Life After Steel
The success of a city’s transition initiatives depends on how effectively members of a community can work together. Transitioning a community often involves major shifts in lifestyle and social realities that may expose a gap between administrative goals and varying residential needs. This gap can cause tensions between stakeholders and ultimately break down transition efforts.
Visual storytelling can empower members of a community to become more informed, engaged, collaborative and productive during transition while fostering a more coherent connection to place. Pittsburgh’s rich historical narratives, rooted in its steel industry, can provide an understanding of time and place, and help all current residents, and new residents in particular, connect with social histories enabling them to envision possible futures. My thesis project focused on determining how to deliver these stories in an effective way.
My project approach was to be as immersive as possible throughout the research process. It involved exploring the city and discovering its historical narratives for myself as well as interviewing Pittsburgh residents to better understand their perspectives around the importance of learning local history. I discovered that residents don’t know a lot about Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage and that local narratives are often not physically accessible.
Following these insights, I aimed to create a solution that would engage and raise overall awareness of Pittsburgh’s historical narratives among local residents. Research insights informed my final proposed design: a citywide information system embedded within Pittsburgh’s public bus stop infrastructure. This system presents historical narratives in a spatial context across the city’s urban landscape, helping residents realize the relationship between past, present, and possible futures.