Evaluation Page | Place by Design Entries
Place by Design highlights projects that transform public space for a positive social and environmental impact. The range and quality of the submissions we received exceeded our expectations and we're ecstatic to share them with the SXSW Eco Community. Not all applications have been made public in accordance with the preferences of the designers. Vote for your favorite entry here and stay tuned for the announcement of the finalists!
Dan Cheetham, Fyoog; Michelle Tarsney | Austin, TX
A case study in transforming a downtown alley into a vibrant public open space–20ft Wide includes a mix of installations and multi-generational happenings to connect us with the dynamic past, present, and future roles of Austin's urban alley system. see more
ClientArt Alliance Austin and City of Austin Downtown Commission 20' Wide Project Website
ProjectA case study in transforming a downtown alley into a vibrant public open space‚ "20ft Wide" includes a mix of installations and multi-generational happenings to connect us with the dynamic past, present, and future roles of Austin's urban alley system. 20ft Wide derives its name from the 20 feet that serve as the standard width for Austin's downtown alleys, as noted on the 1839 city map by Edwin Waller. Active with service functions and vehicular deliveries, the alley is envisioned as a new kind of public space, allowing for something temporary, dramatic, and multi-use to pop-up. The intention for 20ft Wide is two-fold. First, is to underline the features of the alley, to elevate its presence and expose its utilitarian beauty. Second, is to transform the experience of the space. 20ft Wide creates a backdrop or context for new public activities to occur in this space in-between. The project includes Site Specific Installation by Dan Cheetham (Fyoog) and Michelle Tarsney in collaboration with Creative Action teaching artists and local children, Sound Design by Steve Parker in partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Murals by Matthew J. Winters, Spatial Design by TBG's Chris Jackson and Nicole Warns, and Bird Silhouettes by Griffon Ramsey with Assistance by Burl Norville.
ProblemAustin's downtown alleys remain largely unnoticed. Yet, these public spaces are often threatened by super-block developments, which alter the character and scale of the city fabric and move public services and deliveries to historic streetscapes like Congress Avenue. 20ft Wide seeks to bring awareness and appreciation to this urban space, to foster discussion about the role of the alley in the city, while simultaneously generating new possibilities and policies for its use.
ProcessThe project was a grassroots initiative. We assembled a multi-disciplinary team of designers, planners, policy makers, city staff, artists, funders and downtown representatives and determined scope, timeline, and individual roles for the implementation. The team reviewed existing research on Austin's alley system, precedent studies for pop up alley activation, and case studies for alley reuse. We surveyed and considered several alleys. The team researched the history and context of the selected alley and formulated a design approach. We determined and followed entitlements and required approval processes with city agencies while simultaneously meeting with property owners to garner support throughout the process. The team designed a multi-generational program by determining audience and intent, relevance to place and urban culture, and feasibility within the constraints of city regulations, needs of property owners, and a very limited budget.
Environmental Impact20ft Wide brings greater awareness to this private, public space and its potential use or reuse. Utilizing recycled materials and lining the alley with plants, 20ft Wide encouraged visitors not only to walk in the city, but to spend time in the alley. The project promotes an understanding of the role of the alley in the original master plan of the city and the potential impacts for privatizing this space versus its preservation for continued utilitarian use, future use as greenways, or yet to be imagined uses. It celebrates an often unnoticed public space with the culture of Austin at the forefront. Based on what we've learned through an iterative approach, we are able to create a snapshot of a more adaptable, sustainable and resilient contemporary city.
Social Impact20ft Wide integrated art, culture and creativity in the investigation of Austin's urban alley system to advance the city's knowledge about an often underutilized public asset. More than twenty partners representing public/city departments, agencies, private, non-profit, artists, designers and property owners came together to make this unprecedented project. Through making 20ft Wide and subsequent reporting to the Downtown Commission, 20ft Wide is informing the City's alley master planning process and the Special Events Permitting process currently under review. It had a positive impact on understanding the need for vibrant alternative public spaces in downtown Austin and continues to receive attention in social media and publications. The direct social and community impact is evidenced by variety of events and participants, more than 1500 children and elderly, business commuters, residents, and city visitors experienced music, storytelling, dance, meditation, food, performance, and even nature, over the course of the week long intervention.
DifficultiesAs there is no precedent for 20ft Wide, there is no special permit category for this type of project. A challenge to both timeline and budget, this type of temporary project is held to standards designed for more permanent types of construction for regulations such as egress, fire, life safety, and public gathering. In addition, it was not clear to participants the exact definition of public or private space and if there were in fact borders or edges between the two. It was a learning process to understand and meet all requirements and took a considerable volunteer commitment to plan and execute.
Should Win BecauseAs we face potentially the most rapid urbanization in human history, 20ft Wide is rooted in a desire for sustainable development. An engaged community develops stewards of the city and constituents who are attached to the improvement and care of its public spaces. 20ft Wide's grassroots approach cast a wide net to include a diverse range of participants and foster public/private collaboration. The project brought awareness to an important conversation about the role of public space in Austin's increasingly dense urban development. It allowed the team to test and learn through activation before investing in an alley master plan. "We all play a role in the development of the city," said Meredith Powell, Executive Director of Art Alliance Austin. "From the Art Alliance Austin perspective, it's about participation and engagement to create sustainable communities through great art and design."
Gilly Karjevsky | Tel Aviv, Israel
72 Hour Urban Action is a real-time architecture platform and competition. Interdisciplinary teams have only three days and nights to design and build interventions in public space, in response to local needs. see more
ClientMultiple 72 Hour Urbanism Project Website
Project72 Hour Urban Action is a real-time architecture platform and competition. Interdisciplinary teams have only three days and nights to design and build interventions in public space, in response to local needs. Teams include architects and artists, designers and craftspeople, local residents and international urbanists. Brought together by a passion for action, some travel from all over the world, to set out on a time-based mission: to better a neglected urban site. Each team is faced with a mission for that site, receive a small budget, and the support of a central fabrication camp. 72HUA experiments with the notions of authorship and ownership of public space. We identify a site, define it, take over, change it and then leave it. This process and movement through a place challenges the way we think about who creates public space, and who for. Since it's inaugural edition in 2010 at the Bat-Yam Biennale for Landscape Urbanism, 72HUA had been re-localised in various cities, to fit different scales of projects. The core team collaborates with a local producer and a network of organizations. This creates another layer of impact, as the project engages with sites, streets, institution, and city systems. 72HUA bridges the gap between design and execution, and allows for immediate feedback from involved users. This rapid design and build approach undermines the notion that change in public space must be costly, long and complicated. 72HUA proves that a concentrated effort powered by fun, passion and comradeship can bring about change.
ProblemFor most urban dwellers, city making is a process out of reach, sight and mind. Few people actually understand who exactly makes the city, and why it is so slow, complicated and expensive. This lack of transparency is part of what creates alienation and indifference in cities. 72HUA acts as a bypass in the city's system; teams work in view, the process of design is exposed in order to make change fast, possible and real.
ProcessIn Stuttgart, we partnered with a local cultural foundation to design a five-year cycle of planning events in the epicenter of the largest urban redevelopment project in Europe. With them, we held workshops, tours and meetings to map out the different users, decision makers, artists and activists. Together we investigated over fifty possible sites for intervention by talking to residents and mapping different users. In the course of this two year process, we built a mobile kitchen, public sauna and pool, a public gallery space and an urban farm around the place that would be the participant camp. 72HUA relies on a local network to work through the bureaucracy together. The teams use public money in order to achieve their aims, so the production needs to find a way to do that. This important process teaches everybody involved what's really possible, once you set out to create the opportunity.
Environmental Impact72HUA makes savvy reuse of existing infrastructure. The collaboration with municipality, cultural institutions and community groups gives us access to the city's working material pool. Teams are encouraged to use recycled materials from other projects that have ended, and we support reuse of existing infrastructure in the building of the fabrication camp. This means most of the main camp is made of borrowed units or furniture and then given back. Other features we build especially and then give back for public use. Additionally, 72HUA projects promote emotional durability that support the longevity of a place and its community by enlivening relationships of users and space. Sense of community ownership has been proven to play a key part in the sustainable revitalisation of neglected neighbourhoods.
Social ImpactBeyond the clear impact of ten new public spaces and designs, delivered with a low budget and in a short time, 72HUA works with various kinds of communities. Our first community are the local residents in the city, and around the sites where we chose to focus. Our second community includes local cultural and municipal institutions, whose collaboration is vital for the overall perspective and making things happen. Our third community are invited international and local professionals that become participants. Participants are put together into mixed teams that then look, together with the residents, for original and creative solutions to the challenges their site poses. 72HUA creates a clear change and impact on the community, by providing quick striking public installations. Also, 72HUA acts as proof of concept that is vital in the global architectural discourse. This is made possible by recognising how all these communities can work together.
DifficultiesOur biggest challenge is collaborative work and losing track of the human scale when dealing with huge systems such as cities. Dealing with coordination of expectations, realities and languages is the reason why we work with local partners who share our vision and passion for making things happen in public space. We also see a lot of teamwork and dialogue within the 72HUA editions, and we learn more and more how to guide and support such work. We are constantly amazed at how much passion goes into every installation, and even the teams who struggle the most come up with brilliant designs.
Should Win Because72HUA began at a question: why does it take so long to change public space, and how can it keep up with the everchanging nature of its users. By awarding 72HUA the Place by Design Award you would be joining us in saying it's possible and there is a way. Past participants have stated the intense experience of 72HUA has changed their perspective on placemaking and urbanism in general. These are architects who now see the importance of the social component of the environment, and mayors have seen prototypes for new engagement in their own backyards. Winning this award means acknowledging some three hundred participants and other collaborators that help us spread this knowledge further. Our network is our biggest asset and number one advocator of rapid architecture. We would love the chance to make them feel they are part of something great.
Michael Heimbinder, HabitatMap | Brooklyn, NY
AirCasting is a platform for recording, mapping, and sharing health and environmental data using your smartphone. see more
ProjectAirCasting is a platform for recording, mapping, and sharing health and environmental data using your smartphone. Each AirCasting session lets you capture real-world measurements, annotate the data to tell your story, and share it via the CrowdMap. AirCasting has fostered a DIY environmental monitoring community which maps thousands of measurements a month from enviro-sense and bio-sense devices and visualizes the measurements using LED clothing and accessories. AirCasting is targeted at community based organizations, schools, research institutions, and citizen scientists interested in health and environmental monitoring, electrical & mechanical engineering, fashion & design, rapid prototyping, and open source code. Participants include citizen scientists from around the world; students at Queens Vocational & Technical High School and the Lyons Community School; scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency and Sonoma Technology; researchers at NYU Wagner, Wagner College, and Bank Street College; doctors at NYU Institute of Environmental Medicine; software developers at Lunar Logic Polska; educators at the New York Hall of Science and Parsons the New School for design; members of the Newtown Creek Alliance; and youth from the YMCA, Girl Scouts, and the Jacob Riis Houses.
ProblemCritical aspects of our immediate surroundings go undetected or are under-reported despite advances in our technical ability to measure, record, and crowdsource these observations. These often invisible but very real aspects of our environment have enormous impact on the health of our communities. AirCasting captures this lost reality and returns to us as useful, actionable data. Our platfom is based on the premise that communities must be capable of 'seeing' a problem before they can formulate effective solutions.
ProcessThe first version of the AirCasting Android app and website were launched in December 2011. We began AirCasting by measuring sound levels in New York City because it's the #1 complaint filed with the City's 311 hotline. In the following months we worked to expand the range of enviro-sense devices that plug into the AirCasting platform to include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, temperature, and relative humidity sensors and added connectivity for our first bio-sense device, a heart rate monitor. We also programmed the app to interface with custom-designed sensor packages, leaving the door open for the DIY community to add new sensors. From its inception, the development of the AirCasting platform has been informed by feedback from community based organizations and educators who are actively engaged in running programs that utilize and build on top of our technologies.
Environmental ImpactWorsening air pollution in many parts of the world is harming millions of people, shortening lives, and taking a toll on our ecosystem. Cities in India, China, and even the U.S. frequently exceed air quality standards. Soaring levels of particulate matter and gaseous pollutants in major cities put public health at high risk. Further, government monitoring sites in these urban communities are sparsely distributed and cannot adequately measure excessive pollutant levels. The result is a gap in data, and therefore a dangerous gap in the information necessary to protect health. Knowledge of dense local pollution levels can be a powerful driver for change. Individuals can make an enormous impact within their communities by collecting and crowdsourcing credible local air quality data. Gathering these data can help individuals connect with their environment and take action to improve local air quality. It's a health justice issue, we all have a right to breathe clean air.
Social ImpactMuch of what happens in our immediate environment passes without note despite the positive contribution that recording and crowdsourcing these moments might have on our understanding of our health and the health of our communities. AirCasting is a platform for capturing this lost reality and returning it to us as useful, actionable data. By crowdsourcing data from thousands of cybernetic devices, AirCasting becomes an analytics engine capable of identifying emergent patterns in lived environments and human biology. We use this engine to invigorate and inspire communities; harnessing the power of 'big data' to bring about big changes in how we live, feel and interact with our surroundings.
DifficultiesAirCasting has fostered a DIY environmental monitoring community which maps thousands of measurements a month from enviro-sense and bio-sense devices and visualizes the measurements using LED clothing and accessories. However, to truly take advantage of the potential of the AirCasting platform to crowdsource and process health and environmental data we need tens of thousands of AirCasters in cities around the world. We are currently working to address this challenge by running more educational programs, conducting a pilot community health study using the AirCasting platform, recruiting AirCasters and running hands-on tech demos at events like MakerFaire and Urban Prototyping, organizing a Kickstarter to fund production of a low-cost AirCasting compatible air quality monitor, and expanding our social media presence.
Should Win BecauseThe AirCasting initiative deserves to win the SXSW Eco Design Award because the project is very closely aligned with the goals of the award. AirCasting goes beyond the technological view of the 'Smart City' and 'Smart Citizen' by employing social software, participant generated content, mobile communications, mash-ups, and location based services to empower activists and citizen scientists to engage in 'co-production' defined as citizens and government making better use of each other's assets and resources to achieve better outcomes and improved efficiency.
Laura Devendorf | Oakland, CA
AnyType is an application that guides an individual through an experience where she captures and transforms the visual elements and movements within her environment into unique typefaces. see more
ProjectAnyType is an application that guides an individual through an experience where she captures and transforms the visual elements and movements within her environment into unique typefaces. In one example scenario, someone may photograph graffiti on city walls and repurpose it into a colorful typeface that mimics the artwork found on their local streets. In another scenario, someone can take videos of the ebb and flow of the surf at the beach to create a dynamic font that undulates like the tides. AnyType prompts us to look through our mobile phones and actively examine our surroundings as creative inputs. Using a personal typeface, the individual is able to craft messages to be shared with others or saved for herself. As a composition tool, AnyType provides a new way to capture memories and craft sentiments where the text and visual forms work in tandem to evoke nuanced representations of one‚Äôs perspective and state of mind. The interplay between capturing media from the lived environment and composing messages with the resulting typefaces creates an experience where individuals reflect on who they are and how they represent their ideas using visual features of the spaces they inhabit. Like any creative medium, it creates opportunities for experimentation, exploration, surprise, storytelling, and reflection.
ProblemWe designed AnyType as a way to explore new design spaces as opposed to a solution for a particular problem. In the process of designing and testing our application with users, we found the aesthetic interactions supported by AnyType not only provoked individuals to actively reflect on their lives, but they also profoundly changed way individuals viewed, experienced, and felt about their local environments.
ProcessWe conducted pilot studies with 4 individuals, short-term studies with 16 individuals, and week-long studies with 10 individuals. In short term studies, we found that AnyType often shifted the users‚Äô attention from macro-elements in the environment (e.g., buildings, scenic locations, landmarks) to the micro-elements (e.g., sidewalk cracks, brickwork, signage, store-fronts) that texture the fabric of everyday life. The study participants commented on how they noticed new things about the environment even when they were in familiar locations. In the week-long studies, we saw how AnyType provoked new explorations in everyday environments and generated moments of self-reflection within these spaces. The typefaces and subsequent messages constructed using those typefaces functioned as artworks, gifts, playful guessing games, and objects of reflection. Findings from our study were published at the 2013 ACM conference on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI) and received a Best Paper Honorable Mention Award.
Environmental ImpactSince AnyType is a mobile application, the only hardware needed to run the application is a mobile device (currently AnyType only runs on Android based devices) which many people already own. Interactions with AnyType may impact the environment because they scaffold an experience for individuals to actively reflect on their surroundings and their lives. It creates an opportunity to appreciate aspects of the environment that are generally overlooked. By provoking individuals to see aspects of the environment that they once looked past, AnyType helps foster an appreciation and respect for their everyday surroundings.
Social ImpactAnyType offers a new way to communicate ideas and represent oneself to friends, loved ones, and the community at large. On an individual level, a person using AnyType is able to garner a new appreciation of their local community as they explore its spaces for new design inspirations. On a social level, sharing the typefaces and compositions created from images can foster a new appreciation among those who see it. To support these kinds of social interactions, AnyType offers a ‚Äúhistory mode‚Äù where someone viewing a composition can reveal the images and videos that were used to construct each letter.
DifficultiesOur design goal was to create an experience for the user and not necessarily a production tool for new typefaces. Difficulties arose when we needed to consider design trade-offs that pitted functionality against quality of experience. This consideration led us to remove functions that many users have come to expect from mobile applications. For instance, we removed the ability to zoom the device‚Äôs camera because we found that users were not as engaged in their environments when they had the ability to stand still and use zoom to get closer to a space. While some users found the application challenging, they also commented that the challenge was part of what made the application engaging.
Should Win BecauseAnyType should win the SXSW Eco Design Award because it prompts the place making behaviors valued in the mission statement of the competition. It compels people to engage with their everyday surroundings by casting their environments as a vast set of creative inputs. The way in which AnyType prompts exploration and reflection can foster a sense of place within an individual. Additionally, AnyType is fun to interact with and people attending the conference would enjoy making typefaces of their own.
Elisa Ruffino, Designmatters | Pasadena, CA
The design consists of a circular, stone footprint and features a 16-foot-tall open pyramid, an abstraction of a death structure, at its center. From the apex of the three beams will fall a single drop of water every 21 seconds, 3 a minute, totaling 1.5 million drops–tears–a year for each of the victims of the atrocity committed by Ottoman Turkey. This horrific event is considered the first genocide of the 20th century. see more
ClientThe Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee (PASAGMC) as well and the City of Pasadena Staff and the City of Pasadena Recreation and Parks Committee Armenian Genocide Memorial Project Website
ProjectThe design consists of a circular, stone footprint and features a 16-foot-tall open pyramid, an abstraction of a death structure, at its center. From the apex of the three beams will fall a single drop of water every 21 seconds, 3 a minute, totaling 1.5 million drops – tears – a year for each of the victims of the atrocity committed by Ottoman Turkey. This horrific event is considered the first genocide of the 20th century.
