Day Labor Station

San Francisco, California

Design Disciplines Needed

Desired Services
Construction documents; permits; construction management; fundraising

Project Description

While the contributions of day laborers typically go unseen, most cities’ inability to accommodate them within the urban infrastructure is highly visible. Day laborers’ role in the informal economy has forced them to occupy spaces meant for other uses, such as street corners, gas stations, and home improvement store parking lots. A relatively small number of officially sanctioned day labor centers have appeared in recent years, but the informal gathering sites remain the norm. Present in spaces designated for other uses, these sites often lack even the most basic of amenities (shelter, water, toilet facilities, etc). The Day Labor Station is a design initiative that we are developing to address the needs of a community that traditionally has not had access to quality design environments.

The Station itself is a simple, flexible structure that can be deployed at these informal day labor locations. It is a self-sustaining project that will utilize green materials and strategies and will exist primarily--if not completely--off the grid. Our design is based on the realities of the ways in which the day labor system operates, and responds to the needs and desires of the day laborers themselves, as our clients. As such, the structure will be flexible enough to serve various uses, including as an employment center, meeting space, and classroom.

Proving that "just" design and "quality" design need not be mutually exclusive, the Day Labor Station has received recognition from the design community for its innovative design including the 2007 "Design for the Other 90%" exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and the 2011 Rotterdam Bienale. In 2009, the project won the Global Innovation Prize from the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. It was the only building and the only North American project to be recognized in that global awards cycle.

Public Architecture formed a partnership with the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) to pursue implementation of the first stations. Additionally, Public Architecture worked with NDLON to link existing worker centers with architects through the 1+ program in an effort to provide a more comprehensive improvement of the physical spaces of day labors..

The Day Labor Station design initiative has always been more than just a design project. Public Architecture also leads a robust advocacy and public relations effort. All these initiatives represent part of our effort to humanize the laborers and elevate the debate about them, the spaces they inhabit, and the ways in which they exist in the fabric of the community.