After months of working with our local community partners, we launched the Lucid Project: Albany in September. This project aims to inspire transformational change in Albany’s West Hill neighborhood through the community-led redesign of a city-owned public alley. This vacant alley sits within a residential block in West Hill, adjacent to Albany Victory Gardens, a community garden and weekend farmers market operated by the local nonprofit Eden’s Rose Foundation.
On Friday, September 24, Van Alen and our partners — the City of Albany, Albany Victory Gardens, and 518 SNUG — got together at Albany Victory Gardens in West Hill to meet design team The Urban Conga. During this informal kickoff session, Greg Sheldon, project lead of the Albany Victory Gardens and Executive Director of the Eden’s Rose Foundation, led a tour of the gardens and members of the gardeners committee shared their vision for the site and the neighborhood.
The next morning, Saturday, September 25, the design team led a series of conversations and activities with the Albany Victory Gardens community that helped surface ideas, questions, aspirations, and stories that inspired all participants to re-imagine the space. Participants had a chance to play games, take pictures of their community and share their meaningful connections to the site and the neighborhood.
On October 17 and 24, The Urban Conga set up a booth at the West Hill Farmers Market to continue inviting feedback and ideas from local residents. Participants were invited to respond and vote on a set of evocative words, images, and textures for the design of the alleyway installation, ranging from “explorative” and “musical” to “reflective” and “delicate.”
The Urban Conga also brought along their Kit of Imagination, a multi-piece set of fluted polypropylene pieces that invited residents to explore, build, and play. Kids assembled three-dimensional benches and bird-like structures, and eventually repurposed the kit for a game of limbo and sword-fighting. Residents strolling through the market could pick up locally harvested produce, homemade hot sauces and pot pies, and freshly fried yucca-based empanadas.
On Wednesday, October 27, Van Alen and the Urban Conga joined 518 SNUG’s Halloween Party at Albany’s Arbor Hill Community Center. All afternoon, neighbors and families stopped by for food, music, games, and trick-or-treating. A few young aspiring engineers got incredibly creative with the Kit of Imagination, and many residents weighed in on the kind of installation they’d like to see in the alley — and suggested many new ideas, like a performance space and backdrop for creating TikTok videos.
Currently, the Urban Conga is working on a design proposal incorporating the ideas, feedback, and suggestions we heard at these events. Later this month, they’ll present their concepts to our project partners and West Hill residents in an interactive community workshop. Stay tuned for a peek at the designs!