ProblemI've approached this project with reverence, and a longing to conjure a meaningful experience. My hope is that it is significantly important to the large Armenian community in Los Angeles, and moving to the unaware passerby. This is the first genocide of the 20th Century, yet hasn't been acknowledged. An urgent need for understanding is necessary to begin to heal the hearts of the Armenian people and to create global awareness to rebuild our future.
ProcessI absorbed the archived documentation of murder and terror to these innocent and helpless generations. The photographs are the proof of these crimes. The memorial form is an abstraction of this proof. These crude, pitched timber death structures put many leaders, artists, and great thinkers to death at the onset of the genocide. One of these was poet Siamanto who wrote about the massacres in Adana saying... 'Don't be afraid, I must tell you what I saw, so people will understand the crimes men do to men. For two days, by the road. To the graveyard.' This devastation is not what remains however, for underneath the pinnacle of the structure is the slow, paced, descent of the baptized, the pure and unblemished, trail of spirits. The fountain reminds us that though there is suffering in this world, that there's life in the infinite and that these souls are not forgotten.
Environmental ImpactThis project hopes to have a very minimal environmental impact. The materiality consists of planted trees, white stone, blackened steel and bronze that aims to be locally sourced from the abundant Armenian community members in these fields in the Los Angeles and greater Los Angeles area. The water feature is extremely minimal and utilizes the existing water system within the park.
Social ImpactThe community impact has been, and hopes to continue to be, one of pride and emotional thankfulness. The social impact remains to be seen. This project hopes to conjure questions, educate the public, which will strengthen the quest for national and global recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
DifficultiesUnexpected difficulties have risen from the very recent reconsideration of the site itself. From the beginning of this exploration in the form of the competition, this site was selected by city staff as a result of the rejection of a previous site in Victory Park. Now, as truly a great complement to the design itself, the project has been unanimously approved by parks and recreation and city staff, but the committee wishes for the city council to consider isolated placement in front of Pasadena City Hall. Although this prolongs the design process and make the project vulnerable to further criticism, no doubt this memorial will embody the pinnacle of the social justice location and potentially perpetuate more awareness and acknowledgment from the general public.
Should Win BecauseI believe that this project has a minimal environmental impact while having a major social and humanistic impact. The purpose of a designer in the 21st century is to rethink the nature and purpose of design itself. It is easy to get swept away in the current of ecological sustainability and find success and praise within that realm and feel like you're making a difference. It's hard for me to feel comfortable this, knowing the state of human rights and the value of human life in many developing countries. It seems only logical that we must first value one another before we can expect any substantial positive impact on the environment. Maybe this view goes beyond the traditional responsibilities of a designer, but as a creator, I feel responsible for creating and affected the future in the ways that I can.
Vincent Appel, Of Possible Architectures | New York, NY
Art Bar is a self-initiated project by the creative practice, Of Possible Architectures (OPA), a group of architects, artists, and art advocates. Art Bar pushes the limits of New York City's capacity for cultural innovation by reoccupying an obsolete vehicle deck with cultural programming and infrastructure on a Staten Island Ferry, transforming it into a vital public space. see more
ClientNYDOT Art Bar Project Website
ProjectArt Bar is a self-initiated project by the creative practice, Of Possible Architectures (OPA), a group of architects, artists, and art advocates. Art Bar pushes the limits of New York City's capacity for cultural innovation by reoccupying an obsolete vehicle deck with cultural programming and infrastructure on a Staten Island Ferry, transforming it into a vital public space. New York City's Department of Transportation (DOT) owns the fleet of ferries that travel between Manhattan and Staten Island carrying up to 60,000 people every day of the year. There are four classes of ferries currently in operation. Each Molinari class ferry has an obsolete 5,390-square-foot vehicle deck. Because of 9/11, vehicles were suspended from riding the ferries. Each Molinari ship holds 4,400 passengers and they are consistently used during all peak hour trips. As a public venue and platform for the arts, Art Bar will contain a variety of spaces designed to exhibit a wide range of artistic mediums and performances including video art, 2-dimentional work, music, readings and festivals. This cultural programming will be curated for the 25-minute duration of the ferry ride. Given the range of programming and constant place in the public realm, Art Bar will serve as an iconic platform for culture in New York City.
ProblemThe vehicle deck is an open gigantic platonic and rectangular volume of space sitting empty with dramatic city views on either end. An ideal site for a new typology, Art Bar provides an unprecedented public venue for the arts. Appealing to the Mayor's initiatives to strengthen the cultural sector, current efforts to reengage the waterfront, and the NYC DOT's existing art and urban initiatives, Art Bar will be at the forefront of NYC's cultural infrastructure.
ProcessOf Possible Architectures' work focuses on radically innovative cultural architecture and social sculpture. Our projects, including Art Bar, often start from self-initiated observations and ambitions for the built environment. These projects tend to evolve into theoretical and usually optimistic speculations on how people and the built environment affect one another. Recently, Of Possible Architectures completed a design study for the evolution of the Staten Island Arts Council into an organizational model that could occupy and sustain a 30,000-square-foot building of their own near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, leading to the concept for Art Bar, which we have been working on for the past two years. We have done on-site analysis, photographic documentation, and several concept iterations of the space. We met with many local legislators, DOT officials, and arts organizations regarding use and programming of the vehicle deck.
Environmental ImpactArt Bar's design impacts the environment including environmental, social, and economic aspects: Art Bar incorporates material re-use, the unexpected purposing of materials, and sculptural processes, producing ludic physical and cognitive engagement with audiences. Art Bar's design allows the entire structure to be efficiently removed, relocated, and operational as a mobile pavilion on land should these ships ever be decommissioned. The ridership of the Staten Island Ferry is a diverse collection of tax paying residents from multiple boroughs mixed with tourists from all over the world. This constituency is ideal for stakeholders who seek to provide exhibition space to artists, engage pedestrians in public space, create jobs, and increase economic activity between lower Manhattan and Staten Island. Art Bar provokes New Yorkers to reconsider the harbor as a public place, their relation to transportation infrastructure, and cultural production from all five boroughs they would not have been exposed to otherwise.
Social ImpactThe Molinari class ferry has a 4,400-passenger capacity and is consistently used for all peak-hour trips between Staten Island and Manhattan. The ridership and thus constituency of the Ferry is ideal for artists and cultural organizations that seek to engage a wide variety of audiences in public space. The project contains theater spaces, galleries, a projection room, and other art venues. Given the 25-minute length of the ferry ride, these spaces will host a variety of performances and installations curated for this duration. Programming would be coordinated from each borough with local artists, Art's Councils, cultural organizations, and community groups interested in engaging the unique audience and venue Art Bar provides. Furthermore, Art Bar will be a significant amenity that increases economic activity, as partnerships between local organizations in Staten Island and Manhattan will partake in Art Bar activities.
DifficultiesThe process of realizing Art Bar tests the limits of our ability to navigate policy, politics, bureaucracy, and large-scale public relations as well as providing an unprecedented design challenge. It is our intention to help the public, the Mayor's office, and the NYC DOT collectively imagine the possibility of Art Bar so that it can be realized. We are currently engaged in strategic planning and feasibility analysis of Art Bar, having several meetings with the NYC DOT and local arts organizations. However, due to current legislation, The Staten Island Ferries are considered a terrorist threat and, unfortunately, public programming of any kind on the Ferries is prohibited. Because of this legislation, we are now shifting our strategy to focus on more public awareness. By engaging the public about this unique opportunity, we believe social and governmental systems can work together to equally benefit the community.
Should Win BecauseIt is our ambition to establish creative practices that synthesizes architecture and social sculpture in order to realize cultural innovation in public space. We see our role as being able to design, construct, and collaborate with local communities, organizations, and agencies, projects that are otherwise unimaginable. Our ambition is to define visionary architectural and artistic projects as a form of practice, not only communicating to the world what is possible; but also realizing those possibilities. While legislation currently prohibits us from utilizing this vacant and tax-payer funded space, we believe public awareness is key to changing policies that may no longer be necessary. Winning a SXSW Eco Design award would increase Art Bar's visibility to the public and help connect neighbors to city-wide projects. Active and engaged citizens working with elected officials to co-create vital public assets, such as Art Bar, are now essential to a strong and vibrant community.
Juan Carlos Deleon, Runa Workshop | Austin TX
The Austin Aquatic Center blends landscape and architecture and serves as a living bridge, providing a public connection between the concrete city and parkland along the lake. see more
Project The Austin Aquatic center expresses a Euclidean geometry resting beneath an organic structure emerging from the landscape, creating architecture of nature. This undulating structure represents the concept of 'connection'. It is designed to fold out of the landscape and incorporate a fully accessible green roof. The Austin Aquatic Center blends landscape and architecture and serves as a living bridge, providing a public connection between the concrete city and parkland along the lake. The team identified existing circulation patterns, nodes, and buffer zones created by the trees, roads, and adjacent structures. These existing conditions helped to define zones of use and circulation. The team also identified opportunities of green design and construction. The project incorporates specific features such as water management strategies, responsive building skins, passive and active design strategies, multifunctional design, community engagement and educational stations. The park is intended to mitigate 150 acres of water run-off. Designed as a native meadow, the roof will reduce the heat-island effect and enhance the overall thermal comfort of the building. It will also increase the urban wildlife habitat area. Austin Aquatic Center promotes and celebrates wellness by compelling exploration, movement, exercise, play, and fostering community.
ProblemThe Austin Aquatic Center had 2 main goals. First, it aimed mitigate 150 acres of off-site water run-off from downtown to Lady Bird Lake. Secondly, the Austin Aquatic Center had a vision to connect the community. Pedestrians coming from the YMCA and west side of Lamar needed a safe route to the hike and bike trails. Also, the Aquatic Center was to be made financially accessible to everyone in the community.
ProcessThe project involved the collaboration of several people, including Big Red Dog, Studio DWG, MJ Structures, Bay & Associates, Water Design, & Holos. We talked about many methods of sustainability and how to improve the ecology. We also identified pedestrian nodes from the city and from the site and applied it to the form of the building. The roof acts as a connective pedestrian route as well as a form of reducing heat gain for the building.
Environmental ImpactThe Austin Aquatic Center aimed mitigate 150 acres of off-site trash & water run-off from downtown to Lady Bird Lake.
Social ImpactThe Austin Aquatic Center was to be made financially accessible for the City of Austin. It also created a world-class outdoor swimming & diving facility for swimmers in the city. Although several outdoor pools exist through out Austin, none are the right quality to be able to swim and practice at a competitive level. The combination of recreational swim with competitive swim will hopefully inspire the community to try new aquatic activities.
DifficultiesThere were challenges in providing a structure that could support landscape and plant elements that was also low enough to allow it to be ADA accessible. We wanted to maintain the smooth flow of the landscape to the roof without making it too steep.
Should Win BecauseThe Austin Aquatic Center embodies the lifestyle of Austin and the relationship the community has with nature and fitness.
Matthew Coates, Coates Design Architects | Bainbridge Island, WA
Greeting all who arrive by ferry from Seattle, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA) is a cultural hub for visitors and locals alike. see more
ClientBainbridge Island Museum of Art BIMA Website
ProjectGreeting all who arrive by ferry from Seattle, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA) is a cultural hub for visitors and locals alike. Showcasing the importance of community art BIMA was designed by Matthew Coates, of Coates Design Architects, in collaboration with the community while aspiring to be the first newly constructed LEED Gold museum in Washington State. Coates tackled energy efficiency goals while adhering to the facilities need to maintain art preservation standards of an environmentally controllable and adaptable museum. Light sensitive (automated) Louvers wrap around the curved portion of the glass wall, opening and closing as light levels change throughout the day. Solar panels on the roof augment energy usage while skylights with curved reflectors allow for natural light to filter in the main gallery space without fear of damaging the artwork on display. To maintain the museum's temperature standards, 14 geothermal wells were drilled up to an average depth of 300ft. Striving for LEED and cultural excellence, BIMA has the community's needs at the forefront. From the cafe to the galleries the line between indoor and outdoor space is blurred as guests enjoy both the art and the view of the Puget Sound through the two story glass facade. A physical and cultural landmark the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is a testament to the community's desire to promote sustainable design and inspiring art.
ProblemA primary goal the museum founders had set was to make sure that admission to the museum would be free, always. To achieve this goal, Coates designed BIMA to LEED Gold standards implementing energy savings elements while maintaining strict museum art preservations standards. Making the investment in these features now will keep operating costs down giving BIMA the opportunity to save money and keep their doors open at no charge.
ProcessAfter winning the contract for BIMA the design process was a collaborative effort between Coates Design and the community of Bainbridge Island. Scrapping the original design 12 different potential design models were created for the museum. Coates placed the models on display for the community to critique. The design option with the sweeping curve stood out as a community favorite and after setting aside the 12 original models, Coates took elements from several designs to create a hybrid version that was a testament to the importance of the project without dwarfing the intimate and interwoven connection between the museum and the community. The resulting design was one that is open and airy allowing for interaction with the art inside and out while being a cultural hub for the community.
Environmental ImpactWhile most museums accrue high energy usage due to the rigid standards they must adhere to, BIMA the first museum in Washington targeted for LEED Gold certification, was designed to dramatically reduce the museum's environmental impact through environmentally sustainable features. Such features include:
Social ImpactIn addition to the close working relationship between the community of Bainbridge Island and Coates Design Architects, BIMA fills a need for a place where people can gather and enjoy the rich culture that has flourished on the Olympic Peninsula. Situated atop a hill, BIMA stands to greet guests who arrive from the ferry terminal that shuttles between Bainbridge Island and Seattle. A two-story glass wall allows visitors to peek in and view art from the Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula regions. Once inside guests can visit the museum's cafe and look out onto the rest of the museum and back upon their community sidewalks; making it an inviting place for guests to spend a morning or afternoon. Filtered natural light streams in illuminating the artwork while creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. There is a great deal of visual and psychological interaction between those inside and those outside of the building's transparent skin.
DifficultiesOver the last fifty years the site where BIMA was set to call home had been used as a parking lot and junk yard leaving behind many remnants of that unsavory past. However, once excavation began on the site it was a surprise to find over 200 tires, 10 cars and even a school bus were buried beneath the site– prompting us to figure out what to do with all the old material. Thankfully, all those old materials were responsibly recycled in keeping with the environmentally sustainable mission that surrounded this project.
Should Win BecauseThis project is the definition of "sustainable," it turned a long abused plot of land, notorious for being a junk yard eye sore, into a space that can be enjoyed by the Pacific Northwest Community year around and for generations to come, it has meaningfully contributed to the ecological, cultural and economic wellness of its community. From its beginnings the intimate bond with the community that has carried through the design and completion of the museum to truly make BIMA the community's museum.
Claudia Zarazua, City of San Antonio | San Antonio, TX
"Ballroom Luminoso" transforms an urban area beneath an interstate highway underpass into an enlightened community shadow theater. see more
ClientCity of San Antonio Ballroom Luminoso Project Website
Project"Ballroom Luminoso" is a public artwork created by Joe O'Connell and Blessing Hancock of Creative Machines, Inc. for the City of San Antonio. Commissioned through Public Art San Antonio, "Ballroom Luminoso" transforms an urban area beneath an interstate highway underpass into an enlightened community shadow theater. Six brilliantly lit, color-changing artworks hang like chandeliers to cast cut-out shapes and shadows at a distance of approximately 4 feet in diameter. The illuminated artworks are made using recycled bicycle parts and hardware that encircle a central LED light fixture that maximizes creative expression with a simple installation requiring minimal maintenance.
ProblemThis is part of the 2012-2017 Bond Public Art Plan and is designed to enhance the connectivity of the neighborhoods that border the interstate highway and to brighten this otherwise blighted underpass gateway. The corridor is heavily used by both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This area of San Antonio has not been historically benefited in terms of beautification projects and public art. This represents the beginning of a conversation about how art and culture can revitalize urban spaces.
ProcessThe Department for Culture and Creative Development began developing an annual public art plan as a result of a City Council approved public art ordinance and passage of a $595 million bond program in May of 2012. As part of the capital improvement plan, Public Art San Antonio is responsible for implementing a public art plan in the total amount of $5.9 million, which represents a 1% allocation out of five bond propositions. The public art planning process identified and proposed twenty-five future public art projects that enhance the 2012 Bond based upon an effective use of budgets, adopted neighborhood plan recommendations, potential for integration with capital projects, maintenance impact, and distribution throughout the city.
Environmental Impact"Ballroom Luminoso" is designed to impact the environment in various ways. From a fabrication and material perspective, the artists designed the project to take advantage of readily available recycled bike parts as a solution that embraces and honors the burgeoning local bicycling culture, as well as to align the project with the city's dedication to recycling and environment policy. The use of LED fixtures maximizes their desire to create a high-impact creative expression for lighting the underpass and showcasing intricate shadow patterns, while also using a minimal maintenance and low energy consumption technology. Additionally, the concept of using intensely colored shadow patterns as a medium has effectively "painted" the highway's concrete and steel infrastructure with an outcome that minimizes physical environmental impact and maximizes visual impact creating dramatic and positive change in the public space.
Social ImpactThe location of "Ballroom Luminoso" is at the underpass intersection of two parallel one-way, east-west avenues (Theo Ave./Malone Ave.) and a raised interstate north-south highway (IH-35). On/off ramps, turn-around lanes, drainage canals, and large medians create significant barriers that create physical and psychological barriers between neighborhoods in every direction. Although it is impossible to fully reunify the communities impacted by complex vehicular engineering and traffic activity, there is a presence now in the community resulting from the art project that a shift has occurred towards improving the quality of life and attractiveness of the shared environment. The overwhelmingly positive responses from the neighborhood community confirm the positive social impact of this project has already become a reality.
DifficultiesIn addition to a very accelerated completion timeline (four months from selection to installation), coordination with agencies and departments was critical to getting required agreements in place regarding public right of way and utilities coordination. Illumination was a key component of the scope of work for design and construction and the City was tasked to work with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and City Public Service (CPS - local electric/gas utility) on a plan to bring power to the art installation. Although typical underpasses provide illumination installed by TxDOT and powered by CPS, the fact that this project was to install fixtures under the guise of a City public art project resulted in a requirement that the City bring power to a new meter on City public right source was outside the perimeter of the project and had then to be brought from across the street and onto the highway infrastructure.
