Overview: There’s a new park in Raleigh. 308 acres of historic greenspace, reinforcing this city as the City of Oaks. And although Dix Park just opened, it has been here for decades actually — if only in the mind of this designer. The original site was Dix Hospital, Raleigh’s first health institute, championed by the compassionate care advocate, Dorothea Dix. I lived nearby and trespassed the property daily, to walk, bike, or sit under a tree and write essays for Design Observer. Back in 2009, when the property was being contested, developers deploying, I presented the tenuous future of Dix campus to my class as a design problem.

This was design-learning as a form of advocacy — an unusual thing to do in 2009. Student results were unusual too (and highly remarkable!): A pinwheel entrance, a logo made from lawn mowing, a community garden school, a food truck for dogs, narrative walking paths, biking for learning, and an AR history trail before that was even possible (what future thinking!). Our final critique was unusual too: Students were “sandwiched boarded” and positioned around the Dix campus, on a beautiful April day, for our final review.

Here, let's see their work, below:
A map of our walking critique.

Walking critique in process.

Jessica Vondy, Joseph Mann and Nick Schlax.

Taylor Carroll and Ashley Kirkman.

Main park entrance (oversized pinwheels as visual cues). Helen Shaffer.

Helen Shaffer’s final critique under trees that are no longer there.
I provided digital sources about Dorothea Dix. This dedication page, from Dix’s book, Conversations on Common Things: or, Guide to Knowledge, stood out.

Narrative (and reflective) Walking Paths based on Dix’s writing. Amber Majors.

Branding based on lawn-mowing patterns. Jessica Vondy.

Learning garden and instructional book. Megan Jett.

Reflective Walking Paths made from patterned ground stakes. Amber Majors.

Typographic Greenspace Campaign. Nick Schlax. 

Dix Park branding and screen-printing. Joseph Mann.
The Great Lawn movie night ticket design. Jessica Vondy.
Trail Signage. Dan Marino.

K.C. Feather, Kate Merritt and Matt Morgan.
Park Map and screen-printed tote of the map (what a good idea!). Toni Chester.

Taylor Carroll
Toni Chester
Kate Merritt
Ashley Kirkman
Megan Jett
Amber Majors
Joseph Mann
Dan Marino
Matt Morgan
Helen Shaffer
Nick Schlax
Jessica Vondy

NCSU, College of Design
Afterword: When the course concluded, I reached out to the local newspaper to showcase our student’s research (and brilliance), as another way to advocate. Today, as the City of Raleigh redesigns the property, our hope is that it will continue to honor Dorothea Dix’s memory by dedicating funds for mental wellness.

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