After Oakland, here's how architects can help make DIY spaces safer – The Architect's Newspaper


December 6, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ DIY Project


In the aftermath of the Oakland warehouse fire that has claimed dozens of lives so far, two architects are putting together building resources to make DIY spaces safer.

Princeton, New Jersey–based Melissa J. Frost and Seattle-based Susan Surface are deeply familiar with DIY (do-it-yourself) spaces like the Oakland Ghost Ship, the live/work space where at least 36 people lost their lives this weekend. These buildings, often repurposed relics of bygone industry, are unofficial but beloved venues, artists’ studios, or both.

In many cities, DIY spaces flourish in plain sight of authorities but lack the resources to acquire permits or renovate their structures up to code. In light of the Oakland fire, Frost has created a “resource-in-progress” site, safer spaces, for people in need of or offering immediate services like housing and food, as well as longer-term resources for existent venues. So far, the site has a forum for artists to request project assistance or building services, and a growing list of DIY structural harm reduction measures.

At this time, Frost and Surface are collaborating on a more in-depth response, soliciting input from others rebuilding after the tragedy:

Our immediate focus is on serving the needs of DIY venues and the people who visit them. We are now working day and night to make sense of available information and others’ efforts, and organize it into usable form. The vast amount of information available, and the unique conditions of each venue, make it impossible for us to be comprehensive, thorough, or perfect. But we intend to compile an affordable and accessible starting point that empowers our community members to implement harm reduction strategies that will improve the spaces where we gather.

In a public online statement, the duo say fellow architects, engineers, accessibility experts, firefighters, acousticians, and others have reached out with contributions. Readers in need of aid or those who would like to share their expertise can find more information here.

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