Where to eat? How about in a shipping container?

Architects present novel approaches to revitalizing downtown
May. 10, 2013 @ 05:28 PM

 Andres Duany doesn’t plan to fix High Point’s problems in one fell swoop.
He’s proposing small-but-unconvential steps, like creating structures using overseas shipping containers.
Duany is a leader with Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., the architectural firm contracted by the city to propose a plan for the revitalization of High Point.
“What we’re doing here is not an end in itself,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to get there, but that’s not the end.”
At least 50 community members gathered at The Wright Place building at 121 Wren St. Friday for a charrette concerning tactical urbanism. The charrette was one of several Ignite High Point forums designed to facilitate community discussion about what High Point needs to prepare for the future.
The term “tactical urbanism” describes how residents can take initiative to make short-term use of unused space, like private parking lots.
The catch is that they don’t pay much mind to government ordinances, such as handicap-accessibility and bathroom codes. One attendee pointed out that the concept could be considered a form of civil disobedience.
The example of tactical urbanism that Duany most strongly advocated was building functional structures out of shipping containers. Such structures have been used for bike storage units and cafes with outdoor seating.
“Those containers sit there, just waiting to be used,” Duany explained of his choice of building material.
One architect who presented examples of building with shipping containers was Courtney Brett of Alabama, who last year joined the American Institute of Architects as its youngest member.
“We sort of came in and created our own rules,” Brett said of architects who employ tactical urbanism.
She also explained that the structures she creates are stable and safe.
“Everyone participating in tactical urbanism of this scale, we’re all professionals,” she said.
Several crowd members responded with wows to before-and-after pictures of an area of Miami that employed tactical urbanism. An entrepreneur bought and restored several blocks of the Wynwood neighborhood, setting down artificial turf in parking lots and commissioning professional artists to beautify grafitti.
This kind of revitalization serves to attract young artists, Duany explained, something that the furniture industry needs.
Johnny Collins, a local artist and lifelong resident of Kernersville, agreed.
“I could have done it in L.A. or New York,” he said of his art.
He was impressed by the examples and said he would be willing to contribute if similar structures were brought to High Point.
“It’s a good way for me to pass something down to my generation, that I can tell my kids, I was a part of that.”
Some community members, however, expressed concern about whether short-term structures were worth the saved money and how the city would react to potential ordinance violations.
“If it doesn’t kill you, do it,” Duany said, explaining that other city officials have changed their ordinances where tactical urbanism had a positive community response. “Instead of proving that it’s illegal, this government has to prove that it’s going to harm you.”
Neither Duany nor the other architects leading the discussion could estimate the cost of building such structures in High Point. Duany said he would have a more concrete idea later on in the Ignite High Point series.
The public is invited to attend three remaining Ignite High Point events.
Ideas from the week will be summarized in an open house presentation 2-4:30 p.m. today. These ideas will further be developed in “Let’s Talk More: An Open Discussion” 5-7 p.m Sunday. Both events will be in The Wright Place building.
The closing presentation will be 5-7 p.m. Wednesday in the Hayworth Fine Arts Center at High Point University.