Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Community Design Center

For some time now, an idea has been percolating to start a community design center in the Richmond metropolitan region, an organizational entity intended to serve the community by connecting design resources with those who need them. For example, the City has a number of Old and Historic Districts that require a fairly rigorous approval process for changes to the exterior of the buildings. The Richmond Community Design Center could conceivably assist homeowners, contractors and neighbors in these Districts to gain a better understanding of the expectations of the Commission for Architectural Review and the process for gaining approval.

The RCDC is still in the infancy of a visioning process. However, having gained some attention from Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille, the Richmond City Council Representative from the 7th District, the effort may be gaining momentum.  The RDCD is currently envisioned as having three Mission Elements:

 To serve as a forum for the promotion of Good Design in the Richmond Metropolitan Region.

To foster connection between design resources (e.g. professionals, organizations, product information and reference materials) and the people who need them.

To provide an independent liaison between property owners (and other project stakeholders) and the regulatory environment that governs design decisions.

Obviously, there are a number of key concepts within these mission elements that demand definition to be meaningful in any consensual way, but it's a start.  It is also supposed that the RCDC has at least six "essentials" that have been part of the discussions to date. They are:

Concierge: a person or a process that is tasked with forming the connections between resources and needs.

Physical presence: the RCDC should be public, centrally located and visible. Ideally, the RCDC should be in a literal storefront.

Resource library: the physical location should house literature, samples, case studies and other information to support the center's mission.

Emphasis on sustainability: this should be implicit in Good Design, but we still live in an era where the distinction is important and, unfortunately, necessary.

Facilitation of professional consultations: one of the richest resources available are the design professionals that are willing to contribute to the center by meeting with those who need design assistance. These consultations would be provided at little or no cost to the center's user.

Education and outreach: the center should actively promote Good Design and provide educational opportunities about the "how's" and "why's" of making our physical environment a beautiful place.

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