Can space, terrain and design facilitate the reduction of intergroup tensions and foster cross-community building? The Farm: Gaming Strategies for Empowering Marginalized Youth investigates this question. Launched as a design and research project, The Farm took off as a series of design workshops organized collaboratively with Project Reach, a New York City-based anti-dscrimination training center, with the aim of redesigning Project Reach’s historic Catskill farm into a sustainable retreat facility. Through open conversation and inclusive spatial games, the workshop’s young participants became partners in drawing out the logics of the site, the landscape and the buildings of this former cauliflower farm to envision alternative scenarios for the farm’s future.
The Farm sits on nearly 80 acres of rural land where a handful of greater and lesser used buildings did not escape our games: an 1800’s era barn re-designed for social justice workshops, a milk house reformulated as a bath house, a tumble-down chicken coop propped up and slid open to make a stargazing and hangout space, and a condemned guesthouse demolished all but for the foundation which we’ve revived as a port-a-potty corral.
Individual buildings are accepted as-is, with the exception of the dilapidated guest house, but given a new life through playful alterations and armatures that slide, draw or roll to expand the possibilities of their use and feed back into the teaching and learning that the Client emphasizes in its work with at risk youth. Strategies for approaching acres of prairie grass are low-impact and require only an occasional, uncanny pass with a tractor. All of the proposals emerge from the act and notion of game play—the young people who shared their thoughts and exceptional energy with us have clued us in to their worlds and helped us reshape the Farm… Game on!