This process is exemplified in Ogbu’s approach to the re-design of Bayview Hunters Point in San Francisco. With the closing of PG & E’s coal based power plant adjacent to a historically African American community, an exhaustive remediation of the site left the surrounding residents with an expanse of concrete, and the worry that new development would overwhelm and eradicate the existing culture through the process of gentrification. From interviews in the surrounding community, Ogbu gleaned that while nearby residents recognized the inevitability of redevelopment, they only wished that their stories be heard and their histories preserved. With this in mind, Ogbu lead a team in constructing a small studio on site for StoryCorps to record and archive each resident’s personal narrative. Ogbu then curated a series of listening parties and designed PG & E’s outdoor circus, solidifying and spatializing the site’s history in the larger urban fabric. What was once understood as an unsafe lot in a forgotten neighborhood is now an entertainment attraction for a multitude of families in San Francisco. While the site’s identity has been reframed, the existing residents can confront the inevitable changing landscape with dignity.
Because Ogbu’s practice employs an adaptable design strategy, each of her projects is completely different. Ogbu’s work includes, but is not limited to, Safe Spaces Nigeria (Nike Foundation), Clean Team Ghana, and PopUpHealth, London, New Orleans. While Ogbu continues to refine her own endeavors at Studio O, she is concurrently codifying discovered methods of creative disruption so that other designers and design firms may evaluate and adapt them. These explications are accessible in her written work and in her teaching. Ultimately, Ogbu’s systematization of socially responsible and human centered design is proving that formally engaging with informal and/or overlooked communities is not only socially responsible but also strengthens local and larger urban economies.
Ogbu earned her Bachelor of Arts from Wellesley College in 1998 with an interdepartmental major of art and architecture. Following graduation, Ogbu completed a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in sub-Saharan Africa. She then went on to receive a Masters in Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in 2004. After graduating from Harvard, Ogbu worked as Design Director at the nonprofit Public Architecture, a national organization that strives to create positive social change through design. In 2012 Ogbu completed her residency as an Innovator at IDEO.org, an organization striving to diminish global poverty, before concluding her residency at the California College of Arts the following year. She is now a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, Stanford faculty member, and Founder + Principal of Studio O.