Should Win BecauseNew meaning and significance has been given to the Theo/Malone underpass. After an imposed separation by the concrete infrastructure, there is a new presence in the neighborhood representing the importance and shift towards improving quality of life. "Ballroom Luminoso" has become a culturally relevant work that enables neighborhood connectivity, a true example of creative placemaking.
Barbara Attwell | Austin TX
BAT TOWER is a monolithic habitat for Mexican Freetail bats and has been described as a floating rock, a primordial ritual site, and an ancient rocket. see more
ProjectBAT TOWER is a monolithic habitat for Mexican Freetail bats and has been described as a floating rock, a primordial ritual site, and an ancient rocket. It is actually a fabricated cave hovering above a large mound of earth. Standing 27' tall and 4' in diameter, it has a side entrance for bats, and is open below for falling guano to fertilize native plants growing in the mound. Materials are steel and hypertufa - an old world formula of peat, volcanic particles, cement, and sand which makes a lightweight breathable material that with time, will collect organic material and sprout plant life. Rebar and steel I-beams attached to buried concrete posts support the structure. Located in the mound at ground level are a series of wildlife cavities and tunnels built of PVC pipe. Opening sizes vary to suit specific species' needs. To date it has housed rabbits, snakes, a fox, and 1 tarantula. The structure has the capability of housing 100,000 bats through the addition of an internal plywood grid system. These plywood sheets sit vertically and are textured so bats can grip easily. Temperature is regulated with a vent and the entrance is oriented west as per the bats' preference. The bats have not yet moved in, but often this takes several years. I have coated nearby trees with sugar syrup in hopes of attracting their favorite food–moths. A wildlife camera will be installed with a public link.
ProblemWe are losing 1 species every 20 minutes due mostly to habitat loss. This should be distressing and unacceptable to us all. As we take away habitat at an alarming rate, we need to consider replacing it. Instead of building through domination of the space, we can do it in membership with the existing community of wildlife and resources. It is my hope that this and other similar sculptures will inspire an Architecture-for Wildlife movement.
ProcessThe entrance opening size and location, orientation, and the ideal temperature of 100 degrees (bats like it warm) were all parameters determined by Bat Conservation International, with whom I met to guide the planning phase. I have researched bat houses throughout time and cultures, of which there are surprisingly many. Europeans are quite found of bats and have been experimenting with housing for quite awhile. Locally, in the nearby town of Comfort, Texas, is the Steve's Bat House, built by Dr. Charles A. R. Campbell to aid in the eradication of malaria. Bats eat an average of 600 insects a night, including mosquitoes that are possible disease carriers. This bat house resembles a church steeple, contains a stunning grid built of cypress to increase density, and at one time it housed almost 1 million bats. At the base is a funnel that collects guano for use as fertilizer.
Environmental ImpactThe construction was done with full consideration of the environmental price paid in choice of how the needed materials were produced and delivered. The environmental impact of a single- site neighborhood colony of bats is multifold. Ecologically, mosquitoes and moths are eaten, guano is produced to enrich soil, and bats themselves are food for other wildlife such as raptors and owls. Spiritually, we have now begun to share some space for things wild.
Social ImpactResponse to the Bat Tower has been positive and lively. At some point during a verbal introduction of the concept of integrating wildlife into architecture, I witness a personal "Ah Ha!" moment in the listener, and then questions begin. Awareness of environmental loss is very depressing, and helping others to brainstorm ways to increase habitat in their world helps to alleviate this. And the truth is, a single person doing singular actions is exactly what is needed. I am hopeful that having a creative sculptural wildlife habitat integrated into a neighborhood will lead others to think about sharing their space with all things wild, who have the right to live here. An added social benefit is the potential of engaging the community through nightly bat emergence watching. I have already had requests to have sunset events with folding chairs around the base when bats do move in.
DifficultiesThe only difficulty I have encountered were concerns of health and safety in living in close proximity to animals. This is solved with education about synanthropic wildlife–animals that are ecologically associated with humans. When the collective–we–moved off farms and ranches to cities 100 years ago, we separated animals from our sight and became obsessed with cleanliness. Recent studies demonstrate that humans who live close to animals have a much better variety of intestinal flora, and consequently are healthier. You have a better chance of getting food poisoning from a picnic than rabies from a bat. Risks to health should be considered but usually are negligible. Indeed we are already sharing space with birds and bats in nearby trees and buildings. Peregrine Falcons live in skyscrapers, bees, foxes, coyotes, and rabbits can be urban (thankfully). BBC even reported on a fox that lived in a London skyscraper.
Should Win BecauseMy art center on the wisdom, beauty and plight of wildlife, an issue that concerns us all. Works range from endangered species paintings to habitat sculptures. I now combine my art talent and multitude of skills with a deep concern for our environment, and to that end I have added training as a Master Naturalist and Environmental Educator. With the marriage of these 2 fields, I have found dedication of spirit and a way that may possibly be of help to all. BAT TOWER was an Austin Chronicle's Best Of Austin 2012 winner in the Architecture and Lodging Award category.
Jason Roberts, Team Better Block | Fort Worth, TX
The "Better Block" project is a demonstration tool that acts as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the buildout process and provide feedback in real time. see more
ClientMultiple Better Block Project Website
ProjectCities around the U.S. are looking for tools to help redevelop communities that enable multi-modal transportation while increasing economic development, and reducing carbon emissions. The "Better Block" project is a demonstration tool that acts as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the buildout process and provide feedback in real time.
ProblemThree years ago in Dallas, neighbors, and property owners gathered together to revitalize a single commercial block in an underused neighborhood corridor. The area was filled with vacant properties, wide streets, and few amenities for people who lived within walking distance. The project was developed to show the city how the block could be revived and improve area safety, health, and economics if ordinances that restricted small business and multi-modal infrastructure were removed.
Process(Not in exact order) 1. Site selection 2. Start working on getting necessary city permits/approvals 3. Community design input meeting 4. Assemblage of grass roots community leaders, non-profits, businesses, artists, DIY'ers to help spearhead project. 5. Work with local property owners to get permission to use vacant space 6. Create groups that will develop and install temporary pop-up businesses, art galleries etc. in vacant spaces. 7. Work with project volunteers to help source needed materials for Better Block 8. Market project through radio, newspapers, posters, etc. to inform community about when, where, and what. 9. Host build workshop a few nights before Better Block to construct all necessary moving pieces. 10. On day of Better Block, assemble volunteers to build block according to design. 11. Enjoy Better Block!
Environmental ImpactBetter Block projects seek to lessen carbon emissions by implementing street design and creating places that encourage car-free travel.
Social ImpactBetter Block projects attempt not only to strengthen and humanize the physical design of the built environment, but also to build upon the social capital and relationships within the community so that any change is positive and enduring.
DifficultiesWhen we first started doing Better Block we really emphasized the importance of the physical realm i.e. how to and how not to design a street/bike lane/sidewalk etc. While these elements are still central to our work, we now have a better understanding of and put more emphasis on how to build social capital so that these temporary changes become permanent. At the end of the day, you want to see these physical changes encourage active streets and a sense of community.
Should Win BecauseOur built environment shapes the way we live our lives. How our streets, parks, and buildings are constructed affects how we live, commute, and spend our time. The majority of American communities have been built in a way that encourages an unsustainable and unhealthy way of living. Attempts to change this pattern are all too often mired in dysfunctional municipal planning processes and funding mechanisms. The Better Block has effectively demonstrated how change can come quicker, better, and cheaper. It is a concept that has been replicated internationally and has made city leaders re-think how we shape public space.
Jim Dellavalle | Brooklyn, NY
Through adaptive reuse of an urban landscape, we converted an abandoned parking lot into a progressive bike park. see more
ClientTwo Trees Management Company Brooklyn Bike Park Project Website
ProjectThrough adaptive reuse of an urban landscape, we converted an abandoned parking lot into a progressive bike park. Progressive parks provide users with a range of opportunities based on their skill level, from easier to more challenging, and they allow park users of all ages to recreate safely. They encourage personal growth, social development, family interaction and build self-esteem. They are not proving grounds; rather they introduce riders to foreign terrains, varying slopes, and biking as a lifestyle sport. The Brooklyn Bike Park accomplishes all of these progressive goals in a small urban space. The park is comprised of a bike shop, gathering space, multi-use trail, beginner/advanced pump tracks, and skill stations. The multi-use trail loop accommodates bikes, strollers and walkers, and provides a more passive way of utilizing the park without having to enter the active biking areas where they may not be comfortable. The skill stations facilitate development of basic skills, which are required for off-road biking. The pump track provides cardio-physical exercise and additional skill development in a fun and safe manner (we call pump tracks a Gateway to becoming a great rider). This park will easily accommodate clinics for teaching kids about biking and proper riding technique. Stormwater control, environmental education and informative signage are integral components of the Brooklyn Bike Park, as well. The rain gardens promote stormwater infiltration, are hubs for plant, insects and wildlife and they bring nature into an urban setting. Park signage provides riding tips, difficulty ratings and educational information.
ProblemThere is general apathy toward abandoned urban lots that foster only the growth of litter and weeds. Our specific lot is also a negative symbol and visual reminder of the loss of Domino Sugar Factory. Additionally, there are few, if any, places within Brooklyn for riding bikes off-road, let alone a place that teaches how to ride. This project now fosters community activism, provides a biking venue and turned an empty lot into an asset.
ProcessUnderlying design goals are: provide a progressive venue that accommodates all ages and skill levels, yet still challenges the advanced riders; provide a space that facilitates teaching of bike skills; effectively handle stormwater in a visual and educational way, and; bring nature into an urban setting. We developed a multidisciplinary team: Dellavalle Designs was the prime course designer, construction manager and builder; Thomas McLane & Associates assisted with stormwater management and site layout; and Ride Brooklyn and NYC (Brooklyn) Mountain Bike Association were/are responsible for overseeing volunteer, park management, ongoing maintenance and special events. We first spoke with community leaders and potential park users who validated the use of the site as a bike park and community space. We completed site inventory & analysis to assess conditions like grades, soils and drainage patterns. Then, after conceptual renderings, we prepared construction and permit drawings for the NYC Department of Building.
Environmental ImpactAll bike parks need to drain-away stormwater, however, not all parks install functional, working landscapes and strive to educate riders about green infrastructure. A combination of rain gardens, native plants, and soak-away gardens adequately handles site stormwater in our park, as well as, benefits the local watershed and wildlife. Educational signage is installed that explains the benefits of native plants, pollination and water quality. The visual impact of plants is obvious in this urban setting, especially when juxtaposed to the barren clay surfaces. The use of blueberry bushes and serviceberry trees even provides the riders a chance to forage for berries between rides - if the birds to do eat them first. Lastly, re-purposed materials were used: scaffolding from Domino for custom bike racks; uncovered Belgian Block and bricks for landscaping and bike obstacles; and rescued plants from a construction site in Pennsylvania were used in the raingardens.
Social ImpactThe site is no longer an empty lot but a destination for locals and tourists. The design provides an interactive venue for multiple age groups, entire families and skill levels in a safe and organized progressive space. There is opportunity for riders to learn from each other (beginners can learn from the experts and the experts can challenge each other). The progressive design and educational signage facilitates the safe enjoyment of the park by all skill levels. There has been a buzz about the project for months and the social networks have commonly discussed the project and recruited volunteers.
DifficultiesTo accommodate other adjacent pop-up park uses, the Bike Park work area was reduced in size from the proposed 1 acre to 20,000 sf and thus required a redesign. Rather than build just one pump track in the new area, we did not compromise on the vision for a progressive park and we still managed to retain all features in a more compact and intimate setting, with the exception of a jump park. Large amounts of brick and construction debris were present on the site and were uncovered during site regrading. We utilized many of these materials, like the bricks and Belgian blocks, during construction of the skills areas and landscaping. In actuality, injecting pieces of the past into a new project brought more uniqueness to the site.
Should Win BecauseThe Brooklyn Bike Park merged urban stormwater control, education, and connectivity to nature into an emerging recreational amenity–pump tracks. At first glance, this project is simply a recreation-based initiative to provide a venue for biking; however, the park is injected with opportunities for social interaction, environmental education, teaching/mentoring and community engagement, which adds to its uniqueness and importance. The project provides an example of how environmental benefits and education opportunities can be added to non-mainstream projects with proper design and desire. Additionally, this project highlights bike parks as a large-scale form of art - the sculpted clay berms and rollers rise and fall across the ground in a living manner, the pockets of vegetation with various heights, textures, colors and movement, and the bike riders gliding through the site make the pump track an artful display.
Susan Rankin, The Trail Foundation | Austin, TX
This restroom series is a proven and ongoing use of sustainable and creative design in an extraordinarily visible public space. see more
ClientAustin Parks and Recreation Dept.
ProjectThis restroom series is a proven and ongoing use of sustainable and creative design in an extraordinarily visible public space. The Trail Foundation continues to serve the general public to provide the most needed amenities that enhance the Trail user's experience. We are continuing to fulfill our mission through careful improvements to the Trail's infrastructure and environment, while honoring the original vision of the Trail's founders. In a distinctively collaborative effort, we work in cooperation with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to close the gap between what the City provides and what the Trail requires. Our high standards of design bring only the best architectural amenities to the Trail - the most important public space in the core of downtown Austin.
ProblemThe Trail Foundation has conducted several Trail user surveys asking about the needs of Trail users. Each time, the number one need is restrooms.
ProcessIn February 2013, TTF undertook a one-week on-site installation to raise awareness and garner Trail user input and enthusiasm for this restroom and other TTF projects. The Trail Memory Board responses were phenomenal! In less than a week, over 1700 comments were gathered. Responses ranged from the whimsical to the sacred. Through Trail users' answers, it became overwhelmingly clear how deeply the Trail affects people's lives and how much the people of Austin identify with the Trail and feel it is their home. This 'Memories' installation was followed by a survey that had over 500 respondents that re-established that restrooms are the highest priority need along the Butler Trail. It also detailed the desired restroom components.
Environmental ImpactThe first two restrooms used highly recyclable materials, sustainable construction techniques and no paper towels. The Johnson Creek Restroom minimized water use through low flow toilets, auto-off faucets and used LED lights to minimize electricity use. Sustainable features being considered in the third restroom in the series, Heron Creek Restroom, use of highly recyclable and long lasting materials, such as steel and concrete, both of which have a natural finish that doesn't require finishing or painting.
Social ImpactBetween high volume of Trail-users and inadequate restrooms, safety and cleanliness are big concerns for all. Both installed restrooms were designed with safety and cleanliness in the forefront, while also providing beautiful design. The Johnson Creek restroom has also become a meeting place for many before spending time on the Trail. In both the Johnson Creek Restroom and the newest Heron Creek Restroom design, we offer Trail users a feeling of community ownership through the use of a survey to get their input. The first two restroom installations provided valuable experience so that TTF can not only continue to repeat successful restroom installations, but also educate others on what makes a noteworthy facility. Additionally, the Butler Trail provides means for people of all income levels to seek health and fitness while connecting to nature. Providing beautiful restroom facilities provides inspiration by transforming a necessary structure into an iconic architectural feature.
DifficultiesDuring the planning phase of the Johnson Creek Restroom, we encountered unknowns and challenges such getting water, wastewater and electric service. Getting the arms of the City to approve the wastewater tie-in took a very long time and some political help. There were multiple entities involved including the City Water Utility, City Parks Department, Austin High School, Austin Independent School District, and the Texas Department of Highways and Transportation who owns the land which the Parks Department operates under an old multiple use agreement. This all required time, patience, persistence, and political support. Acquiring the needed city authorizations took a long time. The Johnson Creek Restroom had several problems post-construction regarding the water pressure and door latches. Through collaboration and communication, our architect and construction company found a solution that worked with the maintenance needs of the Austin Parks and Recreation maintenance team.
Should Win BecauseThis restroom series is a proven and ongoing use of sustainable and creative design in an extraordinarily visible public space. The Trail Foundation continues to serve the general public to provide the most needed amenities that enhance the Trail user's experience. We are continuing to fulfill our mission through careful improvements to the Trail's infrastructure and environment, while honoring the original vision of the Trail's founders. In a distinctively collaborative effort, we work in cooperation with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to close the gap between what the City provides and what the Trail requires. Our high standards of design bring only the best architectural amenities to the Trail - the most important public space in the core of downtown Austin.
Barbara Attwell | Austin, TX
Cadence Hill consists of a single mound of earth, approximately 8' tall, 12' in diameter, with gently sloping sides and planted in native grasses. see more
ProjectWalking outside you come upon a lush green and grassy mound. It is mysterious, reminiscent of an ancestral site. As you get closer, you hear the faintest bass sound, so you lean in closer. You end up laying your entire body against the mound, ear to the ground, to hear better. The earth smells rich, the grass wild and soft, and now you are listening to the earth. What you hear is a very base, slow heartbeat. It dawns on you to consider that the earth is alive, a manifestation of spirit just as you are. This thought not only enlivens you, but also calms you. The sense of alienation and disconnection from nature is temporarily suspended. Maybe you spread your arms, feel the curve of the earth underneath, and play your guitar or sing to the rhythm of the beat. Cadence Hill consists of a single mound of earth, approximately 8' tall, 12' in diameter, with gently sloping sides and planted in native grasses. Buried in the center of the mound is an outdoor sound system in waterproof housing, powered by electricity or solar panel. The sound system will use an MP3 player (which can last for 50 years), amplifier, and several sub-woofers. The heartbeat will sound muffled yet loud enough to feel, as if it really does emanate from deep within the earth.
ProblemCadence Hill is geared towards restoring the connectivity we have lost with the wild. As little as 20 years ago, pre-technology, we would spend peaceful moments lying in the grass, and time singing outdoors in groups. Once we moved to an indoor culture, we not only experienced a peculiar emptiness, but lost awareness of how our actions affect the environment–with disastrous consequences. We long for nature and its exhilarating, mysterious, and sometimes frightening ways.
ProcessI have been following the work of NASA and several sound artists who listen to the noises that emanate from Earth. Some record seismic movement deep in the crust, some listen to space, and others to the phloem moving up the trunk of the tree. NASA recognizes a special kind of resonant wave that beats about 8 cycles per second and regulated by electricity (lightening) like many other heatbeats. I have great interest in recording the sounds of the aquifers directly under Austin, and using live feeds on a site is possible, but needs a large budget. As an alternative, an art piece with recorded sounds would point to the possibility of a living, breathing planet below and would serve the same purpose and at an affordable cost. I consulted with excellent engineers, and a local well-known musician who offered to create the heartbeat recordings in his studio.
