Where can you go to get a new passport, pick up mail, send international packages, buy stamps, boxes, envelopes, money orders, and advertise for your lost dog? The post office.
It's been eighty years since the New Deal when the federal government built a slew (1,500) of new post offices among 30,000 other buildings. Now these beauties are aging, and decisions about their futures will have to be made. However, there has never been an evaluation of their designs, functions, or usages from a critical-creative perspective. We will fill this gap.
Did you know that some of the post offices house murals painted by artists of the era?! What a different time, the government paid artists to paint murals for post offices across the country! These buildings were not just built, the experience of them was designed in partnership with local communities for local people. Eighty years on, we want to know how people today interact with these post offices.
How does this building interact with its environment? How do people use the building? How does the art remain vital to the experience of these post offices?
We live in the era of documentation. So we will record this research through photography, brief podcasts, poetic postcards, and drawings. In the short term, our research process will be shared in real-time through social media. In the fall, this work will be the basis for Ben’s design thesis, and as this project grows, the ephemera of our research will eventually be compiled into a book. But a book is just the beginning, this work’s true aim is to open up a conversation about conservation and the federal footprint.
This summer, we will embark on our first road trip across the country. For these five weeks, we will dip our cameras and notebooks into post offices in the Northeast, Midwest, and Tennessee Valley. As graduate students, we will camp and couchsurf when we can’t stay with friends and family, but even so, we don’t quite have the means to support this work as far as we had hoped. We don’t just need to get from point A to B; we want to study the post offices in between, and for that we need your help. Just as New Deal post offices are some of the most democratic buildings in our federal infrastructure, sites of communication and exchange beyond money (rare for government facilities); we want our project to reflect that “by the people, for the people” history through your support. Equipment and travel costs for this trip include: gas, oil changes, tolls, podcasting recording equipment, postcard printer and paper, pens and notebooks, stamps.
- Free: If you can’t afford a financial contribution, please follow us on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / www.NewPostOccupancy.com , or listen to our podcast “New Post Occupancy” on your favorite app (Apple , Google, Overcast , Spotify + others available now). They will all be available free, and please share with friends or colleagues who will appreciate this project.
- $5: Shoutout of thanks on our social media and website
- $15: Above incentives, plus shoutout of thanks in the back of our forthcoming book
- $25: Above incentives, plus we will mail you one of our postcard poems postmarked from that post office
- $40: Above incentives, plus digital access to a set of posters we will make from the post offices we visit
- $55: Above incentives, plus we will send bonus podcasts + videos of the post office
- $75: Above incentives, plus we will send you a printed copy of one of the posters (contact us for shipping outside of the continental US)
- $150: Above incentives, plus we will send you a copy of the book when it’s ready (contact us for shipping outside of the continental US)
Since we have yet to make the book or get it published, we can’t offer it to any of the smaller incentives at this time. BUT, if you give at any incentive level, and when the book is ready, you will be able to pre-order the book early at normal retail cost.
Sarah has always loved wild adventures and history since she got her first atlas at age twelve. She is currently studying poetry as a language of (dis)abilities, and place-making in her MFA at the University of Massachusetts Boston. This project continues the work of her place-making MA dissertation in Cultural Geography and Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Ben has wanted to be an architect from an early age, always playing with Legos, drawing, and going out of his way to look at interesting buildings. Ben is currently Master in Architecture student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, entering his final year. This research project is the generative foundation for his thesis.
*** In the building industry, post-occupancy evaluations are commonly used to understand how a building performs. Our project, New Post Occupancy, will evaluate how New Deal Post Offices continue to perform after they have been occupied for nearly 80 years.