling center for money that we’ve re-invested in the Huss Project for programming and supplies.
Apart from the benefits of re-purposing and recycling, why would we put so much time into removing such elements from the building? Because design matters. Because materials that make a room look like an office space make it feel like an office space, where tasks are more important than people and where obedient precision is more important than abundant creativity.
We want the Huss Project to be a space of flourishing, from its programming down to the minute details of its rooms. And here’s a nice bit from Peter Block’s Community: The Structure of Belonging that elaborates on this concept, and calls us to account for our tendency to warehouse people who don’t count in our society:
The argument against great design is always cost and speed. The discussion about cost and speed is not really about cost and speed. It is an agenda that declares that human experience is a low priority. The argument against the importance of the aesthetic is an argument against human freedom. Low-cost and quickly constructed buildings and spaces become warehouses designed to keep under one roof and under control those people whom we do not value. We measure their value in dollars and economy. We have too often seen the construction of ugly spaces and buildings in the name of cost, or of saving taxpayers’ dollars. It is not about the money. When a hallowed institution like a sports franchise or a large employer threatens to move out of town, we have all the money that is needed.
Don’t ever take the argument about no funds and no time at face value. Our stance about cost and speed is simply a measure of our commitment. In every case, low cost and fast action are really an argument against the dignity of citizens and a more democratic and humanly inclusive process.
May the Huss Project be a space that communicates belonging, respect and hope to everyone who walks through the doors!