RUBARB Community Bike Shop

The Small Center project team worked closely with RUBARB (Rusted Up Beyond All Recognition Bikes) Community Bike Shop to design and build an outdoor installation including shaded areas for work and play, water management, bike parking, and more.

Project Dates

January 2018–May 2018

  • photo by Paula Birch

  • photo by Michael Wong

  • photo by Michael Wong

  • photo by Michael Wong

  • photo by Michael Wong

  • photo by Michael Wong


New Orleanians have long taken to transportation by bike out of a mix of passion, convenience, and necessity. Keeping biking affordable, RUBARB bikes provides a community bike shop space that is open to all, for bike building and maintenance. With a sliding scale of services and volunteer workers, RUBARB ensures that everyone who wants to bike can.

Additionally, New Orleans’ Upper 9th Ward neighborhood provides few after-school, recreational, and skill-building opportunities for neighborhood youth. RUBARB is a community bike shop helping to fill that gap with dynamic programming run out of a small workshop on the corner of Piety and N. Tonti St. Open since 2006, RUBARB’s mission has been shaped by the dual role they play both as a community space and a bike shop. Their services include bike building, repair, and maintenance, healthy snacks, educational workshops, and related field trips.


Small Center Engagement

In collaboration with RUBARB, the Small Center project team worked to design and build an outdoor gathering and work space in front of the existing bike shop. Including engagement, design, and construction, the team spent approximately 14 weeks in Spring 2018 to complete all phases of the project.

Faculty, students, and staff conducted research on bike shops, strategies for material reuse, and organizing existing elements of RUBARB’s programming. The team created a wide range of design options, engaging RUBARB leadership, volunteers, youth, neighbors, and others to select a final design solution. What emerged from that process was the need for an expanded ‘chill zone’ and more shaded outdoor space.

The RUBARB entry porch and design interventions provide more space for the neighborhood youth’s ‘chill zone’ activities both during open shop hours and after hours. The Small Center team designed and built a covered outdoor porch area to provide a welcoming entrance and accommodate spillout of youth activities. In addition, the interior chill zone furniture was redesigned, and a bike rack that doubles as shop signage was added. The completed project was inspired by the design of bike frames, incorporates recycled materials as shading elements, collects water for reuse and bike tube leak testing, and more.

Partner Organization

Volunteers began RUBARB in March 2006 after collecting heaps of unused flood bikes, pulling them from garbage piles in the streets, and fixing them up for both residents and volunteers. Bikes that would have otherwise been sent to a dump full of Post Katrina rubbish are now being reused by people across New Orleans. RUBARB has evolved into a full scale upper 9th ward community bike shop from its early beginnings as a bike lending and repair workshop.

Today, RUBARB is a youth friendly bike repair shop and community space in the upper ninth ward with open hours and a knowledgeable team who help folks repair, build, and maintain bikes. Run entirely by volunteers, RUBARB goes beyond bikes to include healthy snacks, field trips, skill building activities, and events that foster community and provide after-school activities for neighborhood youth.


With the new additions, RUBARB is able to hold activities and gatherings in the shaded space adjacent to their shop, reinforcing the welcoming spirit and joyful pairing of bike shop and ‘chill zone’. The new roof structure provides gathering space protected from the sun and rain, which accommodates both working areas and hangout space for RUBARB’s volunteers and clients. It ensures that more people will be able to participate in the shop’s educational and training programs, become further involved with RUBARB, or simply repair their bikes in a comfortable environment. More information will be available in booklet form soon.


RUBARB Community Bike Shop

  • Liz Lichtman
  • Virginia Brisley
  • Woody Joseph
  • David Meza
  • Christopher Martin
  • Emily Zastrow
  • All the volunteers, neighbors, and bike shop community

Batture, LLC

  • Jenny Snape, PE

Team Members

Project Leads

  • Emilie Taylor Welty (Design Lead)
  • Nick Jenisch (Project Manager)
  • Sue Mobley (Engagement Advisor)


  • Abigail Allshouse
  • Zach Banks
  • Elisa Bernstein
  • Maddy Capezzoli
  • Allison Conn
  • Alyson Demskie
  • Andres Hartman Blau
  • Leo Liu
  • Kristen McDaniel
  • Ana Chu Noriega
  • Erica Perine
  • Sarah Rivard
  • Isa Zannier Trejo


  • Shoshana Gordon
  • Donn Peabody
  • Ann Yoachim
  • Rashidah Williams


  • Johnson Controls, Inc.
  • Tulane Center for Public Service

Special Thanks