After further investigations and considerations of different sites, I have come to change the focus of my thesis project to the Lloyd District. Initially, I was drawn to Lents (Foster Green) for its current diverse population and because I felt the district needed substantial revitalization efforts. The metaphor I used to describe my observation of the people in Lents was, “The Invisible Man.” It was an observation that has affected me on multiple levels since I could relate to many of the conditions in Lents. People were subjected to sub-standard conditions and so it triggered an emotional model depicting an invisible person whose contributions to society are often overlooked. Although to some it may seem that an emotional model or artifact like this is of no use in the design process, it serves to constantly remind me of the individuals in the shadows who I am also designing for. As a result, I came to a realization after I completed the conceptual model. I came to realize that although an effort in revitalizing Lents is a good move in the short-term, it would be a detriment in the long run. The reason being is that I felt that improving the living conditions in an almost clandestine location for the diverse group of people would distance them further from the core of the city. The immigrant force’s few connections to the central core is through MAX lines, roads, and freeways. This distance, I feel, substantially changes how connected people feel to a city. What if this diverse group of people in Lents were given the option to live and work closer to the central core? Could that change their perception of feeling more connected to the city? Could they be given the option to live in a healthy living environment and be closely integrated into the urban fabric instead of giving them a perfected isolation? These are the questions I have pondered on and I am challenging myself to try to bring more diversity closer to the core of Portland-via the Lloyd District.
The Lloyd District has many strengths that range from being very close to the downtown, has a waterfront with much potential to connect people to the natural environment, has an established infrastructure with the capacity to take on added developments, has a strong visual connection to the city, and an existing set of buildings with the potential to be knit closer into an ecodistrict that fosters diversity on many levels.
My approach in attacking the problem will require initial in-depth analysis of the existing conditions. This will help me in understanding the district to the point of being able to distill what’s important, what needs change, what works, and what doesn’t so that my efforts are focused.
At this time, I am starting to think of a program that could be of high value for the Lloyd District. An education center or multicultural center would be an exciting program for the site. It could be situated at the waterfront so that people of diverse backgrounds all feel connected to both the downtown and the Willamette River. The multicultural center could host a wide range of activities and people. It could incorporate an auditorium for cultural performances with restaurants alongside featuring ethnic foods, a carefully designed park that works its way into the Willamette, and functions that could help draw people to the area. Although my ideas are still developing, I am excited to have found a site that has the potential to make drastic changes in social, economic, and environmental conditions here in Portland.