Environmental ImpactTo be a low impact project, I would use native soil and grasses that would be of benefit to nearby land post-installation. I would prefer to use solar energy, but this is site and budget dependent. Whenever possible I would chose human labor over machine, not only to reduce the carbon footprint, but also to engage as many others in the project as possible.
Social ImpactSchool children now average 7 minutes a day outdoors, rivers have stopped reaching the ocean, and we are headed at lightening speed towards the largest single species die-off in known history. The high degree of separation from the very earth from which we spring, consume, and return to, has created an indifference to the impact we have on the environment, and we suffer a level of alienation that is profound. We must shift our approach from domination to membership by reinstating a relationship with nature. Time spent discovering the outdoors creates love of place, and when you love something, you care for it. Cadence Hill is a literal expression of learning to listen to the natural world, so that we may be better stewards and find our place. My hope is that a surprise invitation from the ground to listen to a heartbeat, will help remind us where home is.
DifficultiesIt is a challenge is to house the units in such a way that they are both waterproof yet let ample sound out. Designing protectable access and remote control was also a challenge. I was pleasantly surprised at the eagerness of the engineers to work on the project.
Should Win BecauseMy passion for protecting all things wild has been further solidified by recent work as environmental educator for Jacob's Well - a treasured, mystical artesian spring in Wimberley, Texas. After having flowed ceaselessly for ten thousand years, it began to fail, as have 63 other significant springs in Texas, not due to drought but to overpumping by 6500 wells drawing down its aquifer. I worked for this canary-in-a-coal mine to have a louder, brighter bird to get the message out. I am well-educated in environmental issues, experienced as an artist (BFA Art) and environmental educator, and trained as a Master Naturalist. I can deliver the message that we are truly in crisis and need to rewrite our relationship with nature with creativity and finesse. Current art works are award-winning sculptures that provide wildlife habitat, and the production of an Endangered Species gallery show with National Geographic photographer Joel Satore.
Lucy Begg, Thoughtbarn | Austin, TX
'a Chromatic Confluence' was created as a temporary six-week public installation in the Grand Center arts district of St Louis, MO. see more
ClientGrand Center, Inc. Chromatic Confluence Website
Project'a Chromatic Confluence' was created as a temporary six-week public installation in the Grand Center arts district of St Louis, MO. Constructed from over 25000' of colored cord, it formed an ephemeral, maze-like landscape on an empty 25' x 100' lot along a busy thoroughfare. Canyon-like paths cut through swaths of the vibrant cord, creating constantly shifting patterns of colors and texture. The installation was designed to encourage detours, encounters and an exchange of smiles amongst visitors, who typically scurry from parking lot to destination and back again. The installation was constructed from inexpensive, off-the-shelf materials. 'Macrame' cord is typically used for craft projects and is available in a wide array of colors. It was strung between curving plywood ribs, which in turn were suspended from a temporary scaffold structure. The ribs were cut with a digital water-jet cutter and included hundreds of 1/2" holes, which controlled the density of the cord. An existing concrete wall was clad in reflective film, multiplying the perceived scale of the artwork and enhancing its optical effects. The installation process was completed in 9 days and involved more than 300 hours of volunteer help. The project was built for $22,000 and $15,000 of in-kind donations, including the cost of design fees and travel. As a per/sf calculation, the construction cost was $6/sf! It was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from the Regional Arts Commission.
ProblemThe Grand Center district houses a number of world-class theaters, galleries and concert halls within a few blocks. However, despite remarkable cultural facilities, it is not a neighborhood in which daily life thrives. Large surface parking lots alienate pedestrians and there are few outdoor gathering spaces. Our goal was to temporarily transform how the public space of Grand Center was experienced, to prototype how it could instead be a venue to bring people together.
ProcessIn public art projects with limited budgets we combine various strategies to make an impact: a strong conceptual idea, inexpensive materials, sophisticated computer modeling and the generosity of strangers! Here we were interested in St Louis' location at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. To contrast the district's rigid urban form we used watery patterns to inform our design process. We like to experiment with familiar materials in unexpected ways. Macramé cord, strung between scaffolding and plywood ribs, proved strong, lightweight, inexpensive and resistant to UV. Computer scripting allowed us test different combinations of string densities, thicknesses and colors. We then used it to organize the installation into simple assembly systems, to be put together by volunteers from the adjacent school and neighborhood arts organizations. We also made a full-scale prototype to test our assumptions and found local fabricators to donate time and tools to our project.
Environmental ImpactThe installation temporarily transformed an overlooked space on a busy road, initiating the curiosity of pedestrians and car-drivers alike. In the six weeks it was up, all sorts of interesting, unexpected things happened-a youth orchestra performed in it weekly to sidewalk audiences, people set up picnic spots within it for their lunch, and a theater transferred their rehearsals of Midsummer Night's Dream to the site, turning the installation into a magical forest of fairies. Though we designed and organized the project from Austin, TX, the project had a light footprint. A construction company based in the district both assembled and took down the scaffolding. The plywood ribs were fabricated by a local metal shop and then recycled. And the thousands of feet of macramé cord were donated to the Craft Alliance, for use in their summer arts workshops with kids.
Social ImpactWe believe art is made 'public' through its process of creation as well as its location. Middle schoolers cut and organized over 2000 lengths of string. They also helped weave them between the ribs following detailed instruction diagrams. Local artists and architecture students assembled the plywood and mylar, and completed the interminable weaving process. On the opening night, over 2000 visitors wandered through the installation as part of the annual Grand Center Art Walk while 'Orchestrating Diversity', a local youth orchestra, performed in the different 'rooms'. We feared for the fragility of the piece but after six weeks, just 3 strings had come untied. Why no vandals or spoilsports? We can only speculate, but we like to imagine it proves that using public spaces as venues for participation and creativity creates the means by which we, as citizens, come to collectively care for the common good.
Difficulties As always, we struggled with the consequences of pushing our budget to its limits. Because of our client's profile, we thought securing an in-kind scaffolding donation would be easy - and our budget assumed this. Instead we had to pay several thousand dollars for it. To compensate, we had to gut our paid labor budget and rely wholly on volunteers instead. Construction constituted more work than expected, with not enough time. It took the metal fabricator twice as long as planned to cut the ribs. We assembled them in three days instead of one. The high energy of sixth graders ensured that the string got cut in a day, as planned. But weaving it was a monster task and even our clients ended up helping as we got down to the wire. We finished the installation 30 minutes, as opposed to 3 days, before 2000 people showed up for the opening!
Should Win BecauseRealizing outstanding, experimental work in the public realm is a challenge. Compared to private sector work, the budgets are tighter, the limitations greater, the liability increased, the stakeholders multiplied. The forces of the universe conspire towards the tried-and-tested, the 'safe,' and the 'known'. Yet we persist in pursuing this type of work because we believe the meaningful potential for producing systemic urban change - that which addresses the long-term viability and vibrancy of our cities - happens in this realm. Our projects tend to be small in scale, but far-reaching in conceptual scope, creating a human scale connection to larger issues of urban development that are hard to grasp but at the same time affect us all. It would be an honor to be recognized for this work, which has been a labor of love in collaboration with many ambitious clients, fabrication partners and dedicated volunteers.
Stephen Peck | Miami, FL
Clear Waters is an educational and entertainment facility designed to promote South Florida's unique marine ecology through spectacular attractions and interactive environmental experiences. see more
ProjectClear Waters is an educational and entertainment facility designed to promote South Florida's unique marine ecology through spectacular attractions and interactive environmental experiences. Goals include increasing international awareness of the deleterious effects of global behaviors on low lying population centers as well as informing the local community of potential environmental changes and activating a public response to ensure future prosperity. An additional goal is illustrating how small efforts by each of us might have a large impact on our collective experience. The premise is that an invested community is more likely to conserve and protect its precious resources. Forming a sense of place leads to a convergence of interests and the idea that "we are all in the same boat".
ProblemElevating the facility above grade allows for future protection against rising sea levels and water intrusion. It also maintains existing open space below for public use at no charge. The placement of exhibition pavilions, inspired by the randomness of mangrove attachment and growth, ensures varied views and opportunities for shelter from the elements.
ProcessElevating the facility above grade allows for future protection against rising sea levels and water intrusion. It also maintains existing open space below for public use at no charge. The placement of exhibition pavilions, inspired by the randomness of mangrove attachment and growth, ensures varied views and opportunities for shelter from the elements.
Environmental ImpactThe addition of landscape throughout the site establishes a microclimate allowing for cooled temperatures, increased carbon dioxide absorption and air filtration. Habitat is created for land based creatures as well as marine life with the introduction of a mangrove nursery extending into the bay. Juvenile fish species find refuge among mangrove roots allowing them too mature and increase their numbers. Silt is also captured by the root system helping to maintain land mass and prevent erosion. Access to the site includes a new kayak launch and ferry service allowing visitors the opportunity to leave automobiles behind. Bike lanes are expanded and clearly marked leading east and west providing additional incentive to forgo the car leading to less paved space for parking and more open green areas. An auditory buffer of landscape decreases awareness of the traffic passing across the island which acts as a node of intersecting pathways.
Social ImpactCovered boardwalks act not only as connections between experiences but as gathering spots as well. Open park space, easily accessed and free of charge, provides additional opportunities to collect views of the city and develop a clear and legible image. Hands on activities like touch tanks and kayak tours through the mangrove forest encourage community interest in conservation of resources and help to form a sense of place. The park becomes a socially activating place where the varied cultures and experiences of diverse Miamians are able to mingle and mix. There is a convergence here where communal interests are paramount.
DifficultiesWithout funding from governmental or academic institutions, paid entry to the exhibition spaces, combined with donations, is a must. Balancing the research component and science based approach with the "fun" elements like exhibits proved crucial. Excluding large stadium experiences with dolphins and the like performing unnatural behaviors was a priority yet could impact the ability to draw large numbers of paying visitors. Alternative experiences had to be offered. I also found specific programmatic elements like the auditorium and cafe easy enough to design while the exhibit spaces and main aquarium were more challenging as they could take on unlimited forms and possibilities. Finally, the history of developers in Miami wielding tremendous influence typically has meant public spaces losing out to larger monied interests. Striving for a pragmatic and creative approach to the underutilized site, something that might actually be built, was a constant goal.
Should WIn BecauseClear Waters is aspirational and pragmatic. It serves to educate and motivate dispirited locals who yearn for public space to gather and experience Miami. Creating opportunities to view the city from varied perspectives helps a newish city and it's transient population form attachments. And exhibits allow for an education regarding environmental degradation and changes to coral reef ecology, vital to our local health.
Iker Gil, MAS Studio | Chicago, IL
Cut. Join. Play. activates vacant spaces within the urban context by creating a new artificial landscape that invites community involvement. see more
ClientArchitecture for Humanity Chicago Cut. Join. Play. Project Website
ProjectCut. Join. Play. activates vacant spaces within the urban context by creating a new artificial landscape that invites community involvement. Through the aggregation of a series of volumes built with simple materials, the proposal organizes the site, providing a container for different uses: bench; flower, grass, herb and native planting; light box; and recycling and garbage container to name a few. A scalable and replicable project to address any lot size and budget. We see an opportunity to take simple materials on empty land to strengthen a community. A place to laugh with friends, discuss the neighborhood, play in idyllic surroundings, gather in guarded gardens, and grow a humble harvest. It is a catalyst for change. Following these six steps and the plywood cutting patterns provided on our website, you can create your own Cut. Join. Play.: Steps 01. Start with a flat, lifeless lot and some plywood of similar quality. 02. Select the size of the desired installation, from XS to XL, the possibilities are endless. 03. Cut plywood into simple geometric shapes according to the patterns provided. 04. Join the pieces together with a metal angle after matching up the edges with equal dimensions. As the volumes aggregate, a landscape begins to form. 05. Fill the volumes with grass, herbs, flowers, recycling containers, light,–life! 06. When summer fades, don't be disappointed. Take the plants to a deserving home or community garden and package up the boards to bring it all back to life next summer.
ProblemChicago has an estimated 15,000 city-owned vacant lots. Neighborhoods across the city, especially on the west and south sides, have a large concentration of them, affecting the urban fabric and strength of the community. Our project addresses this problem in Little Village, proposing a simple and flexible artificial landscape that invites community involvement to activate a large vacant lot. A project to change the perception of what an empty space in your community can be.
ProcessAs the competition organized by the Chicago chapter of Architecture for Humanity did not provide a specific location to address, our proposal concentrated on providing a simple, flexible and replicable strategy that could be implemented on any site and context regardless of the size or economic means. After our proposal was chosen as the winner of the competition, a 100' x 125' site was selected in Little Village. Archeworks, Positive Space and Enlace, the community partner, organized a series of events and workshops on site to share the design of the proposal with the residents, discuss with them the most adequate program and arrangement, and explain the building process so they could be in charge of it. Due to that strong community engagement, construction day was a success, with competition organizers, designers, local organizations and many residents of the nearby blocks, children and adults alike, working together.
Environmental ImpactCut. Join. Play. was built with recycled, reclaimed and natural materials. From the plywood and paint to the soil and plants, they were all donated and reused from previous locations. For example, the plywood sheets used were donated by a construction company that did not need them due to the slowing of the construction market at the time. Also, the implementation of the project required minimal to no energy. A simple process to engage the community and minimize the energy and maintenance required during its use. Finally, the site of our project in Little Village, 100' x 125', was completely paved, forcing all the rainwater into the sewer system. Our proposal reduced the runoff area, catching rainwater in the multiple units built, watering the native plants, and diverting rainwater from the sewer system.
Social ImpactThe success of Cut. Join. Play. is based on the active involvement of the community. Its construction is very simple so every person in the community is an integral part of the building process and enjoys its outcome. While the adults helped with construction, young kids helped with painting and planting the modules. Their involvement in the construction and maintenance strengthens their connection with the project, instantly making it part of their community. It has a universal and age appropriate design, providing multiple and varied spaces, from areas for private moments of reflection to areas for large public gatherings. Ultimately, it changes the way residents perceived this formerly vacant area in their neighborhood and empowered them to look for long-term solutions. While we implemented the project in Little Village, we make sure that other communities can benefit from this experience, providing the cutting patterns online for anybody to use.
DifficultiesThere were two aspects that we needed to pay special attention: The project had a $1,000 budget. The site selected by AFH was quite large for this budget so there was a big effort to secure donations for materials, soil, plants and paint in order to be able to produce enough modules to occupy and activate a large portion of the site. In the end, we were able to produce twice the amount of units than initially planned. The project was initially intended to stay for three months but that duration was extended to six months. While it was a sign of its success, it also made the maintenance of the modules a challenge. The modules were built out of plywood sheets as they were readily available and inexpensive, but water affected some of them. Fortunately, immediate neighbors and community members took care of the project when repairs were needed.
Should Win BecauseCut. Join. Play. uses a simple but striking design to invite community involvement. With a simple kit of parts to assemble, each person in the community is an integral part of the building process and enjoys its outcome. With a universal design, it provides spaces for private moments of reflection as well as public gathering spaces. It is scalable and replicable so no lot size is too big or amount of money too small. It uses recycled and reused materials so it can even be built for $0! But more importantly, In Little Village it changed the way residents perceived this formerly vacant area in their neighborhood. It demonstrated that it could be an asset so, after the project was completed, the residents raised $100,000 and the legal right to turn the area into a permanent public park from the City of Chicago. A truly long lasting impact in the community.
Babak Fakhamzadeh | Delft, Netherlands
Derive app is a simple but engaging platform that allows users to explore their urban spaces in a care-free and casual way.see more
Project DescriptionDérive app is a simple but engaging platform that allows users to explore their urban spaces in a care-free and casual way. It takes the ideals of the Situationist International and merges it with digital means in order to create a tool that would promotes exploration of urban space in an unplanned way. Too often in urban centers we are controlled by our day to day activities, thus closing off urban experiences that exist around us. Dérive app was created to try to nudge people who are in this repetitive cycle to allow the suggestions and subjectivities of others to enter into their urban existences, thus making them aware of the urban dynamics that exist around them. The active engagement of communities in their urban spaces unleashes in them new understanding of their urban surroundings, to open up channels of dialogue between individuals and groups through a device that makes the unpacking of urban space part of a game. Dérive app uses task cards that are created with the intention of heightening the experience of the city for the user, by calling them out to search for specific architectural, urban or social points of interest, thus allowing users of the application to see their urban spaces in a different light.
ProblemToo often in urban centers we are controlled by our day to day activities thus closing off urban experiences that exist around us. Dérive app was created to try to nudge those people who are in this repetitive cycle to allow the suggestions and subjectivities of others to enter into their urban existences.
ProcessDérive app was born as an artistic project during a residency of Eduardo Cachucho at the Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella, Italy. Dérive app was an attempt to converge the fields of architecture, urban design and art into one project. Intense research on the Situationist International and their theories around the Dériveand psychogeography resulted in the web-based mobile application that was Dérive app 1.0. Afterwards, with Babak Fakhamzadeh joining the Dérive app team, Dérive app evolved into an open platform with a focus on facilitating the expandability and share-ability of the app, both through two-day workshops and independent additions through a rich web-based interface.
Environmental ImpactDérive app's aim is to heighten the public's awareness to their surroundings, and thus giving them the proper frame of mind to be able to act on the systems that are in place in these surroundings. This includes social, environmental, urban, built environment, political and commercial factors. A good understanding of how all these systems work in conjunction are critical to a well rounded understanding of how cities work. Having this understanding then allows citizens to make choices that can have the greatest possible environmental, urban, built environment and political impact on society.
Social ImpactDérive app's aim is to heighten the public's awareness to their surroundings, and thus giving them the proper frame of mind to be able to act of the systems that are in place in these surroundings. What is unique about Dérive app is that the same critical thought that enables citizens to think about their environment differently also allows users to look at their wider urban sphere in a critical way. Here again it is crucial for the public to be more aware of the complex structures that surround them, and in so knowing can enact more effective change in those spheres.
DifficultiesInitial versions of Dérive app were created in a very open manner, with all code and media available to the public for appropriation and extension of the application. This mode of distribution and interaction was though, still too technical for the vast majority of users to be able to interact with and as such the first year of expansion happened very slowly. As soon as we began developing the 2.0 version of the application which greatly simplified the adding of task cards, location tracking of walks, inserting of photographs, note taking, etc., the application's use expanded greatly and has allowed people to use the application completely unguided. We expect pleasant surprises to emerge from this open platform in the future.
