FD17: Better Block’s First Design Competition


About two months ago, Jason Roberts, our co-founder, and Gray Garmon, one of our favorite collaborators, went to lunch. They started talking about what would happen if the Better Block held a design competition. What if we gave people a tight budget ($250 with the ability to fundraise another $750), tight parameters (create a pavilion that has shade, seats, and lights and falls under the Wikiblock ethos), and an even tighter deadline (30 days)?

The answer: FD17.

FD17 was Better Block’s first design competition. Conceived and implemented in six weeks, it was the typical fast-pace approach to answering a big question: how do we activate an empty field with beautiful structures?

In the end, four teams survived—The Outsiders, comprised of Kent Mendenhall, Jessica Clemments, Matt Nicolette, and Christie Allen from Studio Outside; Team Wu-Tang Forever, comprised of Peter Binder, Gabriela Blake, Abigail Mayfield, and Aaron Beavers; BBDE, comprised of Michael Arreaga, Rick Fontenot, Erik Glassmann, and Jonathan Rudak; The Roommates, comprised of Jared White, J. Norris, Ruby Hunt, and James Warton.

Each team created a unique design that incorporated wood and other materials. All teams incorporated use of a CNC router (a computer-aided cutting machine). One design took 45 minutes to set up; others took a bit longer. Each had a unique approach to seating. And they all transformed from day to night.

The designs were displayed in the middle of an empty lot across from our headquarters. We turned FD17 into a proper Field Day with corn hole, checkers, and tic-tac-toe. And we added a new element—a golden, floating pillow. Designed by Gray Garmon and Rickey Crum of SMU’s MADI program, the pillow was made of gold mylar and had about $115 of helium in it.

Of course, FD17 wasn’t just all fun and games; it was also a competition. Our esteemed judges—Amy and Mark Leveno from Official and Heath May from HKSLine—were impressed with the designs. In their judging, they took into account the design, amount of time it took to assemble/disassemble, and watched how people interacted with each design.

The winner for both Best of Show and People’s Choice, was the same—The Outsiders.

We’ll be honest: we weren’t sure what to expect with FD17. And we were blown away by the results. Beautiful design is capable of transcending empty lots and bringing together friends. And, if nothing else, we found a new party must-have: a gold, floating pillow.

Huge thanks to our strike team who helped pull all this off: Gray Garmon, Rickey Crum, Michael Friebele, Robbie Good, Emily Henry, and Sadia Quddus.

We’re already looking forward to FD18.