Our Mission

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Who Are We?

Better Block Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that educates, equips, and empowers communities and their leaders to reshape and reactivate built environments to promote the growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods.

Better Block focuses on six major activities:

  • Develop open-source media to help cities, community groups, and emerging leaders create rapid prototyping in the service of creative placemaking and support of public life
  • Create opportunities for communities and their existing and emerging leaders to gain exposure to and training from urban planning experts, civic innovators and architects from around the world through global symposiums
  • Facilitate community engagement though input and information, employing charrettes, neighborhood meeting and workshops with residents, stakeholders and governments about the value of rapid prototyping to enhance public life
  • Host and organize study tours to benchmark successful examples of sustainable initiatives around the world
  • Create new and improve existing modeling tools though experimentation with innovative technologies and scientific solutions
  • Create mentorship programs for emerging leaders and young urbanists

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What Is Wikiblock?

Better Block’s Wikiblock library is an open-source toolkit of designs for benches, chairs, planters, stages, bus stops, beer garden fences, and kiosks that can be downloaded for free.

Wikiblock designs can be taken to a makerspace where a CNC router (a computer-aided machine) can cut them out of a sheet of plywood. Most products can then be assembled without glue or nails, and used instantly to make a block better.

Started in 2010 by Jason Roberts and neighbors, the Better Block transforms neighborhoods one block at a time.

“We’re trying to lower the barrier to entry on fabrication,” says Jason Roberts, founder of the Better Block. “We’re realizing the potential for the every man and every woman. Before, it required an architect, a carpenter, renderings, and contractors. At this point, you no longer need all that. You just need your local makerspace.”

Elements of the Wikiblock library were tested a few weeks ago at the Cuyahoga Falls Better Block in Ohio. Students in Brian Peters’ College of Architecture and Environmental Design class at Kent State University were partnered with local vendors to create kiosks for the two-day event—elevating the idea of a booth from a tent to a semi-permanent/moveable structure.
“It gave the students real-world experience,” Roberts says of the partnership. “And it allows entrepreneurs to take that next step without the level of cost associated with the brick-and-mortar business.”

The kiosks found new life after the event when several of the entrepreneurs helped disassemble them and take them to their semi-permanent home where they were reassembled.

The Wikiblock library launched with 30 products, but more will be added as the community grows and provides its input. Many of the pieces are being tested today in Saint Paul where a pop-up outdoor theater is being constructed by the community using Wikiblock elements, such as the stage, movie screen, and lighting.

Wikiblock is generously supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Thanks, also, to our other partners, including Kent State University, RSP Architects, Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, Friendly Streets Initiative, Frogtown Neighborhood Association, and the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative.
“Wikiblock offers a fun, fast, effective path to get people involved in shaping their community and create spaces where people can connect with their city and each other,” said Benjamin de la Peña, Knight Foundation director for community and national strategy.

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Kent State University Partnership

Wikiblock is launched with the help of students in Brian Peters’ College of Architecture and Environmental Design class at Kent State University. 

Tyler Lunevich is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and recently graduated from Kent State University with a Masters in Architecture. He is working at DPH Architecture, a small architecture firm in Canfield, Ohio. 

Kelsey Atchison is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a recent graduate of Kent State University’s Master of Architecture program. She is interested in humanitarian architecture and adaptive reuse projects. After graduation, she moved back to Pittsburgh to pursue a career at Hayes Design Group. 

Ethan Rothermel is from Canton, Ohio, and recently graduated from Kent State University with a Masters in Architecture. He’s interested in digital crafting and cultural buildings, and plans to work in an architecture firm in Chicago.

Danielle Jones is a recent graduate from Kent State University’s Master of Architecture program. Originally from Zelienople, Pennsylvania, she is currently relocating to Cleveland, Ohio, to work for the architectural firm K2M Design, Inc.

Benjamin Schanfish is from Ashtabula, Ohio, and recently graduated from Kent State University with a Masters in Architecture. He’s interested in sustainable design and historic preservation, and plans to work in an architecture firm in Pittsburgh.

Zachary Forney is from Fremont, Ohio, and recently graduated from Kent State University with a Masters in Architecture. He’s interested in community architecture and interaction, and is currently working at TC Architects in Akron.