I know James Rojas pretty well. I first met him over six years ago, when I first moved to Los Angeles in his old office at Metro’s headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles. Since then, we’ve gotten together a couple of times to talk about planning and how an outreach model that brings people together and encourages outside the box thinking would create better outcomes than traditional outreach.
I’ve participated in his modeling projects four times and sponsored an event with KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum in 2011. I even once led a mini-session myself after leaving one his models up at my Church after it hosted a Streetsblog fundraiser. After Sunday School, a couple of kids asked what the table set up with all the toys was, and off we went. It was fascinating to see children’s minds work, and how they thought about the space around them different than adults.
Ironically I’ll be missing this weekend’s event in Clover Park because I’ll be dropping someone off at the airport.
No, the other airport.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that participants won’t be in for a treat. The press release announcing Rojas’ involvement mentioned he’s completed these visioning programs across the country. That’s actually underselling his influence. Rojas represented the United States at a United Nations Conference on Urban Form in 2010. He’s also completed modeling programs closer to home, such as 2009’s “Pushing Planning Boundaries” completed right here in Santa Monica.
The process is simple. After a short introduction, participants are given small 12×12 inch “plates” to build their ideal project, in this case a park. Every time I’ve taken part in the program, there was a giant pile of every day household items, blocks and other toys to choose from to make your design. After a short period of time, participants then present their designs. Someone’s always seems to fall apart. Don’t worry if it’s you. You’re not the first person that’s happened to.
Then the real fun begins, participants are then grouped into teams and tasked with combining their ideas into a larger project, in this case a park. This forces people to really think outside the box and compromise to come up with a complete vision.
As you might have guessed from the first paragraph, this project has always been especially interesting when there’s a good mix of ages. That’s why my favorite workshop was the one he completed with Esteban Torres High School’s Renaissance Academy that created the iconic Butterscotch Line.
Will a similarly brilliant idea come out of Sunday’s workshop? You’ll have to tell me.
What: A potluck picnic in Clover Park, bring your own food, drinks and utensils. Picnickers will participate in a creative community engagement project facilitated by well-known urban planner James Rojas, who will conduct one of his signature model building workshops in which participants use interactive models and colorful and tactile objects – such as wood blocks, tiles, plastic game pieces and jewelry – to translate conceptual planning ideas into physical forms and free their imaginations
When: Sunday, October 27, 2013 from 12:45 – 3:30 pm
Where: Clover Park, 2600 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, adjacent to the airport
Cost: Admission to this event is free and open to the public.
Full Disclosure: Rojas is a past board member for the Southern California Streets Initiative, the non-profit that publishes Streetsblog Los Angeles and Santa Monica Next.