Back in 1996, urban designer Mark Lakeman and his Portland neighbors took it upon themselves to "reclaim" an intersection in their neighborhood as a public space. Official response at first was negative, but Portland's mayor felt differently, recognizing the potential for grassroots creativity to create public space. Lakeman co-founded the volunteer organization the City Repair project, which has since then gone on to other initiatives, such as the Depave Portland project. In this interview, Yes! magazine asks about the inspiration and goals of City Repair.
"Brooke Jarvis: You called your organization City Repair-in what way are cities broken?
Mark Lakeman: For most of the history of humanity, we lived and worked in the same places, integrated, and everything we did would deepen our relationships to each other...But our cities and places are no longer ours. We're not building our own places; we're not designing them to fit our own needs. Our lives are zoned like we're a resource to be managed. We're housed here, and then this is where we work in order to pay for the housing we barely get to live in.
Brooke: It seems kind of telling that even when people recognize what's missing and have great ideas about ways to fix it, we still feel powerless enough that we reach out to groups like City Repair for help. Why do you think we need that catalyst?
Mark: I think it's a confidence issue...it's not surprising that some people need a little bit of help to confirm their suspicions that we're good, or that we can be. Just to feel good about being human needs a little confirmation."