A Tool for Community

Garrett Leaver


This project is about intergenerational learning and Black youth. The traditional education system in America is broken, especially for students of color. Learning comes from everywhere, it comes from community and flows between generations. Noni Causey, director of The Black Educational Acheivment Movment (BEAM), is rewriting education with BSTRONG Learning Hub: her home in Albina. Students of Noni’s we listened to, spoke about teachers that didn’t look like them, didn’t understand them. They spoke about wanting to learn from professionals in their community, learning real-life skills, how to take care of their lives and their families. We have imagined tools and an architectural tectonic to build momentum, to change education.


When the first students of Tuskegee university built their own lecture halls and labs, they learned how to build and develop out of necessity. That wisdom is still valuable. Students of BSTRONG can learn those skills and connect with that history by designing, prototyping, and building with a kit of architectural tools. With the help of the community, architects, builders, and funding programs, accessable open source tools change the way architecture and learning can happen.

Detailed improvements to the site and street start to open up more conversations from the heart. A practice Noni is already building: bringing awareness to the history of Albina and other chocolate cities. Providing a safe, resilient forum for these conversations is first. A large covered forum and changes to the street front bring people in and maintain visibility. Next is introducing a sustainable, open architecture. Where the infomality, lightness, and tradition of the front porch is elevated. Inviting gathering, eating, and play around the corner. Students want to meet professionals and learn directly from the source. So flexible and accessable makerspace space is available. This is also an opportunity for home improvement for other residents in exchange for them teaching their own classes and community. An accessory education unit (AEU) as Josh Shelton put it. These could be spread throughout the city, where community members can teach roaming classes or their own neighbors and host educational events. This architectural system paired with participitory design and making allow for scalable change, that grows with the Black community in Albina.

With these tools, the wisdom of community elders, the expertise of professionals, the imagination of children, and funding, we can build local spaces for education to happen. To permanently change how we all learn. To reconnect with one another. This is a vision of a better, more just future, it is also a conversation, so let us listen to Noni, and her inspiring students. What do you think the future of education can be?