Sunday, June 6, 2010

2010 Village Building Convergence (VBC) - Portland, Oregon

2010 Village Building Convergence
The annual Village Building Convergence is a meeting of like minded individuals who want to claim the city to its citizens. This year the Convergence was held May 28th to June 6th . It was the 10th anniversary of the event, and there were things going on all over the city: talks, intersection projects, cob structures like community kiosks, benches and garden walls. People in neighborhoods across the city got organized and chose a project to beautify their neighborhoods. I participated mainly of the Gladstone Street Revival: the installation of hand made stone mosaics (“gladstones”) in the planter strips along a stretch of SE Gladstone and visited many more, like the chicken palace, and the Trillion School Project where the “mud girls” from British Columbia helped school children build garden walls and benches on their school grounds.

The Gladstone project was about building community with neighbors. In fact, VBC is more about creating community than projects. A strong community can co-create a city structure and relationship that respond to their needs and not that of their city officials. I was very inspired by this initiative, still small, but impressive in developing community spirit.

Four months in the planning, over 25 neighborhood projects were mostly completed during the 10-day Convergence. A lot of the projects involved natural building, like cob and straw bale, mainly benches and walls in public spaces and schools.

The Village Building Convergence is part of other initiatives such as City Repair, engaging neighbors in a collective process to design and install food forest and other permaculturally-informed landscapes in the commons. Permaculture is the conscious design of sustainable human settlements and our working relationship with nature. It is the harmonious integration of design with ecology. It is also about being local, keeping resources cycling within the system, be it backyard, neighborhood, or bio-region; and creating beneficial connections between each part.

Depave is another initiative within VBC's context. It's goal is to promote the removal of unnecessary concrete and asphalt from our urban areas, reducing storm water runoff pollution of our rivers, and increase the amount of land available for habitat restoration, urban farming, trees, native vegetation, and beauty in urban areas.

I feel my world has expanded by leaps and bounds during the last two months after Cob Cottage Company and Village Building Convergence. The immersion of natural building concepts and how it can be applied to community stirred up a viral type enthusiasm in me and hopes for better relationships in our communities and our planet. I hope to keep the momentum and the fire stoked while I figure out where is my place and contribution in this process.

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