Mario Accordino (BLA 2015) has always been interested in vacant, abandoned lots and the impact they have on the psychology of a community. What others considered an eyesore, he viewed as having potential for improving the experience of the local residents. So when he had the chance to transform a lot in his hometown in Richmond, Virginia, Mario threw himself into all aspects of the project.
The site was a lot owned by the Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation, which will be developed into housing in 2014. Mario worked with this group and was allowed to create a small temporary landscape intervention on the site. He wanted to harness the value of the lot as a place of respite and enjoyment for the community.
There was no budget for the project and Mario was completely in charge. His goal was to create a space that would be a zero-cost, zero-maintenance site for the community. He got some friends to donate some of their time for labor and he used natural materials he found on the site to create the environment. Using sticks, gravel, mulch and tree stumps, he was able transform this empty lot into an appealing space. He created a stick pathway that pays homage to a precedent that dates back to the Civil War in Virginia known as a “Corduroy Road,” which is a type of road made by placing sand-covered logs perpendicular to the direction of the road over a low or swampy area.
During this process, Mario was able to apply some of the skills learned in his studio courses for the planning and development of the park. For him, seeing a drawing on the page transform into a physical construction was a rewarding experience. “Many of the site analysis and design techniques I learned at Northeastern were valuable in the pocket park’s creation. I also learned a good deal about logistics and construction processes too.”
The experience also allowed him to engage with residents who witnessed the transformation of this vacant lot. ”The community engagement I encountered was also a terrific learning experience, and I felt best about the project when receiving positive feedback from neighborhood residents.”
Along with his pocket park initiative, Mario created an organization with several friends called ArchitectureRichmond. The organization catalogs and promotes architecture of their hometown and via its blog offers a critical look at the ongoing development of Richmond and provides a platform for open discussion of broad design issues.