Mapping Chinatown

map, origami houses

In September 2019, I held a community mapping activity during Pao Arts Center’s Experience Chinatown festival. During this activity, participants assume the role of city planners to answer the question, “If you could rebuild Chinatown, how would you do it?”. Participants gather around a hand-drawn map of Chinatown and learn how to “build a building” (make an origami building), engage in “urban planning” (decide what the building is for), and “become developers” (place their building on a map of Chinatown). This activity guides participants to think critically about how this neighborhood was planned and in whose interest, and also facilitates playful speculation about what a more desirable future should look like. The resulting map included affordable housing units, fresh food markets, and public libraries.