Should Win Because:As the world moves towards ever increasing urbanity it is more important than ever that city dwellers understand the position that they hold within their surroundings. Understanding this position allows city dwellers to leverage their power to get effective and lasting results that they would like to experience, be it broader political change, environmental protection, social integration. Shared and sharable experiences contribute to an enriched communal understanding of the publics' environment and D√©rive app is at its core an application for users to explore, understand and share these explorations of urban space with those around them. It is these stronger communal ties and understanding, facilitated through use of Dérive app, which lead to a greater sense of ownership and responsibility of spaces by the users.
Andy Waddle, Gensler | Austin, TX
The Gensler Austin office took the opportunity to transform an un-leased retail space into an interactive crowdsourcing installation and social media campaign aimed at collecting and sharing public input on ways to improve the future of the built environment in the City of Austin, particularly through improved architecture, urban design, and infrastructure. see more
ProjectInspired by Gensler's internal "Redefining the Town Square" initiative, the pop-up installation nature of SXSW, and in the spirit of "Imagine Austin" (the City of Austin's recently adopted comprehensive plan), the Gensler Austin office took the opportunity to transform an un-leased retail space (on a prominent downtown street corner directly below the Gensler office) into an interactive crowdsourcing installation and social media campaign aimed at collecting and sharing public input on ways to improve the future of the built environment in the City of Austin, particularly through improved architecture, urban design, and infrastructure. The campaign asked Austinites and out-of-towners to share their thoughts on how they would finish the following sentence: "If I could design Austin, I would __________." The general public and local industry contacts were invited to join the conversation by submitting their ideas via Twitter or Instagram using hashtag #designatx. Contributors were then able to visit the specially created website designatx.gensler.com to see their ideas posted online and to see what others posted. They could also stop by the street installation at the highly visible northeast corner of the W Hotel to see their ideas streaming on-screen in real-time.
ProblemThe intent of the project was to take an un-leased retail space on a prominent downtown Austin street corner and transform into a dynamic, interactive crowdsourcing installation and social media campaign launched during SXSW 2013. It was designed to Designed to "stop people in their tracks," get them to think about the built environment around them and share their ideas on how to improve it.
ProcessThe project was conceived and fully installed in less than five days thanks to a highly collaborative team effort and the volunteered services of local partners. A vinyl building wrap was designed and applied to the exterior wall of a previously unused street-level retail space at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in Austin. A flat screen display was installed to display the responses from the campaign. Back-end technology powered by local company Mass Relevance allowed the ability to filter and display all social media results submitted via Twitter and Instagram using #designatx. In addition, we also distributed hundreds of napkin sketch cards around town to encourage hand-sketched Instagram submissions. Our goal was to reach a broad audience and collect as many responses as possible.
Environmental ImpactThe project is an example of how design can be impactful on many levels without having undesirable environmental consequences. With a simple graphic application, a space that people previously walked and rode by on a daily basis without stopping was converted into something meaningful. It became an interactive way to solicit and share public input about a number of issues, many of which related to the environment and local development and transit issues.
Social ImpactThe installation and campaign was an innovative way to: 1) engage the public in a conversation about the future of the Austin's built environment, 2) solicit input from uncommon sources to capture data that has a number of applications, and 3) test a pilot program for what could potentially become a new service offering for our firm– i.e. scalable, strategically located Public Input Kiosks‚– tied to themed social media campaigns which allow a broad or narrow audience the opportunity to have their voice heard in a way that would not exist otherwise.
DifficultiesSeveral different elements had to fall into place at just the right time for the campaign to be successful, and the project was conceived and implemented in a matter of five days. It evolved organically with the help of several individuals and was a highly collaborative effort between Gensler Austin, Stratus Properties (the landlord), Rand Construction, Onsite AV Partners, and Mass Relevance, all local to Austin.
Should Win BecauseOur #DesignATX campaign embodies the principles of the Place by Design Awards, recognizing that good design has the ability to reflect a community's culture and values and compels people to engage with their everyday surroundings‚ It can transform the way communities interact with place. More than 100,000 people attend SXSW each year, an estimated 96% of whom use social media. #DesignATX was more than just a pop-up installation; it was a crowdsourcing campaign that gave the community and SXSW attendees the chance to share their ideas–online and on a highly visible outdoor screen –about how to improve the world around them.
Alix Ogilvie, Architecture for Humanity | San Francisco, CA
Our goal is to turn everyday spaces into everyday PLAYces: inspiring spontaneous action/ interaction; bringing businesses to neighborhoods; connecting people to their physical selves and each other; and at the very least, are fun. see more
ProjectJust a few generations ago, physical activity was an integral part of daily life. In the name of technological progress, we've now chipped away at it so thoroughly that physical inactivity actually seems normal. The economic costs are unacceptable, and the human costs unforgivable. Designed to Move (DTM) is founded on evidence-based research signaling priority must be given to dramatically increase the world's commitment to physical activity. Economies, cities and cultures can be (re)shaped and (re)designed to encourage and enable physical movement just about anywhere. To ensure a better future for all, this needs to be the new norm. DTM champions around the globe aim to reverse this trend of inactivity through changes to the built environment. Projects will address issues of suburbanization, its effect on the natural/ built worlds and its side effects on human health and wellbeing. Guidelines and toolkits will be developed and projects will be constructed that serve as models for rethinking neglected, blighted spaces and/or spaces that, by their inherent nature, encourage inactivity. This may include everything from improved lighting and air quality control, storm water management, water-conserving landscapes, playground space, outdoor event space, spaces for small business or the provision of public services. Our goal is to turn everyday spaces into everyday PLAYces: inspiring spontaneous action/ interaction; bringing businesses to neighborhoods; connecting people to their physical selves and each other; and at the very least, are fun.
ProblemInactivity, an unintended consequence of built worlds designed for efficiency and convenience, has lasting emotional/ cognitive/ physical impacts. Never before have children been expected to have shorter lifespans than their parents. Research suggests that the faster economies grow, the faster populations slow down. The human and economic costs are unacceptable. Inactivity is a major risk factor for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, breast cancer and depression.
ProcessDesigned to Move is the result of robust multi-disciplinary research and a report that summarizes the context, causes, costs and consequences of inactivity. It concludes with a physical activity action agenda and call to action. Beyond highlighting the effects of physical inactivity, DTM brings together a diverse coalition and calls for dramatic and urgent commitments to increase physical activity, placing special emphasis on the creation of early positive experiences for children and finding ways to integrate physical activity back into our daily lives through the design of our built environments. This is a powerful, preventative course of action, ripe for innovation, investment and impact on positive human development while, by nature, reducing our environmental impact. We are working with communities and pilot cities around the globe to develop guidelines/ toolkits for tangible solutions that will promote better living, more moving and more sustainable and healthy places to do and be.
Environmental ImpactProjects focus on improvements that activate: Open Spaces/Parks encourage people to move and enhance wellbeing while protecting/ restoring natural systems. Plants are responsible for our food, filtering/regulating the water cycle, medicines, oxygen, providing natural habitats and for regulating our climate. Urban Design/Land Use: DTM guidelines that integrate non-vehicular transportation, open space and recreation, local food production, clean waterways and natural habitat protection into a community’s urban design/ land-use policy can reduce negative environmental impacts. Transportation: Encouraging people to walk, skip, run, skate, cycle, pogo stick or take public transportation will reduce CO2 emissions, air quality and resulting health issues and vehicular strain. Schools: Integrating green active spaces in school buildings/ campuses and curricula encourages students to learn by doing, seeing and playing while creating healthier, more resource efficient and inspiring places. Buildings/Workplaces: Integrating green spaces, resource efficient systems and physical activity incentives can (re)invigorate dormant/ unhealthy offices and workforces.
Social ImpactEconomies, cities and cultures can be shaped and designed to encourage and enable physical movement. To ensure a better future for all, this needs to be the norm. The comprehensive benefits of sports and physical activity are underestimated today, with the focus typically limited to the more obvious physical benefits. What seems to have gone unnoticed is that physical activity accelerates the development of many dimensions of human capital in a unique and comprehensive way. Some of the human capital benefits are: intellectual; financial; physical; emotional; social; and individual. Each "capital" defines a set of resources that underpin our wellbeing, success and sense of self worth as individuals and community members. Strong communities tend to thrive with the support of strong individuals. No one can fix this alone -- by aligning strategies and combining resources, communities can work together to dramatically increase the world's commitment to physical activity.
DifficultiesThere may not be much debate that inactivity has grave impacts on economic, physical, emotional and social wellbeing -- impacting individuals, communities and the environment in costly and deadly ways. Despite knowing this, it remains a challenge to entice individuals, communities and leaders to invest now and to invest early to reverse the cycle. Whether financial, policy (re)shaping or habit changing -- early investments are preventative investments that lead to a more enjoyable and healthy life experience, more money to spend on the fun stuff, an extended life expectancy, stronger communities and a planet that can continue to provide the resources that sustain life.
Should Win BecauseDTM is framed around an evidence-based physical activity agenda that is: innovative in its approach; participatory by design; scalable; sustainable for "natural" human, built, social, economic, educational, health environments; accessible to all body types; better for communities and more fun. Instead of birds, we kill several calories with one ball. DTM champions around the globe are committing to working with communities, businesses, health care/ education professionals, designers and policy makers to identify opportunities for active spaces that align with and are incorporated into everyday life experiences/ built environment settings: open spaces/ parks; urban design/ land use; transportation; schools; buildings/ workplaces. The message should be broadcasted, alliances formed and knowledge shared. Together, we can gather success stories and lessons learned, develop tools that individuals/ communities can use to implement effective, affordable and scalable solutions in their own environments - raising a collective awareness until the movement moves itself.
David Jurca, Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative | Cleveland, OH
The Detroit-Superior Bridge Project is a community-driven effort, to re-open the lower level of the bridge to the public for year-round use. see more
ClientCity of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County Public Works
ProjectThe Detroit-Superior Bridge is a 3,112 feet long, two-level through arch bridge over the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio. The upper level of the bridge was designed for vehicular traffic and remains one of the most heavily used thoroughfares in the city. The lower level was designed for streetcars, but has been largely vacant since 1954 when streetcar service was discontinued. The Detroit-Superior Bridge Project is a community-driven effort, to re-open the lower level of the bridge to the public for year-round use. During the six month planning process to develop recommendations for improved cycling and pedestrian access through the lower level, the project used temporary interventions to increase the quantity and quality of public engagement. Rather than hold public meetings at an offsite auditorium or school gym (as is often the case) the Bridge Project invited jogging clubs, cyclists, local residents, and their pets to the Detroit-Superior Bridge for a series of events designed to gather user feedback. Far surpassing the attendance numbers of typical public meetings, the Bridge Project attracted over 1,000 people to three public events held on the bridge. The events featured temporary interventions fabricated by the design team using low-cost materials, including duct tape, pvc pipes, and corrugated plastic sheets. The full-scale prototypes simulated bike lane configurations, wayfinding signage, and performance venue location alternatives, providing the public with an inhabitable vision of the future within which to select their preferences.
ProblemThe project focuses on the potential of the bridge's lower level to provide a sheltered connection for pedestrians and bicyclists between downtown Cleveland and the city's west side neighborhoods, and also to function as a year-round public space and event venue. The project demonstrated how temporary interventions can engage the public in urban design decisions, leading to context sensitive infrastructure recommendations, which enhance urban vitality and support permanent development.
ProcessThe project team was led by the Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, which initiated focus group sessions with bicycling advocacy groups, local community development organizations, City of Cleveland planning staff, and other stakeholders before developing the intervention concepts deployed at the public events. Feedback collected at the first public event was used to determine the projects prioritized by the public to test at subsequent public openings. In order to engage a broader demographic in the planning process, the CUDC held a one-week design workshop with youth living at a nearby low income housing development, providing critical insights on their perceptions of the bridge's lower level.
Environmental ImpactThe Detroit-Superior Bridge Project exemplifies the need for post-industrial cities to reimagine the function of underused infrastructure. More value can be extracted from the embodied energy and maintenance costs of the bridge by introducing new uses as a covered public space and event venue. The temporary bike lanes and wayfinding signage improved the safety and comfort of cyclists travelling across the bridge's lower level. Although temporary, the experience of pleasurable pedal-powered travel across the bridge has helped build a strong coalition of advocates in favor of permanent public access on the lower level. By providing a desirable, stress-free bike route at this key location, Cleveland may see significant increases in bicycle commuters and less experienced riders between the near west side neighborhoods and downtown.
Social ImpactThe temporary projects provided an effective means of community engagement. Instead of asking the public to respond to sketches and models of development alternatives, the temporary bike lanes and pedestrian environments invited people to explore a variety of alternatives and to determine their preferences based on actual, on-site experiences. Through improved transportation options, the Detroit-Superior Bridge project can unite divided neighborhoods and provide a needed public space in the area, designed through the informed decisions of the community.
DifficultiesThe project's intent is to achieve year-round public access to the bridge, but providing temporary public access presented several challenges. The bridge is currently under the stewardship of the Cuyahoga County Engineer's Office, requiring several levels of approval and high security personnel costs for each public event.
Should Win BecauseThe Detroit-Superior Bridge Project invited a broad spectrum of the public to engage in a fun and productive planning process. By providing realistic mock-ups of alternative proposals, the CUDC enabled attendees to confidently assess their preferred options, increasing support of the overall initiative. The temporary bicycle amenities, directional signage, and performance spaces developed in this project can provide needed inspiration to other initiatives aimed at rewriting the stories of forgotten, yet extraordinary, places.
Barbara Attwell | Austin, TX
Upon entering the gallery space a visitor first confronts a single isolated wall, where the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species is projected in red, and scrolling due to its large size. see more
ProjectUpon entering the gallery space a visitor first confronts a single isolated wall, where the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species is projected in red, and scrolling due to its large size. The IUCN Red list is the most comprehensive source on the status of wild species and covers the categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Extinct, and Extinct in the Wild. It contains some 20,000 species. Behind this wall is the gallery space where approximately 30 of individual species images by National Geographic Photographer Joel Satore are projected, very large, and fading one at a time representing extinction. Those that are merely threatened will fade to 25% of their opacity, and those few that have recovered, will partially reappear. The entire sequence will repeat every 20 minutes, referring to the fact that we are losing 1 species every 20 minutes. The majority of the images shown would be mammals, reptiles, and fish, with a few plants added to inform the public that plants are endangered also. A separate area will house a gallery of additional mounted photographs by Satore and paintings by Attwell, and possibly paintings by other invited artists. Also available will be ways that individuals can help, to counter the depressive nature of the information. Satore's portraits (link) are stunningly beautiful and will serve to confront us in the most direct and honest way possible. Attwell's paintings ask us what our role is in deciding the fate of every one of these species.
ProblemBefore we go further 'developing' the planet, we should look at what we are throwing away. As wildlife has no voice, and is often so secretive that few of us rarely see it, we need images. The gallery show will help to raise awareness of the current mass extinction, which unlike the 5 previous extinctions, is one where a single species is wholly responsible.
ProcessI have been in development with this idea for about 8 months. In that time I have presented the proposal in person to Joel Satore, and gained his full support. Subsequently I met with staff of the Long Center who expressed interest and contemplated the idea of installing projection screens between the huge columns in front of the Long Center, so all of downtown Austin could participate. I also met with Atomic Picnic, a multi-disciplinary production company, who would be handling the projection. For subjects in my own art, I do extensive research not only on the anatomy of creatures I want to paint, but learning their story - how they raise their young, where they live, how they live, and what work is being done to help them. I also spend a considerable amount of time reading about the endangered species problem and ways the world is handling the problem.
Environmental ImpactThe environmental impact of the show itself is minimal, mainly using electricity, transportation, canvas and paints. There is a personal impact as I work with endangered species and that is despair, and the same for Joel Satore. I take care to sit with the sadness, let it move me to work, and as often as possible, spend time in places where wildlife is welcomed. This is very important to address as I think that this same hopelessness is what makes many caring, well-meaning people succumb to inaction.
Social ImpactIt has been said in many ways that the true measure of a culture is how we treat the voiceless among us. My hope is to elevate awareness around these potentially doomed species, giving them a voice. I want for us all to consider if we want to live in a world without wolves, ferrets, or sparrows? It's too late for the Dusky Seaside Sparrow - the last one died in 1985. Are we choosing money refusing to limit our own growth over a planet with room left for a rich and diverse ecology? Can we envision looking our grandchildren in the eye and saying 'I had many lovely things, but now you will only experience an Ocelot in books?' This is quite possible - there are 195 left in the world today. This may sound extreme, but when you look at the data, the picture is not kind.
DifficultiesAs this project is still on paper, I have not encountered difficulties, only green lights. I do anticipate challenges in coordinating the projection material, as it is highly technical. This production will need funding, and this could be an unexpected difficulty.
Should Win BecauseMy own art centers on the wisdom, beauty and plight of wildlife, an issue that affects us all whether we realize it or not. What happens to wildlife happens to us all. I am passionate in to both painting endangered species and in building habitat sculptures that increase space for wild things. I now combine my art talent, BFA degree, and multitude of skills with a deep concern for our environment, and to that end I have added training as a Master Naturalist and Environmental Educator. With the marriage of these 2 fields, I have found dedication of spirit and a way that may possibly be of help to all. For reasons that National Geographic Photographer Joel Satore should win the Eco Design award, please see his website http://www.joelsartore.com. As said on his site, his images show a world worth saving.
Jeffrey Wilson | Austin, TX
The Dumpster Project is taking a common symbol of waste and transforming it into an interactive math and science lab for K-16 students. see more
ProjectWhat does a used dumpster have to do with community design? You might be surprised. The Dumpster Project is taking a common symbol of waste and transforming it into an interactive math and science lab for K-16 students. Why? The United States education system isn't adequately equipping students with the creative problem solving skills they will need to help solve future 'grand challenges,' such as climate change. We believe that project based learning and real world engagement is critical for developing these skills–and that's why we chose a dumpster. With the help of Professor Dumpster (Environmental Science Professor Dr. Jeff Wilson) and the Dumpster Team, students will use a groundbreaking curricula to help transform the dumpster from a barely habitable garbage container into a fully sustainable home. From design to implementation, the home/lab will challenge students to apply their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to every part of the renovation process. Professor Dumpster will need all the help he can get because he's making the dumpster his home-sweet-home on October 1. By turning an unconventional design space into a sustainable home The Dumpster Project hopes to promote student knowledge and interest in design via STEM. While the project isn't advocating a world of dumpster homes, it IS meant to challenge students to think creatively about the way that space is used–and to help develop core skills that will shape how we approach design challenges in the future.
