Over the past few weeks, Parke MacDowell has been working with Beyond Walls to address the need for public handwashing stations for at-risk populations. Beyond Walls is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities through a creative lens, using art and engagement to activate public spaces.
In this time of social distancing, which looks to be with us in one form or another in the years to come, our communities have been thrust into redefining how we come together, safely. The realm of public space is very different now and the sense of community in Lynn, and other cities, is being tested. Cities cannot survive within the confines of buildings, houses and apartments. Communities are built and nurtured on city sidewalks, in parks and streets, and these cities need public spaces for residents to breathe fresh air and experience some form of connection. The act of handwashing is being looked at in a whole new way. How can something as simple as handwashing contribute to the art of making and strengthening communities?
Effective handwashing is essential to prevent the spread of infectious disease. The need for public handwashing is important not only for vulnerable, at-risk populations and the homeless, but for all – those who work, dine and play outdoors. At first, turning toward fabrication for handwashing stations for Lynn was necessary because purchasing off-the-shelf portable sinks was not an option due to high demand. But as the prototype developed, questions arose about the more significant function and potential a handwashing sink might play in public spaces.
Beyond Walls, with Payette, began looking at handwashing as a public amenity – a new necessity in the realm of public spaces. As such, what can this formerly private routine, with the utilitarian object it utilizes and place it occurs, contribute to elevating civic experience through its aesthetic form and use?
After creating and testing several prototypes, the ensuing part of the process of designing and fabrication had to consider durability, cost, distribution and assembly.
The current iteration of the design is not only aesthetically pleasing, but is also:
By providing numerous, outdoor places for handwashing, these units can facilitate the challenge of gathering outdoors safely and allow people to return the public realm – in turn strengthening communities and supporting local businesses.
We are honored to be working with Beyond Walls and the City of Lynn. At Payette we believe we have an obligation to the communities where we live and work – to take action to engage, listen to, learn from and champion community building. We believe that design has the power to uplift communities, include the disenfranchised and promote equality. We are committed to working towards a more diverse and inclusive society.