Project Site: New Haven, United States / 2020
Core III Studio / Critic: Bika Rebek
Meandering Me is a civic art program designed for New Haven teenagers affected by a lack of education resources and thus at risk of housing insecurities, domestic violence, pregnancy and juvenile deliquency.
Researches have shown that identity development during adolescence always happens in a meandering manner where one is constantly exposed to different types of stimulus for development. Embracing the meandering pattern, this project offers a program that does not subject teenagers to any defined path, and instead offers them the resources and stimulus for them to meander through and find their own path.
As for “teenagers at risk”, on top of the general analysis of social issues, it’s also important to recognize the voice of individual teenagers themselves. Through my online conversations with 71 teenagers from local middle and high schools, and 112 teenagers on Reddit #teenagers, we discussed teenage struggles with safe space, independence, and the comfort with expressing one’s true identity. As a result, this project provides spaces specially designed from their narratives and needs.
On the ground floor, the building is split into an art gallery and an event space by a public path connecting the street to the waterfront. At the center of the building, a three-story high central space connects to all three floors of the building. It functions as a central performance space, and when there is no performance, its steps become a social gathering space for teenagers using this building.
The second floor provides supportive programs including classrooms, kitchens, offices, balconies and control rooms for the performance space below.
On the third floor, 10 individual art studios surround the mezzanine that opens to the stage and the social space underneath.
Between the art studios are public spaces, walls are thickened to create space for special moments that are designed from quotes collected from teenagers I talked to during the research period:
The back facade of the building also manifests the message: any existence is accepted here, and we are celebrating youth.