About Travis Hicks

UNCG's 2015 Nominee PortraitI am both a professor and an architect; however, above those appellations I AM A CITIZEN OF NORTH CAROLINA. I believe in the power of design to impact the lives of all citizens of North Carolina by engaging people in conversations that shape the built environment. In the 13 years I practiced architecture full-time before coming to UNC Greensboro, I was involved in the design of significant public buildings, such as a federal courthouse in Washington, DC, the Wake County Justice Center, and the Durham County Courthouse. While these courthouses are for the public and affect their lives during the most trying of times, their designs involved the public only minimally. As the director of the Center for Community-Engaged Design, I am changing the way that students learn - and how professionals practice - architecture and design. How? I engage the public in the design of places and spaces that impact the people of North Carolina, leveraging the following strengths.

I AM A FACILITATOR. The Center for Community-Engaged Design [CC-ED], the first community design center in Greensboro, NC, is my platform for transforming design education and for impacting the design of the built environment. The CC-ED occupies an incubator space just off campus, where I have worked with hundreds of people, including undergraduate and graduate students as well as community partners and other faculty. I have been able to bring together people and groups who have not previously collaborated with each other. As the director of the CC-ED, I have facilitated over 10,000 person hours' worth of public service in the past year alone.

I AM A LISTENER. I identify relevant public issues by finding and listening to community partners, one of the most critical steps in my work. Architects like myself were taught to "know it all," but I resist the temptation to assume omniscience and instead listen to people of all backgrounds about a particular issue. Public issues such as low income housing, energy efficiency in housing, aging-in-place, housing for veterans, access to healthy food, refugee housing, and democratic design processes have emerged as priorities in my work from listening to the community. These issues are of importance to particular community partners but, more importantly, have also been identified as key issues for the city, county, and region. I listen and contribute to key discussions and projects in the state.

I AM A TRUSTED LEADER. For example, a conversation with Greensboro's Partners Ending Homelessness has led me down the path of researching homelessness and alternative housing solutions for homeless populations over the past few years. This research revealed a need for various agencies to come together in a meaningful way to address housing. My ability to listen, convene different groups of people, and plan strategically was instrumental in bringing together one of the largest gatherings of diverse constituents in Greensboro to tackle the issue of housing the homeless at the 2015 Novem Mason Symposium on Community-Engaged Design.

I AM A PARTNER. I have established reciprocal partnerships with many different community partners since coming to UNC Greensboro. The evidence of these partnerships is visible in the projects executed by myself, my students, and the CC-ED. I serve people from every walk of life by ENGAGING them in the process. I don’t merely work "for" people; I work "with" people. The citizens of North Carolina all have expertise to contribute to the design of the world around them, and I help them translate their expertise into architecture and design. The remainder of this dossier illustrates some of these designs and my service to the people of North Carolina. It is my honor to share this work and my passion with you.

The following are summaries of a sample of recent exemplary projects that I have led, with some general information about each project.

1. Center for Community-Engaged Design [CC-ED]

The Center for Community-Engaged Design contributes greatly to the citizens of this state. In the past year over 250 people (faculty, students, staff, volunteers, and community partners) have logged over 10,000 person hours in the community for public benefit. It should be noted that these hours have all been generated without having a single full-time staff member; the work of the CC-ED draws people who want to contribute to the greater good of society and who volunteer time and energy to these efforts. The following projects represent some of the initiatives executed by the CC-ED:

  • Tiny Houses Greensboro [THG] - a burgeoning non-profit that began amidst conversations between students at the CC-ED, volunteers at the Interactive Resource Center (day center for homeless), and the homeless community. The vision of THG is to design and build a tiny house village in Greensboro.
  • Mustard Seed Community Health - CC-ED students and fellows have designed a master plan for a community health clinic in a low-income neighborhood in East Greensboro. CC-ED students have also helped document an existing building to be used as a temporary clinic.
  • Graffiti Garden - a permaculture-based production garden in the Glenwood neighborhood managed by a formerly-homeless young man who teaches homeless youth how to grow their own food. CC-ED students have contributed garden labor to clean up the garden's overgrowth and have designed a master plan for this community garden, addressing food insecurity in one of Greensboro's food deserts.
  • Servant Center - housing for homeless male veterans in Greensboro. CC-ED students and faculty have developed a preliminary analysis of existing administrative spaces for the Servant Center and are developing a program document for a new administration building.
  • The Porch - a mobile interface between the homeless community and supportive services. The CC-ED is currently working with outside agencies and other faculty and students to develop the design of this mobile structure.

