Artist-in-Residence Pat Falco collaborates with Housing Innovation Lab
Pat Falco: I was interested in collaborating with Wandy and the iLab after learning about the work they’re doing in similar subjects of housing, affordability, and three-deckers. I wanted to learn more about municipal politics, and was intrigued to learn how a creative department operates within city government.
Wandy Pascoal: Part of the reason why we were really interested in working with you, Pat, is that the Housing Innovation Lab really values storytelling, especially when we talk about the different housing realities in the city. You are also somebody that is interested in history, and understanding how policy comes into play with various stakeholders that are involved in housing processes. We try our very best to think expansively about who is at the table, and who is able to collaboratively craft something that could really impact people’s lives for the better. So, I feel like that’s part of the reason why we were interested in this collaboration, not just for research and exploration on triple- and future-deckers, but also for the wide range of projects coming out of the Lab.
Wandy: The Future-Decker Conversation series is a part of our Future-Decker exhibition, where in the past year we’ve been having conversations and doing work around learning about people’s experiences with triple-deckers in the city from the perspective of environmental, financial, and social values of the triple-deckers. We then showcased our findings on a virtual exhibition and hosted a Conversation Series to expand upon the topics that we highlighted in this virtual exhibition. We invited guest speakers to talk about what it looks like to do a deep energy retrofit to your triple-decker, what it takes to purchase a triple-decker today, and also to envision the future of this iconic New England building type. It’s also about learning what the current housing development looks like in the city, and figuring out ways to engage with this complex process.
We finished off the exhibition and the conversation on January 20, and the recordings are all available to watch here.
Pat: I thought the Future-Decker Conversation series was nice because it was focused on lived experiences, where a lot of the research and work that I had been doing was on a personal level but not necessarily in conversation with other people. It was nice to hear their experiences in this context, remembering and misremembering positive and negative aspects of living in a three-decker was really sweet.
Wandy: Especially with positive and negative aspects, that was something that would come up in the discussion portion of each of the conversations. I remember from the virtual exhibition tour some folks were talking about how there’s a lot to be nostalgic about but there’s also a lot of challenges. I’m recalling a conversation that we had with somebody talking about how their home didn’t necessarily feel small growing up, but if they went back to it today then it would probably feel like that. There’s so much that we were able to learn from each other.
What have you learned so far from this collaboration?
Wandy: We’ve been really pleased to have been able to partner with Pat on this because of the numerous “a-ha” moments. It really led us to consider the language we use, the format, how folks receive information, and how we ourselves take in information.
Pat: My interest in housing justice has been based on going beyond just critiquing development to actually trying to find solutions and envision different futures. That’s maybe “easier” as an artist because it doesn’t have to be grounded in reality -- to be able to learn from Wandy and Taylor and witness the work they’re doing inside the City, and how they think about problem solving has been really inspiring.
Wandy: I’ll also add that, especially because my Fellowship is co-hosted by the Lab and the Boston Society for Architecture, that there’s been true team-building throughout. We recognize that this is not easy to do virtually and that there are a lot of moments where you might feel disconnected for a number of reasons. I have also learned, especially in working with two different entities, that those sort of moments where somebody is pulling you into a meeting or pulling you into a staff call, can really make a difference so that you have a sense of what exactly is going on with the folks that you’re working with, and feel like you are a part of a team.
Wandy: I will say that team building has been really great. Dr. Taylor Cain likes to describe us as a small but mighty team. And it’s not just the Lab, we’re also a part of the Mayor’s Office of Urban Mechanics. We are a “pilot shop” and “test shop” for new ideas in the city and we always welcome opportunities with different kinds of partners, even if they are just in the exploration phases. I know that earlier on we were talking about mobile eviction prevention stations that could go out to different neighborhoods so that folks can have access to legal resources during this really difficult time—and thinking about how a lot of that also helps to inform other areas of work that we’ve been doing around eviction prevention right now. And so, there’s an opportunity for cross-pollination of ideas that is always welcome.
Pat: It’s hard to separate. I mean, the residency started as everything was shifting online for COVID. The uncertainty of the past year has really disrupted whatever my practice looked like last year this time -- but I feel like I’ve learned a better way to think about projects based on the Lab’s process of experimenting, evaluating, and exploring -- and am still trying to incorporate that into my own practice.
Wandy: I feel like that’s always a guiding light to how we do our work and it’s really nice to hear that you’ve also been able to find some grounding in this process.
Screenshot from Pat Falco’s “Mobile iLab” vision board.
Pat: It’s evolving. I’ve been trying to find ways to explore these concepts and think about housing policy-related issues through a few different lenses, collaborating with local teenagers to look at power dynamics between the city and the community and relationships people in power have with their own community.
Wandy: That’s awesome! Especially at the Lab we’ve been thinking a lot about what youth engagement looks like and how different age groups feel as though they are able to be a part of housing-related projects that happen around them and the different entry points that folks can have to that. It could be sitting down with somebody that works with the City who has some shared experience as to what it was like growing up in Boston. So, we’re also really excited about this work that you are going to be taking on.
To learn more about Pat Falco and the Boston AIR program, visit boston.gov/boston-air.