This week on the BPA blog, we wanted to highlight the importance of design collaboration and its role in the development of community within our own city. Pratt City is a community located west of downtown Birmingham and was one of several areas within central Alabama that was destroyed by the April 2011 tornado outbreak. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has released a short film about the rebuilding efforts taking place in Pratt City.

The rebuilding process for Pratt City is an ongoing collaborative effort involving local government officials, design professionals, and, most importantly, members of the Pratt City community. The Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) was asked by local officials to help develop a strategy to rebuild Pratt City.

Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) is a national program designed to help urban communities respond to social and economic challenges and develop a vision and strategy for the future.

A group of architects, landscape architects, and urban planners worked with residents of Pratt City to establish a framework for rebuilding efforts to take place. The group did not seek to simply repair the storm damage done to physical structure. The goal was to begin a process of rebuilding a community by leveraging Pratt City's assets in such a way to maximize its potential for self-sustaining growth. As Chuck Faush, Chief of Staff to City of Birmingham Mayor William Bell, has stated:

"[Pratt City is] challenged to either reclaim an old glory or establish a new tradition. The residents themselves are taking on the challenge to recruit people to come and live."

Faush presents an interesting perspective—as designers of the built environment, we have a responsibility to the communities in which we design. At its core, our job as designers is to provide a service to our client—to design something that is to be built. However, within our work, the needs of the client, end-user, and a community should supersede our creative ambition. As design professionals we should use our talent and skill to develop creative solutions that not only fulfill the needs of a community but also enrich that community. In many instances, the most effective way to achieve that is through collaboration with other designers and the people for whom we are designing.

Pratt City Branch of the Birmingham Public Library. The design was done by local architecture firm Herrington Architects. Photo credit: Charlie Abram, Graduate Architect @ BPA

Pratt City Branch of the Birmingham Public Library. The design was done by local architecture firm Herrington Architects.

Photo credit: Charlie Abram, Graduate Architect @ BPA

Pratt City Fire Department. Birmingham Fire Station No. 18. The design was done by local architecture firm Dorsey Architects and Associates Photo credit: Charlie Abram, Graduate Architect @ BPA

Pratt City Fire Department. Birmingham Fire Station No. 18. The design was done by local architecture firm Dorsey Architects and Associates

Photo credit: Charlie Abram, Graduate Architect @ BPA

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