—an interview with Epicenter Principal Jack Forinash and incoming Epicenter Housing Specialist JD Scott
JD Scott is a public interest designer currently residing in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he is nearing completion of his Master of Architecture degree from Tulane University. JD and Epicenter are a match made in heaven: in addition to his design-build experience, he is a Bike & Build alumnus and was a site supervisor for a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Colorado! We’re ecstatic to add him to the Epicenter team in May.
“Making is my obsession. This is evinced by my independent work in the visual arts. I am constantly searching for new media, new tools, and obstacles to challenge my hands. What began with the simple pleasures of charcoal on paper has recently shifted into collage, furniture design, and printmaking. Far more satisfying, however, are opportunities to make with others. This past fall, I had the opportunity to participate in a design-build studio at the Tulane City Center. My teammates and I designed and fabricated a mobile produce market for a local non-profit dedicated to food justice. I found this environment — characterized by collaboration and improvisation — to be a limitless source of inspiration.” –excerpt from a letter from JD to Epicenter.
Jack Forinash: Let’s start with your name. Who are you named after?
JD Scott: I’m named after my grandfather, John David Scott.
J: You’re a Pisces. Do you invest any credit into the typical attributes of a Pisces?
JD: I’ve never been interested in astrology, but I do think qualities like compassion, adaptability, and devotion are important to me. Qualities like laziness or escapism have never really applied to the way I live.
J: How does this internship fit into your big picture/career/life?
JD: I see this position as an opportunity to learn from a model of practice that is interdisciplinary, highly collaborative, and rooted in a specific community. These are values that I can apply to my career goal, which is to establish a community-based design practice in my hometown of El Paso, Texas.
J: As an El Pasoan at heart, what of El Paso’s history, demographics, and/or prestige do you find to be the biggest draw for you to one day come back to?
JD: I don’t know where to begin. It could just be the smell of the creosote bushes in the desert when a thunderstorm approaches. It could be the huevos rancheros at H&H Carwash, the machaca burritos at Lucy’s Cafe, or the horchata that old ladies serve on the streets downtown in the summer. It could be the trails in the Franklin Mountains that I have explored since I was a kid.
As a designer, the place interests me for many reasons. It sits next to Ciudad Juarez, which in my teenage years was one of the most violent cities in the world. So perhaps design can facilitate healing there. Texas Tech University recently opened a school of architecture in downtown El Paso, so that represents an opportunity for me to teach one day. The city (like most places in the southwest) suffers tremendously from sprawl, yet it has many opportunities to create pedestrian and bicycle corridors. El Paso has a thriving music and arts scene, yet few venues actively promote these sectors; so perhaps design could help to create a thoughtful backdrop for this culture.
J: Name the character you would be for a day in a TV show you’re currently watching, and describe why you would take on that persona.
JD: I don’t watch TV currently, but when I used to watch TV, one of my favorite shows was Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. I would take on his persona for obvious reasons – he constantly gets to experience new cultures and meet new people. Beyond this, I really appreciate his work – a mix of film, writing, food, and relationships. Bourdain represents someone who uses his training and knowledge base (cooking/writing) in a very public setting; this is how I’d like to practice.
J: What’s your favorite card or board game, and why?
JD: Liverpool is my favorite card game. It is slow-paced and social; you can easily eat and drink while playing (the game takes a long time to finish, so this is crucial).
J: What book, movie, or person is significant to your work/process/life, and why?
JD: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’ve read it twice now, and each time it has prompted me to reflect on my life and to critically evaluate the work that I do. As a designer, I can get caught up in the details or in the simple joy of making things. This book is a reminder to constantly be mindful of broader social issues.
J: What about the natural landscape around Green River excites you most?
JD: Canyons and dark night skies.
J: What are most looking forward to in your work with Epicenter?
JD: I’m looking forward to a lot of things. I’m excited about the hands-on problem-solving offered by the Fix it First program. I’m excited to engage with local residents and to work on projects that can directly improve their daily lives. The opportunity to be involved with other Epicenter programs and projects is exciting to me as well. I’m looking forward to meeting new collaborators and to learning from their skillsets.
J: What would be your superpower?
JD: The power to breathe underwater.