The No Barriers Project, a City of Charlotte finalist for the Knight Cities Challenge, held their highly anticipated Friday Night Lights event at Anita Stroud Park on Friday, March 27th. The No Barriers Project identifies physical barriers between diverse communities that may act as real and symbolic divides in order to encourage communities to work together to connect, create, and celebrate within that space. In the north end area of Charlotte, Anita Stroud Park hugs a windy creek and flanks Double Oaks Road, a major access thoroughfare between the neighborhoods of Genesis Park, Park at Oaklawn, and Brightwalk. As a road-block made up of massive boulders and orange street dividers acts as the physical barrier between the neighborhoods, the park acts as a symbolic one.


Friday Night Lights was a prototype of a grant funded event designed to bring the neighborhoods together through play and conversation. During Friday night’s preview, neighbors were invited to gather in the park (connect), transform the existing space through glowing modular blocks and games (create) and enjoy catered food and music together (celebrate). For three hours before and after sunset, residents of all ages interacted with the various components of the event. A camera attached to a five foot wide, red balloon hovered over the park to film the event in action below as the footage was played back on a projection screen on-site. The various forms of light, from a set of luminous building blocks to glowing foam props and finger lights, attracted and invited residents to come and reclaim their shared space at night. The 36 custom-built modular blocks were moved, arranged into games, rearranged, stacked into forts, propped up as benches and tables, and drawn on by residents of all ages. The contagiousness of play made itself evident as one activity led to another.


The residents not only had the opportunity to leave their personal mark through these activities, but were also encouraged to leave feedback on the event, their perceptions of the park, the neighborhoods, and challenges and possibilities in overcoming barriers. The No Barriers Project is proud to have had the opportunity to engage with the city of Charlotte in such a unique way and test out an idea that residents positively responded to. As residents of Genesis Park, Brightwalk and nearby Park at Oaklawn made their way home Friday night, many asked when the next event would take place.


Through a Knight Foundation sponsored workshop run by the design firm IDEO, the event was designed in January 2015 in New York City by the No Barriers Project team consisting of City of Charlotte employees and a team of graduate students from Parsons The New School for Design. The team spent February and March planning and coordinating the success of Friday Night Lights.


Collaborators: IDEO, The Knight Foundation, City of Charlotte employees; Sarah Hazel, Alysia Osborne, & Eugene Bradley, Parsons Design Fellows; Aran Baker, James Clotfelter, Laura Dusi, Bernardo Loureiro, & Chisun Rees, and Public Lab & Mighty Mallet