What is Community Improvement Day?
Every year DMSAS is proud to support the Community Improvement Day initiative hosted by the District of Columbia Building Industry Association (DCBIA). Community Improvement Day is an opportunity for us to exercise our commitment to serving the community through thoughtful design. DCBIA organizes Community Improvement Day by first choosing a site in the DC area to re-envision and enhance. Then, they gather donations for funds and materials and bring in designers and general contractors to generate designs for the site. In the past, DMSAS employees have served as design committee chair for the project in addition to collaborating on the site plan. The design process comprises several collaborative design charrettes over the spring and summer months, culminating in a “build day” in late September when the designs are implemented onsite by hundreds of volunteers.
DMSAS and Community Improvement Day
Our firm’s involvement in Community Improvement Day started eight years ago when a few DMSAS employees donated their time to the annual build day. Since 2014, we have been involved with the Community Improvement Day design committees and in 2017, DMSAS designer Mario Dominguez served as the Design Committee Chair for the renovation and revitalization of the Benning Terrace Recreation Center. Throughout the six-month design process, Mario led the 25th Community Improvement Day project by coordinating the efforts of all design committee volunteers from dozens of firms across the DC area.
26th Annual Community Improvement Day
This year, for the 26th Community Improvement Day, DCBIA has tasked its volunteers with re-envisioning Keene Field, an open field near DC Bilingual Public Charter School and Briya and Bridges Schools. Each volunteer design team was assigned a designated zone within the field in which they created viable solutions to unique design challenges. Mario Dominguez has been leading the DMSAS design team which includes Zara Naser, Sarah Bannerman, Andrew Packey, Angelina Gonzalez and Pradipta Banerjee, who is overseeing most of our zone’s design work. We are collaborating with other DCBIA volunteers involved in this endeavor, including architecture firms HKS, SmithGroupJJR and HOK; landscape architecture firms Moody Graham and Bradley Site Design; and general contractor Gilbane Building Company.
Teams created their design according to site constraints and the context of the overall neighborhood. Designers looked at precedents to inspire creative solutions to the challenges presented by the site conditions and limited budget. The designs carefully balance finesse and feasibility because they are, as always, meant to be built by volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working within the time constraint of one day.
This year, our team was tasked with repurposing a zone on the perimeter of the field by adding a fence and decorations made from cost-effective materials. Since Keene Field will be used by the nearby schools, we wanted to create a boundary that defines the schools’ space as safe, private and distinct from the surrounding area. We looked at school mascots and kid-friendly decorations to customize the space for its users. DMSAS is working with Moody Graham Landscape Architecture to overcome challenges presented by an abundance of brush on the site as well as the site’s erosion properties.
Now that the designs have been finalized and the materials ordered, volunteers from the DC area will come together on build day, September 22, to make the design plans a reality. DCBIA members as well as local volunteers will arrive at the site early in the morning and work in shifts throughout the day. Volunteers will work on painting, construction, planting and other helpful tasks. The goal of build day is to transform what was an underutilized and undefined space into a thoughtfully-designed and inviting place.
DMSAS staffers are excited to be involved in the DCBIA Community Improvement Day year after year. The challenge of designing a space that is conscious of context, user needs and constructability is not unlike the design projects we undertake as a firm every day. Community Improvement Day goes beyond design; it offers volunteers the opportunity to work with their hands and donated materials and see a beautiful new space come together in one day. What volunteers accomplish in one day is incredible and this year our shared commitment to creating great community spaces will manifest in a newly renovated field for the schools to use.
Thank you to all the volunteers who are working towards making this year’s Community Improvement Day a success! For more information about DCBIA and Community Improvement Day, please visit their website.
Take a look at our involvement in last year's Community Improvement Day!