Placemaking Re_imagined is a pop-up mobile exhibit created by a team of NYU’s Design for America chapter, a student club that uses human-centered design to address social issues impacting local communities. This project began in September of 2017 and focuses on issues faced by women experiencing homelessness. It originally centered around periods of menstruation but based on our research and feedback, the project evolved to its current form: stories of two women, Rachel and Tabby, whom we have been visiting regularly since March of 2018. Co-created with Rachel and Tabby, our project aims to share their perspectives while inviting visitors to become aware of their specific individualities; to understand their feelings, hear their stories, and learn about their lived experiences.
We approached this project through a human-centered design perspective. We began by researching and understanding the context, life, and needs of women experiencing homelessness. Rather than designing for, we aimed to design with them - prototyping our ideas and iterating based on Tabby and Rachel’s feedback. This lead to several project evolutions over the last two years: from exploring ways to help women experiencing homelessness with the issues they face during their menstruations, to brainstorming ideas for creating private spaces, and to eventually working towards raising awareness and changing perceptions’ around homelessness in New York City.
One of the themes that’s been coming out over and over again was a dire need for being “visible”: “Thousands of people pass by me every day, but most of them don’t even notice me”. This was the inspiration for Placemaking Reimagined as it exists today.