Want to Build a Table? Better Block Will Give You the Design

The Dallas-based nonprofit recently rolled out a free open-source library of downloadable designs for items ranging from chairs to kiosks.



Think you need to be an architect or a carpenter to build benches, tables, or even a stage for your community? Better Block Foundation doesn’t think so. 

The Dallas-based nonprofit recently rolled out a free open-source library of downloadable designs ranging from chairs to kiosks with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Users can print out the designs with plywood on a CNC machine and assemble most items without glue or nails. 

Jason Roberts, founder of the Better Block, said Wikiblock helps “lower the barrier to entry on fabrication.”

“We’re realizing the potential for the every man and every woman. Before, it required an architect, a carpenter, renderings, and contractors. At this point, you no longer need all that. You just need your local makerspace,” Roberts said in a release. 

Better Block helps communities and its leaders improve and reactivate underutilized neighborhood spaces.

“We’re trying to give everybody an easy inroad into transforming their neighborhoods.”

Jason Roberts

In 2010, the inaugural Better Block Project temporarily transformed a piece of land in Oak Cliff into a community gathering space. Since then, similar projects have taken place in cities around the world. Earlier this year, a $775,000 grant from the Knight Foundation enabled the formation of the nonprofit, Better Block Foundation, to help Roberts further his work. 

With Wikiblock, he hopes to equip people with ways to more readily make changes happen in their communities.

“People can go look at the built environment around them and say, ‘okay, what’s wrong? What’s missing?'” Roberts told Fast Company. “We’re trying to give everybody an easy inroad into transforming their neighborhoods.”

Wikiblock designs were created by Better Block, RSP Architects, and architecture students at Kent State University.

Since it launched in October, groups around the nation have used Wikiblock designs to create a pop-up outdoor theater, seating for Election Day parties, and kiosks for vendors at an event. 

Better Block Managing Director Krista Nightengale said one of the most popular designs downloaded so far has been the Schanfish Cafe Set

Currently, users can choose from 29 designs available in the digital library, but the nonprofit plans to add more. 

This week, it’s unveiling a greenhouse as part of a Better Block Project in the Frenchtown neighborhood of Tallahassee, Florida. The design will soon be available on Wikiblock, Nightengale said. 

“It’s definitely been something that people, are not only excited about, but also implementing into their projects to make their communities better,” she said. 

How Do I Build A Better Block? from Gensler Texas on Vimeo.

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