Log 3  
Community Workshop

Part of our process, and our role as designers is to give the people who will be most impacted by the work a voice in the process. Today’s workshop, our first one in Immokalee, took place at the C.I.W. headquarters.

Through the exercise of art and collage we invited families and farmworkers to imagine better ways of living in Immokalee, not only within individual houses but together as a community. With a simple template, markers, and extensive magazine cutouts of people, furniture, objects, and nature, participants were encouraged to make an image of an ideal home. Providing an interactive activity created a level of comfort that broke down conversational barriers. Despite initial apprehension there was soon a buzzing of conversation in the room, a shuffling of cutouts, as participants shared anecdotes of pets, cooking with friends, and aspirational gardens.

Throughout the hour and a half we wandered around catching conversations and observing as the collages became more complete, each with a unique style and story.

Many expressed the importance of having kitchen spaces that allowed for sharing meals with family and friends, and incorporated domestic comforts like pets, plants, and books into their collages. Others wanted the ability to have some private, quiet space away from housemates for reading and rest or an area that kids could feel was their own.

As expected there wasn’t a general consensus about the single most important desire for a home. That said, we left feeling not only that we gained valuable insights to the shortcomings of current housing there, and participants’ daily lives, but have developed a stronger bond with the families and workers in Immokalee.

First community engagement workshop

Final discussion / collage sharing


Group photo in front of the C.I.W.

Log 2
Local Partnerships

    After meeting with several housing and social organizations in Immokalee, we were introduced to the Fair Housing Initiative as a potential partner.    
    The Fair Housing Initiative is a new coalition in Immokalee formed by the Coalition of Immokalee workers, Mision Peniel team, The We Can’t have that Foundation, Peace River Presbytery Leadership, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the United Church of Christ, and other community leaders to address the issue of housing in Immokalee through a farmworker driven approach. Their goals and aspirations for the community to provide decent, affordable, sustainable and storm resistant housing focused on the needs of farmworker families aligns directly with the mission of Rural Assembly.    
    Beyond designing housing we are interested in architecture that can foster community. We strongly believe in the power of architecture in its ability to capture community values, and positively impact the way that people live. Aside from its functional purpose, architecture also serves as an image, a reflection of human relationships, a set of values, and an optimistic statement for the future. We believe that thoughtful design has the ability to create a pride of place, a sense of ownership among tenants, and can encourage a desire for a building’s upkeep. A local partnership is important to us because it allows us to establish closer relationships with the community living there.
    We are excited about moving forward with this partnership and are planning the next steps forward which will include community workshops in the new year.

Fair Housing Initiative meeting at the CIW

Log 1
Immokalee, Florida
Site Introduction

Immokalee is an agricultural community located in Southwest Florida. The population, of Immokalee is ninety percent Latin/Hispanic/Haitian, half of whom live below poverty level. Just one hour away, the coastal city of Naples stands in stark contrast as one of the wealthiest cities in the state.
    The current housing stock consists primarily of trailer parks, several apartment buildings, and single-family home complexes. Dwindling federal investment in maintaining government run affordable housing has resulted in the demolition of 150 homes due to unsafe conditions. Maintenance issues and federal requirements for apartment subsidies have driven many families to live in trailers. Many of the existing typologies of single family homes and trailers are not only ill suited to the tropical climate but fail to respond to the dynamics of the community. Currently, the non-profit Rural Neighborhoods is working to introduce new housing and improve existing housing through education, volunteer building, and maintenance.   
    For this first site, we see the potential to develop housing typologies more specifically suited to the tropical climate, working directly with the local community, as a solution for the over reliance on substandard homes. In 2017 Hurricane Irma damaged roughly one quarter of homes, many beyond salvaging. Projections of increasing severity and frequency of storms emphasizes the urgency to incorporate climate responsive models of housing.

Log 0
Why Rural?

While affordable housing is a common discussion topic in architectural academia, this research has largely focused on urban populations, overlooking the need for innovation in rural architecture. Over forty percent of land in the United States is agricultural land, supported by labor from two and a half million farmworkers, seventy-three percent of whom are foreign-born. In contrast to suburban sprawl, farming communities make a significant contribution ($985 billion dollar industry) to the American economy, through the cultivation of affordable, fresh food. Despite their vital roles in the economy and health of our society, farmworkers remain a marginalized community whose housing suffers from problems of affordability, substandard quality and lack of climate consideration.