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Vacant Home Tour

2014-2015 | Social Innovation Program
Carnegie Mellon University & Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA, US | website

Blight is defined as “something that frustrates hopes or something that impairs and destroys”; “a deteriorated condition”. When homes are abandoned in a community, it leads to an escalation in criminal activity, decrease in property values, and degradation of the very fiber of the community. Residents lose pride in their neighborhoods as they enter a cycle of decline.


In 2014, Wilkinsburg had 20% of its buildings vacant. However those buildings still held stories and memories worth sharing. Memories of the families that lived in them. The Vacant Home Tour spurred as an idea to work with residents of Wilkinsburg to design a tour of these vacant homes and explore their histories, as the alter ego of the Home & Garden Tour. The Vacant Home Tour aimed at changing the perception of abandoned homes from a problem to an opportunity. It was organized in colaboration with residents and showcased the rich histories contained within each building in order to inspire hope for the future and potential of the neighborhood. As the co-founder of the program, I worked on the design, development, and realization of the project and I also led its co-design process.

The Vacant Home Tour was an idea developed and delivered by Kenneth Chu, Marlee Gallagher, Rene Cuenca, Karlee Turkaly, Eleni Katrini, Shawneil Campbell, Robyn Lambert, Anna Malone. The first Vacant Home Tour took place on May 9th 2015, and was so successful that it repeated again the following year and copied in other cities as well. The program was one of the four winning finalists for the Fels National Public Policy Challenge in 2015. More information and articles about the program can be found here


*Photos of the event by Greg Sciulli // Poster design by Robyn Lambert

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