United Methodist Children's Services: An Emerging Place Type
Throughout the history of the Washington Park neighborhood there has been a presence of community involvement and collaboration in order to make the neighborhood a place outside of the norm of the urban environment. It begins to create spaces where people can gather and get away from the fast-paced urban lifestyle. As Washington Park developed, the surrounding neighborhood began to adapt into a place of community involvement and gather. The United Methodist Children's Services center is a prime example of a place that helped promote this new image of community in the neighborhood.
By far the largest establishment on W. Lisbon Avenue between N. 39th Street and N. 41st Street, United Methodist Children's Services of Wisconsin, Inc. has been serving women and children in the area for the past 45 years. Recently, UMCS has been focusing on new developments around the Washington Park neighborhood, providing new apartment complexes for single women with children. This focus on new apartments as well as new affordable housing for these single women with children allows for growth and development for not only the women struggling to find a job or a career, but also for the children who will be provided with education and care. UMCS continues to grow in this area, planning for open lots around the Washington Park community to be transformed into something better for the neighborhood around them.
Throughout Anthony King's book, Buildings and Society: Essays on the Social Development of the Built Environment, he describes this relationship between the physical, built world and the social interactions people encounter in that world. The ways things are built help to define what types of social activities may happen in those spaces. A church, for example, will take the social and religious elements and express those concepts and ideas through the design and decoration of the building itself. Shifts in how things are built also begin to reveal themselves as new cultures and different views come into play. King describes how New Delhi, India is really divided into two separate cities. There is the "Old Delhi" where traditional Indian building forms exist, and then there is the "New Delhi" where more westernized British ideas are brought to the cityscape. As time progresses, and cultures interact, there is this need to change the environment of the built world in order to accommodate the new cultures and social interactions. These principles that focus on the relationship between the social and built environment can be taken and related to the Washington Park community. Specifically, UMCS is helping to change the environment around the neighborhood in order to address the needs of the social environment.
UMCS is an emerging place type that combines multiple uses, including community services, education, and affordable family housing and planning. These place types begin to help change the surrounding environment through their physical forms and the activities provided to the people. This asset to the community helps to change the neighborhood into a community-focused environment that promotes safety, connectivity, and a focus on a set of morals and beliefs to help drive the surrounding neighborhood into a better future.
By looking at UMCS and the different place types emerging from it, spaces around the community that help both the social aspects that are needed and that help create a built world that promotes the true concepts of community can begin to be designed. These different place types allow architects to look and use Anthony King's methods to design spaces that help promote their vision. Demonstrating the relationship between social forms and built forms, developing new methodological approaches for understanding the historical development of the built environment and suggesting a framework for the understanding of the built environment, both through time and between different cultures, will help move the design and environment of Washington Park into a better future.
Overall, UMCS's focus is on developing struggling single women with children. The organization allows for these individuals to learn and grow to a point that then allows them to move on and support themselves. Examples of how these women are helped include gaining a jumpstart in career development and affordable education for their children; however, there seems to be something missing. The focus for the future is to develop a next-step for the families using the assets of UMCS. There is a lot of focus on development of these single women and young children, but there is the question of what is next in these people's lives. There are requirements that limit the age for participants in the UMCS development programs. They specifically look at children within a certain age range and only allow that range of people to use their development program. Now the hope is to provide areas that allow these people who have developed knowledge and/or skills through UMCS to move forward and sustain themselves for the rest of their lives; these may be places of career development, educational development, or financial development. UMCS specifically looks at developing young children and their single parents. The need areas where they can continue that development process following their departure from UMCS.