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Litscope: Aquarius & Design With Love

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This February, we are knee-deep into one of three Mercury Retrogrades of 2021. So, as we’re on the lookout for communication glitches during this retrograde in Aquarius, we also begin a month filled with planets in Aquarius. At different points of the month, between four and six planets will be in this sign! Therefore, you may want to check your birth chart to see what house Aquarius lives in; it will reveal where your life is getting this boost of energy. And, as if all this air energy isn’t enough to deal with, on the 12th of February we’ll enter the Chinese New Year of the Metal Ox.

This isn’t my area of expertise, but professional astrologer Susan Levitt says, “What was happening in this Rat year (2020) continues over into the Ox year to complete it, ground it, bring it to its resolution.” So let’s use the hardworking Ox as inspiration to help us complete all the complex transformations we started, both personal and political, last year.

Late January and most of February is Aquarius season. The fact that this sign is symbolized by the water bearer, or a person carrying water (signifying our emotions), can be a little confusing since Aquarius is an air sign. However, the individual securely carries water so that the emotions don’t spill or overwhelm them too much. Sometimes Aquarians’ detached emotional nature can be viewed as aloof. On the negative side, they can be a little temperamental—but hey, when you’re known as the visionary leader of the zodiac, a little sass is expected!

Aquarians rule friendship, and their free-spiritedness makes them the perfect companion for, say, an impromptu trip to the Caribbean. And while you’re basking in the sun, don’t hesitate to tell them about your latest beef with your boss; they’ll agree with your angst since they abhor authority. Aquarians are ruled by the unpredictable planet Uranus and live for a little shock value, but their deeper calling is as a champion of egalitarianism. They’ll fight for others’ freedom as if it were their own.

This desire for equality is a trait that emerges strongly in Design With Love, a collaboration by Katie Swenson, the director of the Enterprise Frederick P. Rose Architectural Fellowship, and Harry Connolly, a Baltimore-based photographer. The fellowship, which began in 1999, was created for young architects to work with community organizations to design spaces that people can enjoy. So far, Rose Fellows have designed and developed nearly 40,000 homes and a variety of community spaces in forty states across the US and Puerto Rico. Swenson—also a former Rose Fellow—and Connolly visited several of these locations, and Design With Love is the culmination of those trips. 

In that unpredictable Aquarian spirit, the featured locations are both expected and not. You’ll find Detroit, Michigan, but you’ll also find Seattle, Washington, and Kewa Pueblo, New Mexico. As you delve into each section, you’ll discover stories of architects expanding definitions of what architects can and should do. In San Ysidro, California (five miles from the Tijuana, Mexico border), Rose Fellow David Flores advocated for changes that resulted in a second, more humane port of entry at the border. This new, updated structure, called PedWest, includes a pedestrian plaza and, in addition to integrating a pedestrian bridge overpass which helps people safely travel from one end of the border station to the other, the port also contains artwork.

This is quite unconventional (and very Aquarian) for a place where more than 90,000 daily commuters are processed. As a 20-year resident of San Ysidro, Flores understands that “a border community … should highlight the best of what it means to be a binational citizen.” This is why one of David’s first projects as a Rose Fellow was to build eight affordable houses for first-time homeowners in San Ysidro. The generosity that Design With Love highlights is at the very heart of who Aquarians are.

A spread from Design With Love by Katie Swenson and Harry Connolly

This book illustrates how these industrious architects are completely committed to uplifting the communities they are assigned to—they also work alongside the people who live there to create something useful and beautiful. Rose Fellow Kaziah Haviland worked with the Lakota Sioux tribe to build a much-needed chicken coop, and while this may sound a bit eccentric (cue Aquarius), it was clearly successful. The community took ownership by painting the walls with traditional Lakota colors of red, yellow, black, and white. 

But honestly, what endeared me to Design With Love was the section on Baltimore. Rose Fellow and native Floridian Daniel Greenspan came to Baltimore and soon after got introduced to Franklin Square resident and community activist Donald Quarles. After they hit it off, Greenspan began organizing community meetings to find out what residents needed.

In addition to securing grant money, slowly but surely both Quarles and Greenspan began cleaning up the trash that was accumulating in front of houses. They built fences around vacant lots and strategized on what items the bigger project would incorporate. In August 2019, their dreams were materialized in Kirby Lane Park, which included a playground for children, perennials, a horseshoe pit, and Quarles’ dream of a serenity garden. This collective effort to make a community space that is truly egalitarian is the complete embodiment of Aquarian energy. 

Kirby Lane Park, Baltimore, Photo by Harry Connolly
A spread from Design With Love by Katie Swenson, photo by Harry Connolly

Before I read Design With Love, I was worried. A book written by the Rose fellowship director, focused on all the impressive work their fellows have done, could end up reading like propaganda. However, I was surprised to find that the vibrant photographs of neighborhood folks and well-written stories didn’t glaze over the hardships that fellows faced in planning and building these community spaces. Dealing with delayed permits and securing external grant funding is certainly challenging, but through it all the dedicated Rose fellows persevered.

The Six of Wands (creative endeavors) emerged for this month’s collective tarot card. In the Motherpeace deck, we see a woman who is centered in fire. She represents Shakti or Kali in the Hindu religion. This card radiates well-being and represents a public victory of some sort.

This is the time for all of us to put ourselves out there, personally and professionally, with confidence. With all of this radical Aquarian energy in the air, take this month to stand loud and proud in whatever areas in your life require boldness. 

A spread from Design With Love by Katie Swenson and Harry Connolly
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