The Great Infill Challenge

What would you do with an empty urban lot?

The test case: What would you do with this empty lot?

Vacant lots plague many of our cities and the current economic realities threaten to increase this urban challenge. But what if vacancy was recast as an opportunity instead of a problem? This is the premise behind the Baltimore Infill Survey.

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The flickr-based site, which went live in January, invites you to imagine possible solutions for the site pictured above. “Sections of Baltimore City (ie vacant lots and buildings) represent a huge and flexible resource for new and innovative reanimation,” the site explains. The Infill Survey is “set up as a forum to discuss how this resource may be used.” You can download the image, insert your design solution, then upload the new version.

So what have people been coming up with so far? One running theme in this infill conversation is about empowering neighborhoods to revitalize themselves.

The Trade Up concept by Alexey Ikonomou envisions a community training center that would help residents renovate their own homes, provide shared energy infrastructure for the block, and teach people trade skills for green jobs. (I worked on a project this fall with a group of designers imagining a very similar thing. We called ours The Plant).

Another pictured a design service station for infill ideas and adivce:

Eric Leshinsky’s design-a-lot

Or a spot for urban farming:

Design by Adam Gross

Or a source for gathering energy:

Concept by Steve Ziger

What about giving the lot over to the invasive foliage of the city, a kind of low maintenance biowall? (Reminds me of William Christenberry photos)

Kudzo by Fred Scharmen

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