VIDEO: Dallas Designs To Combat Loneliness

Better Block | Image by Better Block

A Dallas-based nonprofit is tackling chronic loneliness in a novel way: through public infrastructure.

The Better Block Foundation is a nonprofit that “educates, equips, and empowers communities and their leaders to reshape and reactivate built environments to promote the growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods,” according to its website.

The organization is sponsoring a Creating Connections design contest, challenging participants to “create a public infrastructure piece that reimagines public spaces as catalysts for creating moments of connection, empathy, and shared experiences.”

“An epidemic of loneliness is sweeping the country. But we believe that, through beautiful and thoughtful design, we can create a more connected community,” the organizers state on the contest website.

Thanks-Giving Square in Downtown Dallas will serve as the temporary backdrop for the finished designs later this summer.

The deadline for design entries was March 11, and on March 19, the organization announced the 10 competition finalists. The finalists ranged from professionals who work in design and infrastructure to others who create as a hobby.

Some design pieces offered spaces for lounging, while others were designed for play. Philadelphia furniture designer Nnennia even submitted a zero-gravity lounger. One submission featured drawers, a chalkboard, and a sharing shelf so that people could leave messages and gifts behind for the next visitor.

The design prompts for the contest were intentionally left broad, as the Better Block team wanted to leave the creative direction up to designers, according to Krista Nightengale, the executive director of Better Block, per Bloomberg.

Local residents who did not get a chance to participate in the design competition can still play a part by volunteering to help with building, painting, unboxing, putting together the infrastructure designs, and hosting the community testing event. Volunteer opportunities are available June 10-14.

The public is invited to “test-drive” the designs on display at Thanks-Giving Square on Thursday, June 14, and offer their input. The winner of the competition will be selected at the end of the day.

Each of the 10 finalists will be reimbursed up to $2,000 for expenses related to the design and construction of their infrastructure piece, and they will also be awarded an additional $2,000 to assist with travel expenses stemming from the final competition.

The Creating Connections design competition is not the first project Better Block has brought to life in Dallas. In October 2023, the company announced the makeover of a Pleasant Grove parking lot, which it transformed into a brightly painted, vibrant community space with areas for vendors, outdoor seating, art, and additional opportunities for community gatherings.

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