ProblemAmerican students are lagging in science and math education (we're 25th in the world), and significant gaps exist between groups. Mastery of these skills is critical because students will face the 'grand challenges' --such as climate change-- in their future. Education standards acknowledge the importance of engaging students in STEM practices, but teachers often do not have adequate training or resources to accomplish this.
ProcessTo Newton, gravity was an apple falling on his head. The humble beginnings of The Dumpster Project came about in an equally unpredictable fashion. In 2011 project lead Jeff Wilson happened to be staring out the window of a Starbucks at a dumpster and was struck with a radical idea: "What would it be like to turn a dumpster into a sustainable house?" Fast forward to today–the leadership of The Dumpster Project is guided by a multidisciplinary team of thought leaders in the fields of learning science, green design, sustainability, and environmental engineering. Each team member is focused on a specific area of planning, whether it be designing interactive curricula or figuring out how Professor Dumpster will integrate a water filtration system into his dumpster.
Environmental ImpactProfessor Dumpster will pose three design challenges that invite students to help him turn the dumpster into a sustainable home. Challenge #1: Water. How will Professor Dumpster drink, cook, bathe and use the toilet in a sustainable manner? He will need potable water filtered from local surface and capture, a passive solar-heated shower, and a way to wash dishes and clothes. Challenge #2: Energy. How will Professor Dumpster cool his 'home' (and charge his iPhone)? He will need electricity to light his home, power his computer, and charge his iPhone. Challenge #3: Health. How will Professor Dumpster stay healthy in a dumpster? He will need adequate ventilation, climate control, and sanitary ways to dispose of waste. The challenges will include opportunities for students to create prototypes, and collect/analyze data, with the ultimate aim of applying sustainability practices in their own homes and communities.
Social ImpactA key challenge in sustainable design for communities is aligning sustainable technology to actual needs. Not every neighborhood can afford solar technology. Solar technology isn't affordable? Perhaps ultra-efficient insulation better fits community needs. We hope that by bringing the dumpster to a variety of communities in Austin and beyond we can evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies in those communities. What The Dumpster Project is ultimately aiming for is articulating the relationship between members of the community and the (built) environment in which they live. We envision smart planning, design, and research in a single package (albeit an 8 cu yd package). We believe that STEM fundamentals informed by design can make a dumpster more than just a dumpster and closer to a home.
DifficultiesKey design challenges to overcome include three F's: Funding, Focus and Faith.
Should Win BecauseCreative design is the capstone of a pyramid with cornerstones of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. Using a holistic, multidisciplinary approach, The Dumpster Project gives students a hands on opportunity to apply their STEM skills and design ideas to a real world experiment. A SXSW Eco award at the front end of this project will provide The Dumpster Project with a solid foundation on which to accomplish our audacious goal of breathing new life into the state of American math and science education. All with the design of a little ole dumpster.
Coleman Coker | Austin, TX
The project consists of four installations along the Boggy Creek Greenbelt in East Austin. Located on separate but proximate sites, each installation celebrates three unique characteristics of the Boggy Creek riparian zone. see more
ClientShawn Cooper of PARD; Will Meredith Engaging Boggy Creek Project Website
ProjectThe project consists of four installations along the Boggy Creek Greenbelt in East Austin. Located on separate but proximate sites, each installation celebrates three unique characteristics of the Boggy Creek riparian zone: its cultural history, its importance in the urban ecosystem, and the greenbelt's natural beauty. The descriptions of each individual installation are as follows: Exploratory Landscape: Located near the Sustainable Food Center's community garden, this design promotes creative exploration of the natural environment. Twelve platforms at varying heights define a path towards Boggy Creek and create playful moments of pause and view, formalizing access to the creek and fostering open-ended play. Riparian Zone: This installation draws attention to the ecosystem of Boggy Creek and its relationship to the larger water system. The low bench draws the visitor through the screened structure, which frames the riparian vegetation along the edge of the park and invites the viewer to pass through to the creek. The Canopy: This structure provides an intimate experience of nature within Boggy Creek Park with a reclined seat for viewing the tree canopy above, as well as steps for climbing into the branches. Poems about the park, written by neighborhood children, will be etched on the interior seating. Human Intervention: This installation highlights local human intervention within the natural landscape by displaying materials reclaimed from man-made structures and orienting views from the hike and bike trail toward the channel. To focus on the site's history, quotes from residents of the neighborhood are etched into wood slats.
ProblemBoggy Creek is an urban water system still recovering from a history of social and environmental injustice. Our project promotes youth engagement with the creek while cultivating a sense of environmental stewardship and celebrating the unique history of the neighborhood. Furthermore, the series of installations calls attention to the water system in an unobtrusive manner, enabling the structures to instill a sense of discovery and to highlight sensory experiences along the riparian zone.
ProcessThe process began by meeting with multiple community organizations and stakeholders, including the Rosewood and Chestnut Neighborhood Associations, Austin's Parks and Recreation Department and Watershed Department, the Sustainable Food Center, and Will Meredith, amongst others. Each student then presented individual design proposals, considering the requests of the various stakeholders. From there, students began working in small groups of 3-4, and then two groups of 11, to refine design concepts. The primary community partners‚-PARD, the Rosewood Neighborhood Association, and Will Meredith (Principal of MFI Real Estate and 5 Axis Design)‚-critiqued the project before moving into the build phase. Additional research included readings focused on environmental education for youth and environmental planning, as well as research on low-maintenance, environmentally friendly materials and construction techniques. Because the project uses evidence-based research, design revisions have continued through the build phase of the project.
Envrionmental ImpactEach of the structures minimizes its environmental impact on the adjacent riparian zone. The small scale of the structures, coupled with simple post-and-beam construction methods, limits the impervious cover along the sensitive ecosystems of Boggy Creek. The majority of the project is composed of cedar-much of it reclaimed from local, donated fencing‚–which is inherently durable, suitable for exterior conditions, and less environmentally damaging than pressure-treated pine. The northernmost project, avoiding the use of harsh chemical finishes, treated the wood with an ebonizing solution composed of black tea and a solution of vinegar and steel. The team also designed 7 birdhouses and 2 bat boxes to support riparian habitats. Each of the structures provides a playful arrangement for users to appreciate the tranquil nature of the creek system while calling attention to creek restoration efforts and the dramatic transition of the creek system into a channelized culvert.
Social ImpactThis project will serve as an amenity to East Austin youth, neighborhood residents, and members of the Sustainable Food Center's community gardens, as well as to users of the future hike and bike trail located along the Boggy Creek Greenbelt. The team also partnered with Foundation Communities‚– teen program to incorporate mosaic murals into the Exploratory Landscape and Human Interaction installations. Each piece is based on drawings of the teens' experiences with Boggy Creek and was composed over one month of collaborative work sessions. The team has also connected with the nearby Conley Guerrero Senior Activity Center to incorporate oral histories into the design of the structures, and with local schools and youth education organizations to support preexisting lesson plans. The hope is that through participation in the creation of this project, potential user groups will gain a sense of stewardship for the installations, the neighborhood, and the creek ecosystem.
DifficultiesSecuring youth participation during the summer on short notice proved difficult; however, we connected with middle-school residents of M Station, an affordable housing community near the MLK MetroRail stop. Additionally, constructing projects on UT's campus required more forethought in design than traditional site-built structures. Beyond the sheer physical labor involved in moving the structures, the design required the ability to be disassembled into components for transport on a flatbed trailer, all of which demanded increased coordination. The southernmost installations are located on Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) property. Responding to PARD's maintenance and design stipulations directly shaped the final product. The siting was changed twice in the process to avoid building in the floodplain. Finally, Boggy Creek is undergoing riparian restoration under the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department. This process also limited site selection but ultimately provided constraints that allowed the team to emphasize the creek system's contested ecology.
Should WIn BecauseOur project creates discrete yet connected experiences that engage users along the entire length of the Boggy Creek Greenbelt for the specific purposes of discovering, understanding, and enjoying the local, natural environment. Fostering a love of nature evokes a sense of stewardship, which we hope will compel more grassroots organizations to continue efforts of creek restoration. Throughout the process, our team has maximized resources, both material and social. Each installation reflects the values and desires expressed by stakeholders‚–from city officials to local youth. While many of the design strategies and construction methods are systematized and flexible, they are able to respond to highly specific site conditions. Each touches the ground lightly, respecting a fragile environment. "Engaging Boggy Creek" deserves to be a part of SXSW Eco, not only to showcase Austin's dedication to social and environmental justice, but because of the project's careful crafting of intimate places.
Grace C. Lee | Wyckoff, NJ
This project, constructed from re-purposed shipping containers, is a 'safe house' for people with sun-allergies, as well as an innovative and healthy social center. see more
ProjectFrom my own experience with Polymorphic Light Eruption (PLME), it is challenging to enjoy the summer when the sun, heat and humidity affect your body in an negative manner. This project, constructed from re-purposed shipping containers, is a 'safe house' for people with these sun-allergies, as well as an innovative and healthy social center. Users are provided the opportunity to work out, free of charge, producing kinetic energy. Kinetic energy and solar power are the energy sources to run the entire park. Vertical louvers serve as windows that angle open when the park is available for use, producing a cross wind, and angled specifically for minimum rain to enter. The louvers' edges are rimmed with rubber edges to prevent rain and moisture from entering when the park is closed. They are also covered with a graphic-printed Clear Focus film, allows exercisers to see outside, but blocks UV-rays and passerbyers from peering in. The community is welcome to enjoy the cafe's treats; cafe sales reward exercisers with a free drink for their efforts. Initial funding can be provided by the city and/or by donations.
ProblemThe design advocates for a community to work towards a healthier lifestyle together–whether it is fitness, eating choices, or a greener and kinder lifestyle. It also promotes the idea of constantly helping each other out–exercisers provide energy for the cafe to function and cafe customers provide healthy rewards for their efforts. The park's intentions hopefully inspire the community to expand their kindness and teamwork in other areas of their lives.
ProcessIn all honesty, when learning about the competition, I was in the midst of being frustrated from a sun allergy I received the day before, since the sun is a life source. From past research and knowledge on green concepts, various design aspects, such as the vertical, film covered glass louvers, were incorporated into the park. While researching more on exercise equipment that converts kinetic energy into electricity, it became apparent that they systems do not supply large amounts of electricity. With that in mind, solar panels were placed on top of the white roofs to generate the remaining energy necessary for the park to function.
Environmental ImpactThe park easily travels from location to location, while probably anchoring down when in place. It is purposely designed to be off-the-grid and serves as a learning and marketing device for the eco-friendly criteria that cities around the world are implementing in their building departments. From the re-purposing of shipping containers, interior LED ceiling light fixtures, white roofs, various electric sources, the louver angles, etc., it exposes a community to welcome the new norm. The park also welcomes design challenges, for example: how to make exercise equipment produce more kinetic energy, or how to accommodate these parks in cloudier areas in the world.
Social ImpactEnergy Park exposes communities to a different type of gym–an 'outdoor' option that promotes the idea that every little positive step helps in the bigger picture. Everyone is rewarded in some way -- exercisers help provide the park with energy, and the sales from café customers supply exercisers with a healthy drink after their workout. The project exposes and encourages people to be greener, healthier, and to work together to become a community. Prior to currency, farmers traded their goods for other farmer's goods, this park shares the same concept. The park plants the seed of respect for the earth and for fellow neighbors, which will hopefully flourish to unite towards the common goal of health in oneself, in the community, and to the world.
DifficultiesFortunately, since this is a conceptual park idea, there weren't any real hurdles for the project. The largest hurdle was the floor plan–since shipping containers are very specific size, laying the equipment out so there is a realistic means of egress did take some work. The park should not take up too much room or else obstruction would be an issue. The park's design is meant to be welcomed in a variety of communities. Hypothetical issues rise when climate is factored in–for example, how does the park withstand a humid, rainy location, or what happens when winter comes in the city? These questions are great starting points when further developing the park.
Should Win BecauseThe park deserves to win the SxSW Eco Design award because the innovative cardio gym and café contain all six design criterias in a serendipitous manner. Interactivity is created by the exchange of kinectic energy and food, and vise versa, which encourages the community to work together --exercisers and café customers benefit from each other's efforts. The park has the flexibility to be further developed to incorporate various weather conditions, and can temporarily or permanently take residency in a location. The numerous sustainability elements provide the community knowledge of the subject and promotes the eco-friendly standards the government is putting more into place. Everyone has accessibility to the park– both the gym and café. Sign-up's for the gym can be as easy to first come, first serve, or through a waiting list online or on the phone.
Lucy Begg, Thoughtbarn | Austin, TX
Escaped Infrastructure was a six week site-specific temporary installation that introduced a new dynamic to the Manayunk Canal, a remnant of Philadelphia's industrial past. see more
ClientPhiladelphia Mural Arts
ProjectEscaped Infrastructure was a six week site-specific temporary installation that introduced a new dynamic to the Manayunk Canal, a remnant of Philadelphia's industrial past. It was commissioned by the Manayunk Development Corporation and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The project budget was $28,000. Inspired by the networks of pipes, tubes and wires along the canal, we conceived of the piece as infrastructure 'breaking loose' to create unexpected experiences along the towpath. The installation comprised 50 clear pvc tubes, wound together in a sinewy, twisting form and appearing to emerge from the canal. It snaked along the boardwalk for 50' rising to 6' in height, before plunging back into the canal. A series of water pumps in the canal were activated by motion sensors as visitors walked along the towpath. The water was drawn up through the clear tubes, becoming visible to passers-by on the adjacent busy street as well as on the canal. As it poured out of the other end it also lent the canal a new audible quality - the water could be heard for the first time. Integrated LED lights created a glowing effect at night, allowing the installation to be seen from several hundred feet away after dark.
ProblemThe project goal was to raise awareness of long-term canal restoration plans by:
ProcessThoughtbarn is prone to proposing designs which go beyond our existing technical expertise. Once the concept was in place, we needed help figuring out the complex kinetic aspects of the artwork. However, we had no budget available to either hire a consulting engineer or design custom components. The owner of a local hydroponic store turned out to be an invaluable source of knowledge. Together with an electrician friend, he recommended a series of the off-the-shelf components that were connected to form the inner workings of the installation. These included water pumps for cleaning out basements in flood-prone areas, motion sensors typically used in home security lighting and plumbing manifolds found in hot tubs! We rigged up the pump system at our studio in Austin for testing and then packed the whole thing into a crate that was shipped up to Philadelphia.
Environmental ImpactOver its six-week lifetime, Escaped Infrastructure became a kind of living organism. Designed in part to heighten awareness of the canal's water quality, the installation had a 'science experiment' aspect to it. Initially the water passing through it appeared 'surprisingly clean', in relation to the murky appearance of the canal. However, the crystalline quality of the artwork began to transform after heavy rains, when sediment from storm water runoff was deposited in the tubes. Gradually the clear tubes turned into a spectrum of greens, browns and blacks. At the same time, the canal changed visibly as summer temperatures intensified, with increased algae formation on the surface of the water. Micro-habitats also started to develop in the installation. Spiders, attracted to the night-time illuminations, spun webs between the tubes and structural frameworks.
Social ImpactEscaped Infrastructure appeared both alien and familiar. On the one hand, the materials and form created the quality of 'something that has always been here'. Cyclists often passed by without looking twice. On the other hand, pedestrians, traveling slowly, were intrigued. We observed head-scratching, debate and delight as people realized their movements triggered the water activity ('I never thought I'd see something like this along this canal'). Some assumed it must be utilitarian ('Is this a water filtration system?'). A time delay between the sensors and the water pumps gave the impression of the installation 'having a life of its own'. More than anything, we encountered large numbers of people who expressed desire to see canal conditions improve. Escaped Infrastructure aimed to contribute in a small but tangible way to the restoration efforts underway and set the stage for future relationships between public art and ecological improvements in the district.
DifficultiesEscaped Infrastructure underwent an anticipated, but at the same time not wholly predictable, change in appearance during its six week lifetime. There was a range of responses to this living quality of the artwork. Some were intrigued by the nature of the change, while others lamented the loss of its early pristine condition. In hindsight, the installation would have benefitted from a co-ordinated effort to explain its environmental intent. For example a daily online photo of the project would have been an effective way to chart the changing nature of the tubes. On-site programming - a talk by the Philadelphia Water Department or a science 'field trip' for local schools for example - would also have been an interesting way to contextualize the transformation.
Should Win BecauseRealizing outstanding, experimental work in the public realm is a challenge. Compared to private sector work, the budgets are tighter, the limitations greater, the liability increased, the stakeholders multiplied. The forces of the universe conspire towards the tried-and-tested, the 'safe' and the 'known'. Yet we persist in pursuing this type of work because we believe the meaningful potential for producing systemic urban change - that which addresses the long-term viability and vibrancy of our cities - happens in this realm. Our projects tend to be small in scale, but far-reaching in conceptual scope, creating a human scale connection to larger issues of urban development that are hard to grasp but at the same time affect us all. It would be an honor to be recognized for this work, which has been a labor of love in collaboration with many ambitious clients, fabrication partners and dedicated volunteers
Mery Godigna Collet, Creative Lab Godigna-Collet | Austin, TX
The name of the piece is FA-UN FLOWER. It consists of a bicycle which people of all ages can ride. By riding the bicycle, people would generate energy for storage in a battery for later consumption by as well as animating a water pump and fountain. see more
ClientCity of Austin
ProjectThe design was created for the Auditorium Shores Trailhead. Very interactive and kinetic piece. The name of the piece is FA-UN FLOWER. It consists of a bicycle which people of all ages can ride. By riding the bicycle, people would generate energy for storage in a battery for later consumption by as well as animating a water pump and fountain. The water would move a big fan, expressed in the shape of a flower but without losing the connotations of 'fan'. The falling water would create sounds and a place inviting to children to play with and in. Additionally, there would be an electronic board showing how much energy the bicyclist produced. Another board would explain the energy production process on one side and on the other the main causes and consequences of global warming and climate change. The point is to use recycled parts. The installation would be a didactic, interactive and fun piece. The piece would encourage people to participate, to get involved in helping to improve the world, especially for future generations. This public art project would involve the people of Austin and represent the conscientious community with statewide, national and global resonance.
ProblemThe City of Austin Art in Public Places (AIPP) program was seeking to commission a professional visual artist to design and fabricate artwork for the Auditorium Shores Trailhead area, located immediately west of the First Street Bridge near the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. The artwork should respond to the issue of climate change in central Texas.
