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Nearly 12,000 people experience homelessness in Seattle daily. Many are forced to live in unsafe, toxic, hazardous and uninspiring environments. Seattle being our hometown, Traction began working with the housing insecure population in Seattle in 2018. We aim to address and highlight the challenges being faced by this population that experiences extremely vulnerable living circumstances. Recent projects include a University of Washington Design Activism Studio. That project has continued as a newly granted EPA EJSG award to develop the Nickelsville community into an Ecovillage.
Traction works remotely to support local partners in Nepal. Our work focuses on the human centered design, development, and dissemination of distributed technologies and infrastructure that spur economic development and improve environmental and human health in the Kathmandu Valley. We pursue design, education, and research that empower residents, students, activists, and entrepreneurs to effect meaningful change at a local level. Recent projects include public space interventions Kolcha Pahka Park and Park Pods in Kathmandu’s Hyumat neighborhood and the Banghal Community Street in Bodhanilkantha
Lomas de Zapallal (LdZ), is a slum community in northern Lima with a growing population of approximately 27,000 residents. It consists of 19 neighborhoods between 2-15 years old. The majority of its residents live in poverty with variable tenure and unreliable water supplies. LdZ’s newer neighborhoods pirate electricity, purchase water from adjacent neighborhoods and utilize pit latrines. LdZ also has very little public green space. As, water supplies decrease with climate change, it is likely that LdZ will face increasing water insecurity and green space will become increasingly scarce. Traction is based primarily at two sites in LdZ. Its Escuela Ecologica Saludable program is based at the Pitagroas School and its Communidad Ecologica Saludable program is based in the Eliseo Collazos neighborhood.
Claverito is a floating informal urban slum community located in the floodplain city edge in Iquitos, a city of 0.5 million people in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. The community of urban indigenous migrants live in 52 homes that float in the high river season and rest on the ground in the low river season. 280 people and 240 domestic animals share the environment with hundreds of species of birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and native plants. The community lacks sufficient electricity, water and sanitation and struggles with food insecurity and physical and mental health issues related to their harsh environmental conditions.
Traction is facilitating a long-term collaborative program called InterACTION Labs | Iquitos - a transdisciplinary partnership between Claverito, the Centro de Investigaciones Tecnológicas Biomédicas y Medioambientales, the University of Washington, Penn State University, the Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana, the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, and 90+ faculty, students and professionals from 8 research centers in Peru and the U.S. representing 26 different disciplines - which implements yearly participatory built environment interventions and follows changes in human and ecological health in Claverito over time. Projects include household floating gardens, a waterfront park with community center, a school garden, and education programs.
Before beginning any work, Traction facilitated a series of participatory listening activities including a Photovoice Gallery, participatory needs assessments, and community visioning workshop. In addition, Traction enlisted an interdisciplinary team of researchers to conduct a robust human and ecological health measurement. These scientific measures created baselines for the InterACTION Labs | Iquitos program and guided the Traction team to design based upon community needs and priorities.
Alarcón, Jorge O., Jorge A. Alarcón, and Leann Andrews. 2018. “Epidemiología, arquitectura paisajista, “Una Salud” e innovación: Experiencia en una comunidad amazónica”, La Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental y Salud Pública. 35(4): pp. 667-74.
Korn, Abigail, Susan M. Bolton, Jorge A. Alarcon, Leann Andrews, Benjamin Spencer, and Joachim G. Voss. 2018. Physical and Mental Health Impacts of Household Gardens in an Urban Slum in Lima, Peru. International Journal of Environment and Public Health. pp. 2-11.
Spencer, Ben. 2018. “Engaging the Field Experience: Integrated, Interdisciplinary, On-Site, Enduring” In Bryan Bell and Lisa Albendroth (Eds.). Public Interest Design Education Guidebook: Curricula, Strategies, and SEED Academic Case Studies. Routledge, UK. pp. 55-57.
Hou, Jeff, Ben Spencer and Daniel Winterbottom. 2018. “Whole-Systems Public Interest Design Education: Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Washington” In Bryan Bell and Lisa Albendroth (Eds.). Public Interest Design Education Guidebook: Curricula, Strategies, and SEED Academic Case Studies. Routledge, UK. pp. 8-21.
Spencer, Ben and Susan Bolton. 2016. “Emergent Convergent: Technology and the Informal Urban Communities Initiative”. In Daniel Ortega and Jonathan Anderson (Eds.). Innovations in Landscape Architecture. Routledge, UK. pp. 205-222.
Feld, Shara, Ben Spencer and Susan Bolton. 2016. “Improved Fog Collection Using Turf Reinforcement Mats.” Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment. 2 (3): 1-8.
Spencer, Ben, Susan Bolton and Jorge Alarcon. 2014. “The Informal Urban Communities Initiative, Lomas de Zapallal.” In Jeff Hou, Ben Spencer, Thaisa Way and Ken Yocom (Eds.). Now Urbanism: The Future City is Here. Routledge, UK. pp. 328-357.
Andrews, Leann and Ben Spencer. 2014. “Design as Preventive Medicine.” In Evert, J., Drain, P., and Hall, T. (Eds.). Developing Global Health Programming: A Guidebook for Medical and Professional Schools, Second Edition. Schools. Global Health Education Collaboration Press. p. 274-277.
Spencer, Ben and Leann Andrews. 2014. “Interdisciplinary Design Case Study: Escuela Ecologica Saludable Initiative (The Healthy Ecological School Initiative) Lomas de Zapallal, Lima, Peru.” In Evert, J., Drain, P., and Hall, T. (Eds.). Developing Global Health Programming: A Guidebook for Medical and Professional Schools, Second Edition. Schools. Global Health Education Collaboration Press. p. 278-283.
Spencer, Ben, Susan Bolton and Jorge Alarcon. 2014. “The Informal Urban Communities Initiative, Community-driven design in the Slums of Lima, Peru.” International Journal of Service Learning in Engineering, 9(1): 92-107. (first author)