2. "Housing the Homeless"

2nd Annual Novem Mason Symposium on Community-Engaged Design

The Center for Community-Engaged Design and the Department of Interior Architecture continued the success of the inaugural Novem Mason Symposium of 2014 by focusing the 2nd annual symposium on issues of homelessness and affordable housing. This theme arose from the community through a confluence of several projects dealing with homelessness (Servant Center for homeless veterans and Tiny Houses Greensboro) that made it clear that someone needed to host a convening of various agencies and groups involved in addressing homelessness.

  • The three day symposium attracted over 100 guests from off-campus, including faculty and students from UNCG, NCA+T, UNC Chapel Hill, and VCU.
  • A "community service" day resulted in students, faculty, and volunteers’ going out to serve in various capacities to 5 different sites in the community. Over 80 people participated in this day of service.
  • Keynote speaker Brent Brown from Dallas, TX, shared the work of building community WORKSHOP, which contributed to the design of the Cottages at Hickory Crossing, a development for the 50 most chronically homeless in Dallas.
  • Working groups from the symposium arrived at a strategy for delivering 20 units of affordable, transitional housing for the most chronically homeless people in Greensboro.

3. Glenwood Grove Mural Project

The Glenwood Grove Mural is a project that connected Interior Architecture and Art students and faculty with the community of Glenwood through the design and execution of a wall-sized mural at the intersection of Glenwood Ave. and Grove St. The mural depicts a young boy and his dog, overlooking a community (Glenwood) towards a downtown skyline (Greensboro). The design was a collaborative effort, inspired by a sketch done by a young boy from the neighborhood and refined by UNCG students and other children from Glenwood.

"I recently saw the finished mural. I love the mural! It captures every quality I have seen in Glenwood growing up." - Glenwood Resident

"A great community effort. I love the affirmations on the wall, and I am happy that my great grand daughter was able to participate in the mural. What a great experience for a 6 year old!" - Glenwood Resident

  • The project engaged students at Hope Academy in Glenwood who wrote poetry about their neighborhood, captured in their painted words on the wall.
  • Students from the Morning Star Academy (affiliated with a mosque at the intersection of Glenwood and Grove) provided a signature element of handprints.
  • Combined, these Glenwood youth contributed approximately 120 person hours to the mural project.
  • UNCG students + faculty contributed approximately 1,500 person hours to the research, design, and execution of the Glenwood Grove Mural (spring and summer semesters).
  • Glenwood community members (non-students) and Greater Greensboro volunteers contributed an additional 100 person hours to the mural.
  • The mural has been a catalyst project, prompting additional improvements to buildings and public spaces in the neighborhood. A weekly street market has been resurrected across the street from the mural.

4. Sustainable Glenwood: Preservation Guidelines for Sustainable Community Development

The Sustainable Glenwood project was a Community-Based Research project funded by UNCG's Graduate School, the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning, and the Office of Undergraduate Research. The project involved myself, an undergraduate research assistant, a graduate research assistant, and a community partner, Benjamin Briggs, director of Preservation Greensboro, Inc. This pilot study advances the scholarship of architecture, design, and historic preservation, with the potential of scaling up this research to other communities around the Triad, state, and region.

  • The project considered properties in the Glenwood neighborhood, where UNCG has expanded by building new dormitories and a future recreation center.
  • Cat French(G) and Joy Troyer (UG) contributed to the research project.
  • Work resulted in several conference presentations and a presentation to the local preservationists and sustainable design community, alongside Greensboro's mayor.
  • Research suggests that minor alterations to design of new structures will result in significant impact relative to community development and sustainability.
  • Community-engagement resulted in block party and staging of historic homes for a micro homes tour, sponsored by Preservation Greensboro, Inc.