Better Block in a Box is Bringing Placemaking to Cities’ Doorsteps

The first Better Block in a Box was unveiled Friday at a block party in Richardson. Here's how it could impact communities and meet their unique needs.

It seems like everything is delivered in a box now, from meal prep kits to groceries to late-night Amazon shopping binges. Now, urbanism-focused nonprofit Better Block Foundation is joining the ranks of online retailers to bring placemaking materials to cities’ doorsteps.

The new program, titled Better Block in a Box, is making its premier this week at the site of a planned innovation district in Richardson, and it contains all the elements a city needs to create a pleasant outdoor urban space that’s both enjoyable and safe.

Krista Nightengale, managing director of Better Block, says the box contains several placemaking elements that will be used to create a pop-up park in a district currently dominated by office buildings and warehouses, and not much else.

The elements contained in the box are what Better Block refers to as Wikiblocks, an open-source library of easy-to-assemble wooden items like benches, that are created using a CNC router machine.

Better Block’s Six Focuses
• Open-source library of Wikiblocks
• Opportunities for leadership and training

• Generating community engagement
• Studying examples of sustainable initiatives around the world
• Innovating to improve modeling tools
• Creating mentorship programs for young leaders

Better Block Founder Jason Roberts says the Wikiblocks are designed to lower the entry barrier to creating comfortable outdoor spaces.

“Before, it required an architect, a carpenter, renderings, and contractors,” Roberts said in a statement. “At this point, you no longer need all that. You just need your local makerspace.”

Nightengale says the first iteration of the box will also include items like astroturf, umbrellas, games, hammocks, and swings. The contents of the box, she says, were determined based on years of working to meet cities’ needs.

“All the things that we’ve seen throughout our last few years of doing these projects—the different key elements that we always rely on to truly bring us bring a place to life and to activate it,” she says.

The boxes will likely evolve as Better Block works with more cities, Nightengale says. She imagines unique boxes with varied contents to meet the needs of each area it serves.

“Not every single community is the same,” she says. “And they all have different needs that we can address through design. So we can get these elements out there and really focus on the elements that address some of the key issues in each community.”

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[Image: Courtesy City of Richardson]

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