The strip [re]improvised
Professor: Patty Heyda
Following the 2014 murder of Michael Brown, the event ubiquitously known as “Ferguson” brought international attention to the suburban city in North St. Louis County. However, Dellwood, the city of 5,000 residents bordering Ferguson to the east, experienced much of the incident and unfortunate destruction; in a way, “Ferguson” happened in Dellwood. Due to the absence of a public, un-fragmented, and socially-active space, democracy in the form of protests, conversations, demonstrations, riots, and militarized police response found its way to the only place where the people could have their voices heard: the streets.
The auto-centric suburban fabric of Dellwood was developed during the post-war era for a demographic that had the disposable income for cars and retail shopping, without consideration for a future population that may be drastically different. As the economy of the area declined in the 90’s, the suburban fabric made up of wide roads and expansive parking lots began to decay, inadvertently creating a condition which facilitated the “Ferguson” protests: the improvised strip. This unorganized, vague strip of land which accommodates sidewalk, parking, shoulder, power lines, bus stops, drainage infrastructure, and more was never designed, but nonetheless exists both as an integral part of the suburban fabric and the spatial condition of democratic action.
The project site is the important area surrounding the Dellwood Recreation Center, Dellwood City Park, and the abandoned Springwood Plaza. The Recreation Center not only served as a safe-haven during the Ferguson riots, but remains at the heart of Dellwood’s social world, with frequent summer programs, after-school programs, and other community activities. Adjacent is the large abandoned parking lot and strip center named Springwood Plaza, which once housed Dellwood’s Schnuck’s. Across W. Florissant from Springwood Plaza is Dellwood City Park. The goal is to reclaim this area for the people of Dellwood by amplifying the existing improvised strip condition into the site. By capitalizing on its features and designing with intentionality, the Re-Improsived Strip will give Dellwood its first public, un-fragmented, and socially-active space.