ProcessSince the art work should respond to the issue of climate change and global warming, I decided to use the 'fan,' as a metaphor and convert it into a 'flower'. It required research about ways of storing energy and producing green energy. Also, about what recycled materials could be used. The location was a determining issue due to the proximity to Log Center, Lady Bird Lake and the old Electricity Plant. The most important issue for me was that the piece could interact with people, have movement, respond to attention and generate more. Not just a static one. And to the context as well.
Environmental ImpactThe design could be done with recycled materials. Also, because the location, works as an aesthetic extension of the Long Center. An extension of Lady Bird Lake by using water in the design and also, creates a dialog with the old Electricity Plant that is iconic and located just in front in the other side of the Lake.
Social ImpactThe installation would be a didactic, interactive and fun piece. The piece would encourage people to participate, to get involved in helping to improve the world, especially for future generations. This public art project would involve the people of Austin and represent the conscientious community with statewide, national and global resonance. Schools and families could take the young kids to learn and understand about conscious use of energy. Promoting green energy, promoting recycling and giving an iconic element to the Auditorium Shores Trailhead. Is something that really reaches the people of Austin and visitors, that could be touched and experienced, and that would react to people's intervention.
DifficultiesAs always‚ budget.
Should Win BecauseBecause the design would encourage people to participate, to get involved in helping to improve the world, especially for future generations. This public art project would involve the people of Austin and represent the conscientious community with statewide, national and global resonance. It's fun, didactic, interactive, notorious and green.
Ethan Welty | Boulder, CO
Falling Fruit is a global, collaborative map of the urban harvest, allowing anyone to explore, add, and edit information on the edible food sources available in their neighborhood.
Falling Fruit Website
ProjectFalling Fruit is a global, collaborative map of the urban harvest, allowing anyone to explore, add, and edit information on the edible food sources available in their neighborhood. Aspiring to be the most comprehensive and detailed geographic database of urban edibles anywhere, we seek out and integrate previously compiled foraging data, mine edible species from vast municipal tree inventories, and encourage our users to add their knowledge to the map. This effort already amounts to well over half a million foraging locations worldwide. Hundreds of documented edible types populate the map, from conventional fruit, nuts, berries, and herbs to wild and exotic plants, from beehives and fishing holes to water wells and even dumpsters. Wanting the urban foraging movement to reach as many people as possible, the map can be edited by anyone, the entire database can be downloaded with just one click, and all the code is open-source.
ProblemFalling Fruit celebrates a potential harvest that has so far mostly gone to staining sidewalks. By mapping this overlooked resource, we hope to reconnect people to food and the environment while also reducing waste. What better way than by harvesting neighborhood trees? That our streets are already laced with food plants allows us to imagine a future where our cities are deliberately designed with edibility in mind.
ProcessFrom the beginning, we agreed that a foraging map should be anonymously editable, non-hierarchical, open-source, and open-data. No existing website met our criteria so we chose to make our own. With ambitions to include all existing public data, the site quickly transformed into a complex project requiring both our skills - Ethan, mining municipal tree inventories for species of interest, and Caleb, building an online interface capable of quickly delivering large amounts of geographic information on an interactive map. The parameters describing each location are intended to balance specificity with simplicity: type, season, and quality rating dropdowns alongside a free-form description. Ownership status was explicitly added to the design only following lengthy debates about the nature of private property. Two months and hundreds of emails later, Falling Fruit was born.
Environmental ImpactSeveral conservation groups identify the abundance of domestic fruit near the wild-urban interface as a major cause of conflict between humans and wildlife, especially bears. Picking fruit before it falls helps save these animals from developing a self-destructive liking to human food. Other anticipated environmental benefits are more indirect. Picking fresh produce from a plant helps to reconnect us to the botanical origins of our food and may help nurture a greater appreciation for natural systems. By popularizing foraging, especially in its most accessible, urban, form, we hope to bolster environmental sensibilities in society at large.
Social ImpactFalling Fruit attempts to unify as one community, onto a single map, the many foragers and foresters mapping the urban harvest. Once fully deployed, the website will help neighboring users form community groups (organizing everything from preservation workshops and volunteer picks to tree pruning and mapping) and connect them to existing ally organizations. Ultimately, the project's success hinges on people's willingness to share, and their trust that shared knowledge will not be abused. Foraging in the city invites conversation and collaboration between members of the urban foodshed - between neighbors, pickers, and incredulous passersby - while helping to feed the hungry in the community. Tree owners and pickers are encouraged to donate their surplus to charity with the help of local produce sharing organizations.
DifficultiesSoon after we launched, NPR's The Salt ran a story about the project. The surge in traffic crashed the server, overwhelmed by the volume of spatial queries it was being asked to deliver. Smoothly displaying a massive geographic dataset to a growing number of users is the central technological challenge of Falling Fruit. Following the crash, the site was migrated from shared hosting to a dedicated and scalable server. The code driving the map has grown in complexity as the database has grown in size: At first, all data was embedded within the map; nowadays, locations are loaded only as they come into view. At low zoom levels, only cluster markers (announcing the number of locations within each map tile) are shown, and at high zoom levels, a cap limits the number of locations displayed, requiring users to zoom in further for full detail.
Should Win BecauseA map reflects our world back to us through a very narrow lens. By revealing in rich detail the organic, edible layer of our complex and cluttered cities, Falling Fruit demands us to appreciate the potential for growing and picking food in urban spaces. Each of the hundreds of thousands of dots pinned to the map is the result of the connection between a human and a place, and the dots, once shared publicly, beckon others in the community to participate. Ultimately, we hope that this greater participation in urban foraging will influence policies and cultural norms and encourage the deliberate redesign of more edible cities. Falling Fruit is community-driven, environmental placemaking on a massive scale. As such, we believe it aligns excellently with the goals of the SXSW Eco Design Award. We are also excited about the possibility of connecting with, and collaborating with the SXSW Eco community.
Matthew Slaats, PAUSE | Poughkeepsie, NY
The Fall Kill Plan brings together Poughkeepsie advocates, residents, designers, and engineers to transform a forgotten, urban creek into a vibrant community resource. see more
ClientClearwater The Fallkill Plan Website
ProjectThe Fall Kill Plan brings together Poughkeepsie advocates, residents, designers, and engineers to transform a forgotten, urban creek into a vibrant community resource. The primary focus of the project was the creation of a Master Plan for a walkable green corridor and designs for selected pilot sites along urban stretches of the Fallkill in the City of Poughkeepsie. The plan outlines a long-term vision for the creek ranging from the scale of city-wide infrastructures to a homeowner's backyard. Working at these macro and micro scales, the project addresses not only the immediate environmental needs of the watershed, but links social, economic, and historical threads to see the Fallkill as a dynamic community asset. Initiated through a partnership between Clearwater, the Urban Landscape Lab, and PAUSE, the project aims to provide public waterfront access, bridge connections with neighborhood centers, and improve water quality and habitat using green infrastructure practices. The project worked with community centers and residents to explore how increased access to the creek can best support social and economic interests of the city's residents, and provide needed public spaces that can activate adjacent neighborhoods. Green infrastructure practices have been examined for their potential to manage stormwater runoff and reduce untreated inputs into the Fall Kill. Ultimately, the Fall Kill Plan provides a vision for a long suffering city. By building dynamic collaborations between community organizations, city leaders, and residents, the Fallkill Plan initiates a way of investing in the city through the environmental.
ProblemThe Fallkill Plan was designed to show how a urban waterway can serve not only as a site for improving water quality, biodiversity, and environmental sustainability, but be a catalyst for a new vision in a city long lost to the post-industrial area. The design was meant to bring people down to the water and see it in a new light, as the future of the city.
ProcessThe Fallkill Plan was initial devised as a feasibility study for a pathway along the creek. Though in conversation, the partners quickly realized that the Fallkill could be positioned as a unique catalyst with in the city. This lead to a course of action working directly with local residents to consider their knowledge of the creek and aggregate disparate resources about and around the Fallkill. Out of these objects core questions arose that lead to specific answers. How can the creek activate the city's neighbor-hoods? Create mixed use, public spaces along the creek as new neighborhood centers. How can we use the Fall Kill Creek? Connect the creek to the daily lives of Poughkeepsie residents and visitors. How can water quality be improved? Restore riparian buffer zones and adopt green infrastructure practices throughout the watershed. How can the creek support bio-diversity? Restore habitat zones and wildlife corridors.
Environmental ImpactThe environmental focus of our designed focused around two primary concerns, water quality and bio-diversity. In regards to water quality, the project points to several specific efforts. The first focuses on the need for greater collaboration between municipalities along the 20 mile Fallkill. At the same time, the plan calls for greater monitoring of the water, restoration of riparian edges, the addressing of combined sewage overflows, and installation of green infrastructure to slow and treat water. In terms of bio-diversity, the Fallkill Plan focuses great attention on the need for the construction of habitats. The plan places great emphasis on the need for large unbroken areas where flora and fauna can flourish both in and along side the creek. This included creek restoration, inclusion of wooded buffers, and the minimization of pest and insecticides.
Social ImpactWith the creek flowing through neighborhoods long seen as poor and underserved, the Fallkill was seen as an opportunity to stitch the urban fabric back together. The Fallkill was the thread that could link and unify various endeavors, creating space for dialogue. This would be accomplished by attracting residents and providing space for activities, new pocket parks along the creek serve residents, local organizations and business districts. Walkways connect neighborhoods, ease connections to public transit hubs, and feed into existing recreation and commuter pathways through the city. At the same time the Fallkill could serve as a reference point for understanding the complexity of the urban landscape. Signage and educational programming has been developed the allow people to understand the creek and the spaces that surround it, providing greater social cohesion.
DifficultiesAt the core of the Fallkill Plan was a desire to see residents play a primary role in defining the vision and focus of the project. In a city that has long suffered from a lack of engagement and participation this altruistic objective proved difficult to achieve in initial efforts. This lead to a shift in focus where design efforts drove the project. Yet, leaving opportunities for deep community feedback. In due time the coalescing of community groups and building of partnerships over came these hurdles and has provided great opportunities for collaboration. This has lead to further state and federal funding to support the work in and along the Fallkill.
Should Win BecauseOur reason for applying to this award centers on our belief that this project sets a unique precedent for how disparate groups can come together to pursue an environmental project to re-energize a city. The Fallkill plan points to the way that environmental, design, and community engagement organizations can combine efforts to impact the landscape and those living in those spaces. Beyond bringing to bear new vision, the Fallkill project works across macro and micro scales. The project was designed to challenge existing zoning and regulatory frameworks, questioning the role that local officials play in supporting the watershed issues in urban environments. At the same time, the project provided moments for individuals to rethink their own ability to participate in local environmental issues. The project uses a discussion about urban environmental issues to initiate a much larger dialogue about social, political agency to improve the city.
Matt Fajkus, Matt Fajkus Architecture | Austin, TX
FASHION[ING] OBJECTS activated an unused commercial space which was vacant and dead. It was both an incentive for the public to enter the space, but also lit the space as a beacon to be seen throughout the neighborhood - a catalyst to bring activity to the space in the future. see more
ClientTribeza Magazine Fashioning Objects Project Website
ProjectFASHION[ING] OBJECTS activated an unused commercial space which was vacant and dead. It was both an incentive for the public to enter the space, but also lit the space as a beacon to be seen throughout the neighborhood - a catalyst to bring activity to the space in the future. The design acts as a backdrop for local clothing designers to share their work in an engaging atmosphere inside and outside of the building. The common hanger, based on the body, was rearranged in a unique way. Two patterning systems work together to create maximal effect using a small-scale object which is easily related to. The design and assembly creates an unexpected visual presence. It reacts with light to become an instrument of translucency through the paper of the hangers. It invites people to approach it from different angles, touching the individual components to understand its assembly. The design/construction was documented by video. It certainly has the potential to be viral, inspiring other creative uses of objects which are considered unimportant or being beneath "high art." The hangers were able to be reused by local dry cleaners, supported by rented scaffolding, so the design had zero net impact in terms of material efficiency. The installation was later exhibited at the Materials Lab of the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. It was on display for hundreds of visitors for several months. This combination of art and commerce created a unique and sustainable model for future events in Austin.
ProblemThe design was charged with being a backdrop for local fahsion and act as an art piece attractor itself. It aimed to create a threshold for local fashion models to pass through as well as a spectacle for a community gathering. The most difficult challenge was to design an installation which could be installed and removed with no net impact, working within a budget of $3 per square foot of surface for material costs.
ProcessInitially, the design team researched various strategies to embrace the essence of fashion and clothing, before arriving at the selection of the coat hanger - the most simple structural component of the fashion industry. Furthermore, the design directly related to the human body, and thus the common man, as the coat hanger is a surrogate for the shoulder. In terms of physical development, 10 mock-ups of varying design ideas were constructed to test the clustering of the hangers in full-scale, and to understand the possibilities for light diffusion through the stock paper material. The best and most efficient modules won out and were aggregated into the larger wall panels in several layers.
Environmental ImpactSince the design simply temporarily used hangers from a local dry-cleaning supply store, and used rented scaffolding from a local construction company, there was no waste and the only environmental impact was a relatively small amount of artificial light used to light the installation wall during the local fashion show event.
Social ImpactNot only were local residents able to see the designed installation at the fashion show event, but it was also on exhibit at the University of Texas at Austin where hundreds of school children saw it during field trips and were able to touch the wall system and understand its simplicity simultaneously with its net impact.
DifficultiesFabricating any sort of wall at $3 per square foot (less than the cost of a standard studded sheetrock wall) with a large visual impact was an enormous challenge, and required a great deal of reaching out to various local resources to understand available possibilities. Similarly, as the wall could not be suspended from above, developing a structural solution to "hang" the hanger wall was very difficult, until a local construction company was contacted who was willing to rent scaffolding and discuss connection possibilities to allow for a cantilevered suspension structure.
Should Win BecauseFashion[ing] Objects is deserving of a SXSW Eco Design Award as it demonstrates the possibility to create maximum positive effect with minimal cost and impact. The installation also shows the potential of design to use even ordinary objects to transcend their normal function by understanding them from different perspective in larger contexts. Most importantly, the design illustrates an example of rethinking the way we do and use things, encouraging ingenuity with what already have around us in our community, resulting in more meaningful designs which are also environmentally responsible.
Juan Carlos Deleon, Runa Workshop | Austin, TX
Fonet is an abstract concept of transforming the state of being and place through sound. It is a network of speakers covertly placed at certain locations which play a track of soothing and relaxing white noise such as waves on the beach or the sound of light rain. see more
ProjectFonet is an abstract concept of transforming the state of being and place through sound. It is a network of speakers covertly placed at certain locations which play a track of soothing and relaxing white noise such as waves on the beach or the sound of light rain. The sounds from Fonet psychologically transport pedestrians to a place of peace and nostalgia. It modifies the expectations of a common place and creates a new environment that assimilates the memories and sensorial experiences associated with the ambient sounds. While the sounds are heard by several, the experiential transformation is unique to the individual. The character of the street and the typical experience is improved with little impact. The Fonet network can be quickly & easily relocated to different locations. It can be applied in different scales. A few speakers may be placed at a street corner, or several can be placed throughout a major street. Fonet is a simple recycled cylindrical housing that encloses a water-proof speaker and a portable audio device such as an iPod. The sound-tracks can be manually downloaded to the device or may be transmitted wirelessly with the availability of a network. Fonet is activated by a sensor which turns it on only when people are present. Ideally, Fonet may be powered by a photovoltaic system.
ProblemFonet is meant to improve the quality of pedestrian life and foster a closer relationship to place. Fonet rejuvenates the streetscape and excites the routine. The improved state of being and closer connection to place will hopefully foster awareness and care of the urban environment.
ProcessOur goal was to change and improve the quality of a place with minimal impact. We played the sounds of the beach to complete strangers downtown and asked them how it made them feel, what they thought about, and how that affected their day. Overall, the sounds made them feel positive and more relaxed. One gentleman who was waiting for the bus said it reminded him a going fishing in Corpus. He also said that the sound of the beach was pleasant and was something he didn't mind hearing while waiting for the bus.
Environmental ImpactWith a nostalgic attachment to the urban environment, pedestrians will hopefully alter their behavior and attitude in a positive way and become more ecologically conscious.
Social ImpactFonet is meant to improve the quality of pedestrian life and foster a closer relationship to place. Fonet is experienced by the whole community and generates a new shared, yet unique experience. The improved state of being will hopefully improve the relationships of the community to each another, and also strengthen the relationship of community to the urban environment.
DifficultiesThe difficulties of this concept would be in successfully integrating renewable resources with minimal impact to the existing conditions. Another hurdle is to be able to quickly and efficiently change the sound track being played through several speakers via a remote or network system.
Should Win BecausePersonally, I don't think "winning" is the right term. However, I feel Fonet receives recognition because of the approach to ecology and sustainability. Fonet is designed to change the state of mind in hopes of inspiring change in behavior and the relationship to the built environment.
Heather Pfister, Gensler | New York, NY
'Future Campus - #summerstudio13,' is a design intensive partnership between Gensler, a global design firm and the Barnard + Columbia Chapter of Design for America (DFA), a nationwide network of interdisciplinary student teams and community members using design to create local and social impact. see more
ClientBarnard College & Columbia University, Design for America Future Campus
ProjectHow can design improve life on campus? What design solutions can have a meaningful impact on the way students learn, socialize, and interact with each other and their local community? These were the questions asked when developing the idea for 'Future Campus - #summerstudio13,' a design intensive partnership between Gensler, a global design firm and the Barnard + Columbia Chapter of Design for America (DFA), a nationwide network of interdisciplinary student teams and community members using design to create local and social impact. This summer, students from DFA and summer interns from Gensler's New York office collaborated to dream big, explore design issues, and propose ideas for the college campus of the future. Four teams of six participants (5 Gensler Interns plus 1 DFA advisor) proposed positions and solutions to campus issues that are applicable to Barnard College + Columbia University, yet scalable and translatable to campuses around the globe. Each proposal was created within one of DFA's four categories of focus: education, health, economy, and environment. Gensler facilitators mentored the teams as they developed their projects. Each team identified a range of interventions‚ (all engaging and innovative), to enhance public space on college campuses. The projects fostered dialogue and interaction within various university communities, including students, staff, and members of the surrounding neighborhood. After the 7-week design intensive, each team pitched their project to university administrators, students, designers, and community members. The pitches included critical next steps for each project including concept, budget, fabrication, marketing, and implementation details.
