Jenn Low

MDes in Integrative Design

Dear Chinatown: Exploring New Ways of Public Engagement

The Dear Chinatown project explores the role of the physical city as a place for learning.

Today, past and present residents in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown experience increased alienation from their own neighborhood and its role as a place of cultural heritage, belonging, and identity are at risk of being erased. As neighborhoods across Washington, D.C. are being shaped in the visions of capital growth and privatized interests but not by the people with historical and social connections to these places, public engagement models (e.g. community meetings, town halls) that are used to collect public input and build consensus become increasingly more critical to redesign.

Dear Chinatown is a multimodal making and sharing station for Chinatown’s past and present to declare what they love about the neighborhood and why through the production of poster-sized love letters. Through words, sketches, calligraphy, poetry, or sharing a story, the project will capture the hearts and minds of the community and what they treasure most about Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. The act of generating this type of activity in public places evaluates how we can facilitate inclusive forms of public engagement that make the first step toward new ideas and initiatives for place-keeping.

Dear Chinatown at the Lunar New Year Parade on January 26, 2020 in Washington, D.C.