I was approached to help design and fabricate a bike stand as part of a community outreach effort by a group of Harvard Students working in the Massachusetts township of Lowell. The goal was to activate the underutilized space around the Cambodian Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) building—starting with the stand.
We chose a simple design with basic materials due to budget, equipment, and time constraints. The structure consisted of 1.5" steel pipe, connected with 90-degree elbows and welded together. A flange with holes for mounting were then capped the end of each structure.
The final piece was primed, painted and then anchored into place in front of the main entrance, where it can now be used by visitors, volunteers and members of the organization, and the greater community.
The most interesting part of this project was not the final output, but rather the process itself. I was approached for my knowledge in metalworking, and in the course of designing and creating this bike stand, I was also able to teach several members of the Harvard community how to design for, along with the methods and tools used in fabrication.
Something I heard over and over again went something along the lines of "I wouldn't know where to begin, but having these steps and skills broken down and explained felt empowering. Now it seems much more doable and I could see myself making more things like this in the future."
This got me thinking about what it would take to truly engage a community not only through making things for them, but ultimately giving them the tools, knowledge, and confidence so that they can go out and co-create their own world for themselves and with each other. Worthwhile avenues to pursue in the future include:
Malika Leiper, Lanie Cohen, Stefano Trevistan, and the members of the Lowell Cambodian Mutual Aid Association