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April is the cruelest month
But winter is the most empathetic season
T.S. Eliot’s famous line about the gilded veneer of spring echoes the sentiment that there is a discordant relationship between the aesthetics of season and our inner psychologies. On a physical level, spring teems with rebirth and regeneration, a chance to start over, to be cleansed. But, says Eliot, this just offers a false hope to those of us yearning for change that won’t come.
From the perspective of anyone homeless or living on the street, there is nothing crueler than winter, though. Worn blankets a meager insulation against a bitter cold. Gusts of wind that cut. Hunger compounded by discomfort with no respite. But there may be surprising opportunity encrusted within winter’s icy heart. Its extremity brings suffering to the fore—it makes salient what is already there, creating visceral images to all who pass by. The shivering. The bodies strewn across church steps. Whereas in spring or summer, a pedestrian is more likely to just walk by enjoying his or her day, winter demands that a pedestrian look suffering in the face—it is obvious and unavoidable.
While spring feeds our fantasies, winter makes us see reality. It is an opportunity to catalyze thought, consideration, and empathy—to imagine, even just for a minute, what it might mean to be someone else—and how you might help.
We propose a series of illustrated posters about winter, the homeless, and the role of the person who walks by: A civic guerilla marketing campaign to make people think slightly beyond the margins of what they usually think about. The posters could be on the backs of bus stops, adjacent to music flyers, pinned near café bathrooms. Each poster would have the double vision of reaching out not only to casual streetgoers, but also to the struggling. The primary facet would be an illustration evoking some of the aforementioned themes, supplemented by a call to action for how an individual can get involved or help. The other part of the poster would be essentially a civic advertisement, listing free locations offering warmth or food.
Streets are perhaps our most public spaces. This campaign is about broadening the range of what is meant by “public,” carving into an idyllic concept until the result is something tangible and real.
If one of us is cold, we’re all cold.
Jason Schwartzman, B.A. in Urban Studies from Washington University in St. Louis
Yurina Kodama, B.S. in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis
M.S. in Architecture from Harvard 2017
Full copy available here.