Research

Improving air quality

Co-designing with doulas

Creating meaningful metrics

Adapting wayfinding


Design

Fostering slow conversation

Playing in public

Reinventing the library

Designing an exhibit


User Experience

Telling the Soofa story

Prototyping an interface


Art

Making eye contact

Printmaking





About

Gabrielle Clarke is a human-centered designer, design researcher, and strategist from San Diego, California. She graduated from Olin College of Engineering in 2018 with a degree in engineering and a concentration in human-centered design. She loves thinking about challenging problems at the system level, and also refining small details.


Resume / Linkedin

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Improving air quality
in Boston’s Chinatown





Challenge

In 2014, the World Health Organization found poor air quality to be a leading cause of premature death. People who live near highways, train lines, shipping lanes, and airports are exposed to significant concentrations of pollutants generated by combustion engines, such as Ultrafine Particles (UFPs), which are associated with long-term negative health effects such as asthma and cancer. In Boston, neighborhoods closest to these pollution sources are often inhabited by underrepresented populations and low-income households, meaning that these residents are disproportionately affected by poor air quality.




Project objective

My team existed to reduce Ultrafine Particle exposure in affected Boston communities in technically, culturally, socially, and economically sound ways in order to improve long-term health.




Project approach

Our team conducted design and technical research on possible air quality improvement interventions that could be deployed via a social venture. We received a grant from the Kresge Foundation to develop community-approved air quality improvement interventions for Reggie Wong Park, a community hub of Chinatown where residents gather to play 9-man volleyball and basketball. The neighborhood has among the highest rates of poverty in the city, with almost 1 in 4 households living below the poverty line.

Reggie Wong Park is steeped in Chinese-American immigrant tradition, and is also a place of refuge for a number of people experiencing homelessness. The park’s close proximity to two major highways and a train and subway station results in poor atmospheric air quality within the park.

Chinatown's Reggie Wong Park, consisting of basketball/volleyball courts, in the rain.
Reggie Wong Memorial Park in Chinatown is a cluster of fenced-in volleyball and basketball courts. Some trees line one side of the park.




Research goals

We sought to understand how people spend time in Reggie Wong Park, and how the park might be rennovated for reduced exposure to UFP pollution and improved usability.




Research approach

We collaborated with community leaders to connect with Chinatown residents and park users, working with Chinese and Cantonese translators when necessary. We interviewed users about their experiences with Reggie Wong Park and engaged users in co-design activities, including co-sketching, card sorting, and scale modeling, to uncover key values and opportunities.

Our co-design kit, a set of materials to support activities that dig at user's values, knolled on a table. Our co-design kit including word-mood cards, before and after cards, and materials for sketching ideas on paper and modeling interventions with craft materials on scale drawings of Reggie Wong Park.

Reggie Wong Park users mock-up possible air quality interventions with craft materials at a co-design session. Reggie Wong Park users mock-up possible air quality interventions with craft materials at a co-design session.




Values

Park users value Reggie Wong Park for its open space, as it gave an opportunity to be outside in the densely populated neighborhood and allows 9-man volleyball players to carry on family legacies and community traditions of playing in urban areas. Reggie Wong Park is also a key community hub prized for its location and visibility.




Opportunities

Users have a great sense of pride for the park space, and as such take responsibility in maintaining the space for recreation. Users expressed concerns about the continued maintainance of the space, and about safety for fellow park users. Users also wished improve the park as a community space, and increase access for a wider variety of people, including elderly neighbors and children.




Sketching interventions

We pursued air quality interventions that maintained the open-air feel of the park, allowed for uninhibited gameplay on courts, and maintained lines of visibility from the adjacent streets. We aimed to incorporate aesthetic and usability improvements into proposed solutions, which spanned in cost from less than $1,000 to upwards of $300,000.

A mock-up of a green wall along the border of Reggie Wong Park. A mock-up of a green wall along the border of Reggie Wong Park. Plants embedded in the wall would help decrease UFP exposure by both actively and passively filtering the air, and would improve the aesthetics of the park. A green wall might include usability enhancing-features such as enclosed storage for sports equipment, replacing the current locker bins, and public resources such as water fountains and restrooms.




My role

I managed our project team and led our design research practice. As project manager, I led Scrum activities including sprint planning, project backlog maintenance, and sprint retrospectives. I worked to ensure our diverse team members achieved individual learning goals while contributing to timely and polished execution of team deliverables. I helped plan our design research, and led the team as we processed our observations and unearthed values and design principles. I also maintained team relationships with our technical research counterparts from partner institutions and our community partners.





Future work

Work on this project continued beyond my time on the team. When I left, we were working to define design requirements and identify possible solutions for improving air quality in Reggie Wong Park that community organizations could use to make a healthier recreation space reality.






More details

Keywords: user research, co-design, data, built environment, systems, human-centered design, social justice, environment and sustainability, project management

Project manager and design research lead, 01/2018 — 05/2018
Design researcher, 09/2017 — 12/2017
Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship
Olin College of Engineering / Babson College

Team: Daniela Casas, April Chen, Christine Dimke, Bradley Ditch, Isabel Harrison, Scott Hersey, Mimi Kome, Andrew Lidington, Aidan McLaughlin, Caz Nichols, Louise Nielsen, Cesar Santana

Collaborators: Doug Brugge from Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH) at Tufts University, Gloria Devine and Justin Pasquariello from the East Boston Social Center, Lydia Lowe from the Chinatown Community Land Trust, Gail Miller from AIR, Inc., Marilyn Garcia and Shaquor Sandiford from the Chelsea Restoration Corporation
Mark