A conversation between WIP and The Canvas
If one of you could briefly share a bit about WIP.
I'm one of the founding members of WIP collaborative, and the founder of WIP more broadly. WIP stands for Work In Progress and Women In Practice, so it has a dual meaning. And it formed as a kind of community, a larger network of women working in design disciplines. This is a professional support group, specifically for women, that is a place to share resources, experiences, knowledge, and opportunities to work together. WIP attracts people who are leading small, independent practices, or working for a large firm. A group of seven assembled in response to a collaborative opportunity.
WIP seems to have a good infusion of the positive experience of community found in a design organization and the working model of an architecture firm.
Yes, it's also a critique of those as well. A big part of this is that we are resisting both some of the conventional norms of professional networks and working in siloed offices. This is a shared practice; our framework is non hierarchical, while being somewhat flexible. Depending on what we're working on, people move in and out.
WIP seems to use a democratic process but, how does that actually work when there might be a conflict of design sensibilities, if that is true with your team?
The design process is inherently collaborative. In conventional design practice, there's the one person who makes the final call. Rather than concentrating decision-making power in one or few individuals, we trust our practices of exchanging, sketching, and giving feedback together to guide a project’s development and outcome. As a collaborative, we each bring our ideas to the table, and then collectively discuss, make notes and vote. We continue to make adjustments and iterate, moving the process towards clarity through discussion rather than a singular voice.
What is also very important to the core of WIP — and to a lot of us — is working in different disciplines. Other than architecture, between the seven of us we have experience in community engagement and design fields including landscape architecture and fashion, which allude to multiple scales. I think that is reflected in the types of projects that we're interested in pursuing, ones that weave different types of disciplines or bring people from various industries together. When we're at the table, we understand and appreciate that everyone has a unique perspective.
I’d like to add that WIP is going to be always evolving too, because we practice independently. We are always bringing new learnings from our practices, while still wanting to co-create between ourselves and our clients and communities that we work with. And I think that's always reflected in the aesthetics in one way or another. We want to bring that aspect into the work, that it is not only the seven of us making the decisions, it’s the community we’re working with, too.
What's next with WIP?
One of the things we're working on next is a project for the Design Trust for Public Space. We're partnering with Verona Carpenter Architects to develop our shared proposal called the Neurodiverse City. The starting point for the project is very related to the motivations and design interests we engaged for Restorative Ground, but with the opportunity for activation on a much bigger scale.
The project is about instigating systemic change for public spaces in New York to create environments that support neurodiversity — to support people who have sensory sensitivities from developmental disabilities or from mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, or trauma. The project will be a collaboration with self-advocates and will have a whole research and analysis phase where we study existing public spaces. Then we’ll do workshops to brainstorm design interventions in specific types of public spaces. The last phase is to examine how to impact the guidelines for the design and production of public spaces, whether it's with parks, or different organizations that manage and regulate public space.
Is there a brand or organization that WIP would want to collaborate with on a future project, and who would it be?
Great question. We’d like to work at a larger scale, with multi-disciplinary development and larger architectural firms that hire us as human scale design consultants. In these kinds of projects, we contribute our expertise in consideration for the public realm, foregrounding care, access, and embodiment,which is typically unconsidered in larger scale architectural projects..
We’d also be excited by the opportunity to work in other cities, to apply the research and design thinking that we've been exploring here in New York, which has been specifically informed and shaped by the urban context of this city, in order to consider how these ideas would adapt to a totally different set of inputs in terms of context, community, built environment, climate, etcetera.
The business improvement districts, the BIDS, are another potential partner we’d like to work with because they are the gatekeepers to initiatives for public realm projects that take into account the voices of the communities they represent.