Project Case Studies


Root Shock Forum provided an intimate space for Portlanders, who have been affected by uneven, inequitable development practices, leading to their displacement and the destruction of their communities, to express and share their experiences.  


What is Forum Theatre?

Forum is a form of interactive theatre where a community creates a play about an issue that directly impacts them. During the performance, community audience members are invited onto the stage to propose solutions, ideas, and alternatives that will change the outcome of the play. In forum theatre, the performance becomes a rehearsal for reality, and a collective brainstorming session where community members try out different ideas to explore possible actions to impact issues and change policy!

Forum is part of a body of theatre developed by Brazilian activist and artist Augusto Boal, author and founder “Theatre of the Oppressed.” Theatre of the Oppressed is intended to engage and empower communities to take action — in theatre and in real life. The goal of Theatre of the Oppressed, in Boal’s words, is to “turn non-actors into actors, in the theatre and in society.”

What is Root Shock?

The term Rock Shock was coined by Dr. Mindy Fullilove in her book Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It.  ‘Root Shock is the traumatic stress reaction to the destruction of all or part of one’s emotional ecosystem. It has important parallels to physiological shock.’ Root shock can follow natural disaster, development-induced displacement, war, and changes that play out slowly such as those that accompany gentrification. “Just as the body has a system to maintain its internal balance, so, too , the individual has a way to maintain the external balance between himself and the world.”


  • Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT)

  • Ignorant/Reflections -T Shirt Company

  • Living Stages

  • Design+Culture Lab,LLC


Building on the community engagement work of the Division Design Committee, Design+Culture Lab was hired to provide materials that inform and empower community members to actively participate in the transformation of their build environment.

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As experts in creative community engagement, Design+Culture Lab was contracted as a consultant to lead the public involvement and project management for this project. By viewing the community as the drivers of change, Design+Culture Lab is currently developing a powerful tool for the organizing, advocacy, collaboration for north, northeast and east Portland. 

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In a preliminary survey exercise Design+Culture Lab visited the Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, Queen.  But unlike other DOT plazas, this plaza in is called the “Diversity Plaza” and with such a name it became a centerpiece of our investigation into cultural spaces within the urban fabric.

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