The Better Block went from a small community block project in Southern Dallas to an international movement in 2012. It’s been a whirlwind year and heartening to see so many neighborhoods, non-profit organizations, and cities take on their own Better Blocks to show the rapid potential for change that can occur when a small group of thoughtful, committed people dedicate themselves to real change. With that, we wanted to highlight our list of top milestones for the past year:
Better Block featured at the 2012 Venice Biennale in Italy
Think of the Biennale as Olympics for Architecture and the Better Block’s prominent role in it the equivalent of storming the Bastille or in this case the Arsenale. The gathering of 55 nations to display and compete for the coveted Golden Lion awards for architecture occurs every two years and is typically focused on trends in modern design. One architect is chosen to select a theme and curate the main pavilion, Arsenale. British Architect, David Chipperfield directed this, the 13th annual Biennale under the theme of “Common Ground.” He chose this theme in order “to encourage my colleagues to react against the prevalent professional and cultural tendencies of our time that place such emphasis on individual and isolated actions. I encouraged them instead to demonstrate the importance of influence and of the continuity of cultural endeavour, to illustrate common and shared ideas that form the basis of an architectural culture“. Let me translate that from Old English to Americano: Architects, if you want to stay relevant don’t just thinking about the big building project but consider the space around it and the community in which you are building in. The American pavilion entitled “Spontaneous Interventions” received a honorable mention, a first for the USA!
Better Block co-founder Jason Roberts Awarded as Champion of Change at the White House
Secretary of the US Department of Transportation Ray LaHood was on hand in DC at the Champions of Change ceremony which awarded leaders in communities who were making major changes that positively influenced the built environment. Other awardees sat on panels lead by the Secretaries of the FHA, and FAA.
Roberts’ work revitalizing a modern streetcar line in Dallas, and the Better Block projects were both highlighted as major initiatives that are helping re-shape the built environment. Click here to view the full White House blog post written by Jason on these efforts.
Better Block spotlighted in Dwell Magazine
In April of 2012, Dwell Magazine released its “The Now 99 List”, which featured 99 new design ideas, people, products, and plans that had have reshaped cities. The Better Block was given a nod alongside Vancouver’s Picnurbia, and Philadelphia’s The Porch projects showing how public spaces could be rapidly activated through lighter, quicker, and cheaper installations.
The US Department of Transportation looks to collaborate with Better Block Projects
After winning the White House Champions of Change Award, Better Block founders Jason Roberts and Andrew Howard were asked to meet with officials at the US Department of Transportation to begin collaborating on tracking metrics and gaining greater insight from community led block projects that could be instituted at a national level. Currently, Team Better Block in Dallas is working with application developers and open source gurus around the nation to develop a series of tools that communities could use to help implement projects and interact more closely with public officials to make temporary changes permanent.
The Better Block TEDx
The city of Austin, and Oklahoma University both hosted TEDx events that featured the Better Block originator, Jason Roberts talking about the history of the project and the path that led to the effort’s development. From restoring historic theatres, returning bygone streetcars, to creating a bicycle movement in a community with no bike infrastructure, the series of steps that created the foundation for the first Better Block are summed up in Jason’s high-speed, but passionate presentation.
Oklahoma Unveils Better Block training for all Main Street Associations across state
In November, Oklahoma’s Chamber of Commerce sponsored an official training and Better Block build-out for all of the directors of the state’s Main Street Alliance programs.
The Directors met in Tulsa, and began work revitalizing the Kendall-Whittier district which housed a historic theater, and multiple streetcar era structures. Teams set to work in 3 days and received certifications for their efforts in helping transform an area that has great potential for redevelopment. Click here to read more about the project.
The Alamo gets Better Blocked!
Team Better Block in Dallas worked closely with the Project for Public Spaces in New York City and the City of San Antonio to help implement an Alamo Better Block project that would highlight the potential plaza improvements that could be made to the historic site to help make the space a more desirable place for residents and visitors alike to linger and enjoy.
Jason Roberts nominated for Texan of the Year by the Dallas Morning News
The year wrapped up with a surprise nomination by the Dallas Morning News for Better Block originator, Jason Roberts as Texan of the Year. Check out the full article here.
2013 looks to be an even bigger year with international projects occurring in Australia, Canada, and France!