ProblemThe team projects that were ultimately created detail problems associated with the current state of the campus, including issues related to lack of public space, community engagement, and stressful educational environments. #summerstudio13 explored the idea of the campus as a microcosm of the city, and discovered solutions to real life issues that are applicable on a global platform.
ProcessDFA reached out to Gensler to initiate conversations about good design & professional practice. #sumerstudio13 was then formed as an ideal creative, research-based partnership. The studio began with a brainstorming exercise, generating ideas related to education, health, environment & economy on today's college campus. Teams formed ideas about specific interests, while exploring a larger realm of possibilities for the future campus. Shortly after, the studio visited Barnard College + Columbia University, where team members created campus maps based on their observations and interests. Teams documented the campus and potential project sites, considering the means and experiences of the site, topography, urban use, patterns, structure, ideological positions or areas of contention, cultural customs & practices. The teams then met independently to research and conceptualize their project ideas, meeting as a combined studio once a week, for 7 weeks, to hold work sessions, desk critiques, project presentations, and listen to guest lecturers.
Environmental ImpactEach interdisciplinary team identified underutilized spaces on Barnard College and Columbia's campus and developed a conceptual position/program, resulting in scalable design solutions to problems faced by today's college student. These design solutions explore the idea of the campus as a microcosm of the city and solve problems for real life issues that are applicable on a global platform. Each team was encouraged to research the environmental implications of their concepts including sourced materials, fabrication solutions, and installation requirements. Using sustainable materials when available, local contractors, and sensitivity to the locations of each project were incorporated into the project concepts.
Social ImpactEach project design created throughout #summerstudio13 incorporates social & community issues into solutions: Team One developed a free, one-day Uni Festival, including activities, food trucks, and cultural events. Open to everyone, the festival bridges the town-gown divide facing urban schools across the country. Identifying a lack of public social space on campus, Team Two's design provides students with an outdoor, communal space facilitating activity while integrating underutilized space. "The Shack" is a storage structure providing students with recreational equipment and gathering space. "Sensecape" is Team Three's response to reducing stress on campuses. Designed as a collapsible structure, Sensecape is an installation integrating sensory stimulation, reminding the passerby to take a moment for themself. Team Four's "Scribble Matrix," a network of interactive, digital, bulletin boards unites individuals by sharing projects and ideas. The Scribble Matrix makes people look up, foster dialogue, and transform community engagement between one or many universities.
Difficulties#summerstudio13 was a learning and research experience for both Gensler and DFA with surprises and difficulties to overcome, including challenges that are often associated with working in teams. Each team was encouraged to develop a method of correspondence and organization that worked best for them. The Gensler interns had daily access to technology, meeting spaces, and Gensler's design staff for project guidance. The DFA members, working outside of Gensler's office during the day, were sometimes unintentionally isolated from impromptu conversations, meetings, and charrettes. To resolve this, the teams set up file sharing networks and hosted video chats during and after work hours so all team members could equally participate in the design process.
Should Win BecauseThe success of #summerstudio13 ignited conversations between Gensler, the world's largest design firm, and DFA chapters across the country. The knowledge-sharing network we created emphasized active and collaborative participation on campuses, learning by doing, and thinking critically about the cities we live in. Having completed one program successfully, we're looking to amplify our vision, and make it bigger. A win in the Place by Design competition will increase awareness of our program at a critical moment in our development. Our hope is that for years to come designers, students, and campus administrators across the U.S. will collaborate to propose design solutions for the future of college campuses. Winning will build momentum for our partnership as we roll our program out across the country. Together, we'll make campuses and cities across the nation better places to be.
Elizabeth Walsh | Austin, TX
A design for a bench built into a low-water, garden bed built from upcycled wooden pallets and old political signs. see more
ProjectOne February morning in East Austin, a woman walked from her home to her bus stop, just as she had countless mornings, year after year after year. This particular morning, cold and tired, she was acutely perturbed that her only place to sit was the cold, dewy ground. Looking up, she saw a high school boy waiting at the stop, and suddenly found herself speaking. “Hey!,” she said. “Yeah?”, he answered, holding out his headphones. “Would your quality of life be improved if we had a bench here to sit on together while we wait for the bus?” The boy returned a quizzical look and an unequivocal, “Yes!”. After a momentary pause marking the birth of a new idea, she replied, “Would you be willing to help me build a bus stop bench here, complete with a little garden where we can snack on tomatoes?” “Uhh, sure,” he said, with a bewildered smile. Voila! A new idea with a new commitment, born in that momentary conversation. As the woman shared the idea with other neighbors, a design took shape for a bench built into a low-water, garden bed built from upcycled wooden pallets and old political signs. On May 17, the woman, the boy, and a merry crew reaching 40-some neighbors gathered for a Bus Stop Garden Party, where they built the new garden bench and feasted on food and ideas they brought to share. Every day, now, the bench offers a comfortable place for sitting, connecting, and feasting.
ProblemIdeally, a bus stop is an enjoyable place of connection. It’s a comfortable place to wait for a bus that connects you where you want to go. It’s a place to connect with neighbors, exchange news, and build community… Few bus stops do all that. This design aims to inspire and equip neighbors to transform their own bus stops into enjoyable public places, with minimal budgets, and maximum fun.
ProcessAs folks kept sharing about the bus stop, ideas and resources flowed forth. There were already at least five Food-Is-Free-style front-yard wicking-bed gardens in the neighborhood, so building a bench into one was a new variation of a well-established design. The next challenge was to make sure we could move the whole structure (land tenure was uncertain). We built it onto a pallet base that could be lifted (normally these beds are built directly onto the ground). In choosing the bench height, we made sure there would be room we to store gallon water jugs so visitors could water the garden. The day of the installation, a long-time neighbor was moved to donate the beautiful wooden bench he had restored. We ended up securing that bench by screwing it into two pallet-bench-gardens on either side of it. A donated cornhole game also appeared. The design continues to evolve.
Environmental Impact**Direct impact**This upcycled design generates few environmental costs, and even some environmental benefits. Nearly all of the materials were re-purposed (old wooden pallets, political signs, burlap coffee bags, discarded wood – even a padded curtain valence!). The wicking-bed garden uses water efficiently to produce edible plants – instead of watering from above (and the evaporative losses thereof), you water through an aquifer-like reservoir below, accessed through a pipe sticking out of the top. **Indirect impact**We imagine that… The benches will inspire more bus-trips and few car-trips, by making bus-riding more enjoyable. People will see the basil, rosemary, tomatoes, and peppers growing there and get inspired to grow their own, or at least access local food (maybe even from trips by bus, foot, or bike). Bus riders who pass by our stop will get inspired by the low-budget, do-with-neighbors (DWN) design and build their own throughout Austin.
Social ImpactFor the people who use the bus, now and in the future, it is a much more comfortable experience. Located across the street from Metz Elementary school, this stop is used frequently. The novelty of the design surprises people and inspires conversation. Everyone who passes the stop now sees that there are neighbors who care and are working together on behalf of the neighborhood. Its presence speaks to the power of people to care for their own neighborhood. The logos for East Feast 2022, East Side Garden Exchange, and Holly Neighbors Helping Neighbors give them clues on how to connect with these folks. In the future, neighbors plan to build in a community kiosk/bulletin board to make such connections even easier.
DifficultiesAfter the first installation, we discovered the garden bed’s water reservoir leaked… It was a little unclear why. Ultimately we concluded (after taking it apart), that the pallet base created a non-continuous surface. When we placed the plastic liner onto it and filled it with gravel, uneven pressure resulted on the plastic that led to small perforations. Once we placed additional boards in to create a more even surface, put on an additional layer of political sign, and then added the plastic liner, the problem was solved. It is also essential to use a continuous sheet of plastic. If you use staples to secure the plastic to the wall, be sure to do so above the water line. It’s also helpful to put the drainage pipe on the opposite side of the input pipe so that you can know for sure whether the water is spreading throughout the reservoir.
Should Win BecauseWhat would happen if we won? Most importantly, we could invite creative people to join us in designing more DWN bus stop improvement prototypes for Austin and beyond - http://our.windowfarms.org/ comes to mind! We could also show the SXSW Eco community how…. Great community design can spring from simple conversations among neighbors, the willingness to take small actions, and the flexibility to incorporate surprise gifts (and adapt to surprise breakdowns)… Innovative design can build off of other innovations and adapt them to particular contexts… Creative, collaborative design flows from the gifts of diverse folks, with shared vision. We had long-time community leaders, gardeners, permaculturists, artists, an architect, a landscape architect, urban planners, parents, children, and more who shared a vision of a flourishing community. Each contributed in their own way to create a prosperous place. It’s in each of us to answer the call, join hands, and create together!
Nicholas Waissbluth, uAbureau | Medellin, Colombia
This past June 2013, Insitu completed its second edition in Medellin, Colombia where the organizers collaborated with local universities, design studios and material companies to create a new installation in the barrio of Manantiales. Insitu is setup as a workshop project, where since 2012 has been working with barrio Manantiales to create new public installations. see more
ProjectThis past June 2013, Insitu completed its second edition in Medellin, Colombia where the organizers collaborated with local universities, design studios and material companies to create a new installation in the barrio of Manantiales. A developing community in the northern hills of the city, Manantiales is a rapidly growing barrio with over 1,500 families and nearly 3,000 children. Since its first settlers in 2007, the residential community has concentrated its efforts in constructing sufficient housing for all families and has had little time and resources to develop its infrastructure and public spaces (streets, staircases, walkways, play-areas). For Insitu, it is these open public spaces where we believe is the next stage of development for the barrio. Insitu is setup as a workshop project, where since 2012 we have been working with barrio Manantiales to create new public installations. The 2013 edition was an intensive 10 day workshop with participants ranging from local design students to young professionals and international designers. During the week and half, the team worked every day with members of the community to design and build a new outdoor play area that would not only perform a functional need but at the same time teach children and families about three primary issues; sanitation, agriculture, and urban furniture. Combining these elements, Insitu 2013 created a permanent installation giving a place for children to play, dance, learn and for families to gather and celebrate.
ProblemManantiales is a community where its citizen live in the streets. However, because housing is the primary concern to all families, the spaces in between, the public realm of the community has been neglected. Streets are lined with open sewage canals, children have no formal area to play, and there is nowhere to simply sit and enjoy the open-air.
ProcessInsitu begins with talking with the community. The project team met with the community members for mini-workshops and open-discussion sessions to learn more about life in Manantiales. During these conversations the group concentrated on four primary elements; sanitation, agriculture, furniture and play, where after 3 days the group was able to create a general overview of the major issues currently affecting the community. The insitu team spent two days generating design ideas for a physical installation in the plaza of the community that could respond to their needs. After presenting the initial ideas to the community for their comments and suggestions, the team decided to create three installations. The first would be a series of covers for the open sewer canals; the second would be to build a new seating and play area and third would be to install a vertical garden at the entrance of the community library.
Environmental ImpactThe construction of all the installations for the Insitu project are made using a hybrid concrete recycled mixture developed by Blokcad Lab, a Medellin based material company. Using discarded ceramic materials (brick, concrete) they are crushed down and reused to create a new mixture. This sustainable process is achievable because of the popularity of ceramics in Latin American construction, and for the Insitu project in Manantiales, all the discarded material is found within the barrio, creating a more onsite construction process.
Social ImpactAs a built installation, the project allows citizens to socialize, play, lounge and interact with others in a public setting; however the process that insitu follows (public workshops, open construction process on site) is also a teaching tool to citizens of all ages in how to build and work in a collaborative process. This open social-collaboration has created a project where citizens are not alienated from the process, rather they a part of every step; learning how to design, build and as well as how to take care and maintain. For the workshop participants and community members, working on a 1:1 scaled project has an impact that teaches them not only about design and construction, but as well how to work with others. Manantiales is a new community, and it is only recently where they have been working together in creating new social programs for their inhabitants.
DifficultiesThe primary difficulty we found during the project was the unexpected weather pattern. Because the construction process is done entirely onsite, the unpredictable weather of Medellin can create a holding pattern for certain stages of the process. The tropical climate of the region, plus the vertical terrain of the barrio with its poor sewage and sanitation system can create a delay from one hour to a whole day. As a result the project took 3 extra days to complete than originally planned.
Should Win BecauseWe believe we should win the SXSW Eco Design Award because the insitu project is a full encompassing process of local citizens and design professionals working together to create a public installation that not only fulfills a functional need, but also creates a sense of place. For Manantiales, a developing community that only a few years ago never existed, insitu is demonstrating that in a ten day period we can both design and build a new project while at the same time teach something new to all participants. We acknowledge that this type of project and its framework is not for everyone and won't function in every community, however in barrio Manantiales, the insitu workshop demonstrated how this process can work. We have been successful in creating a place for the community to enjoy, helped with their basic infrastructure and through their participation they have learned how they can continue building and improving their community.
Andy Waddle, Gensler | Austin, TX
Intake is a proposed concept for the adaptive reuse of the abandoned Seaholm Intake Facility in Austin, Texas. see more
ClientCity of Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. Seaholm Intake Website
ProjectIntake is a proposed concept for the adaptive reuse of the abandoned Seaholm Intake Facility in Austin, Texas. The design is a response to the public competition that was sponsored by the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, the Austin Parks Foundation, the Trail Foundation, and AIA Austin. The challenge was to create an iconic adaptive reuse of the historic Art Deco structures which once provided energy and water infrastructure functions connected to the adjacent Seaholm Power Plant and Green Water Treatment Plant. The highly visible downtown site is on the banks of Lady Bird Lake and within the park and trail system. The competition invited a new vision for the neglected facility and site to address the needs of the public, responding to the surrounding changing environment while engaging the trail, park users and the Lake front, creating a vision of the facility as a new community destination.
ProblemThe Seaholm Intake Building practically embodies the Austin character-it just gets cooler and cooler with age. To demolish or overly renovate it would not only wound and disrespect the building but every Austinite as well. Finding a new use for Seaholm Intake should be equally focused on the experience of Austin, the lifestyle that embodies that experience, and elevating the existing qualities of the building that we already adore. We simply call this new place 'Intake.'
ProcessTo become better acquainted with the Seaholm Intake Building, the design team toured the project site, and engaged in an internal charrette to discuss the site challenges, explore precedent projects, and compile a variety of potential adaptive reuse concepts for the facility. Conceptually, Intake inserts a glass box into the concrete shell of the building to serve as a unifying element, an atrium for circulating through the building, and a glass clerestory 'pop-up' at the roof level that brings in natural light during the day and creates a signature, glowing effect for the building at night. Additionally, Intake is tied to the hike and bike trail via a new wood deck and path allows the Butler trail to wrap in front of the building on the lake side, bleeding the edge between outdoor deck and trial. The path's connection to Intake encloses a refreshing wading pool.
Environmental ImpactThe reuse addresses sustainability concerns with multiple features. We take advantage of the building's inherent qualities: massive concrete walls, subterranean lower level, north-south building orientation-to provide an optimal backdrop for a sustainably conscientious building. Clerestory windows take advantage of the abundance of natural light reducing the need for artificial lighting. Also, the clerestory windows are operable, allowing convective cooling by drawing cool air from the lake level and expelling warm air at the roof level. Vertically-folding glass partitions double as sun screens creating covered canopies. Utilizing existing below-grade water storage tanks for rain water collection reduces irrigation and gray water demands. By maintaining the existing building's footprint and replacing existing hardscaping with pervious cover, site storm water runoff will be minimized. The materiality of the lake below is brought to the plaza by means of a linear reflecting pool, showcasing native aquatic vegetation.
Social ImpactProgrammatically, we propose to incorporate all the aforementioned Austin lifestyle activities into Intake, and the elegant glass box will serve to unify them. The main ground level houses a farmers‚Äô marketplace; the glass box allows for the marketplace to open out onto a new plaza that can incorporate even more temporary market kiosks. Removing the concrete infill panels between the tapered fins will immediately open up the lakeside level of the Intake. The naturally lit spaces will host performance, multi-use (i.e. yoga, lectures, etc.), cafe, and bar spaces. Vertically-folding glass partitions allow this openness to be realized. Austinites can hang out in the water, enjoy a nice drink, and listen to great music, all on the Colorado River. Finally, locker rooms at the lake level allow Austinites running on the trail to take advantage of the facility as well.
DifficultiesThe concrete shell, solid proportions, tapered fins, and presence on the lake for over 50 years render the facility instantly iconic. While a key goal was to conserve the mid-century industrial architecture through minimal modern intervention, the design also had to be able to convey the historic use of the structure. The existing building contained a series of voids in its floor for massive pumps once housed in the basement. The voids created an interesting challenge as they divided the ground floor along the centerline, limiting programming to two rather narrow bands at opposite ends of the building's interior. The voids were kept, and an elegant glass balustrade was placed along the perimeter. Through their conservation, remnants of the historic use of the building were elevated to elements central to the new design, acting not only as a connection to the past, but one between the proposed marketplace above, and the performance space below.
Should Win BecauseAustin is changing. It's different than it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and so on. But it's still got the same charm. At the end of the day, there is one reason people settle here. There is an indefinable character that we all love and embrace. The people of Austin have always embraced a variety of activities that represent the city's notable experience. We love the hike and bike trail and all the types of fitness activities that are tied to it. We love our swimming holes. We love our lakes (even though they aren't really lakes, but only we can say that.) We love our dive bars, markets, and the exploding food culture. Intake offers a unique attraction found nowhere else along the shoreline of Ladybird Lake. The Project serves as a hub for interaction between the vibrant urban fabric of the city and the serene water's edge.
Nick Lavelle | Portland, OR
It's in the BOX! is a response to the ailing of inner city Detroit. The project is a kit of parts that form mobile, adaptable public spaces creating new forms of public life on formerly abandoned landscapes as a form of interactive, "interactvist" architecture. see more
Project Description:It's in the BOX! is a response to the ailing of inner city Detroit. The project is a kit of parts that form mobile, adaptable public spaces creating new forms of public life on formerly abandoned landscapes as a form of interactive, "interactvist" architecture. The BOXES! are brilliant orange, salvaged shipping containers that respond to the issues facing Detroit through the creation of a new icon for the city, that provides a signpost of commitment to place. Carried inside the BOXES! are flexible, adaptable sets of interchangeable components which empower communities to reclaim their open spaces. Made of typically cast aside materials, they are refinished and re-assembled to obtain a refined aesthetic that recollects the rhythm of Detroit's industrial architecture, transforming ordinary into the extraordinary. The BOX! is a medium to help re-build community, not only through the planning and construction of common space but also through community building activities. Through participation, it attempts to create a sense of investment among residents so that the public space interventions become widely used and maintained by those who live nearby. The BOX! provides the components in a 'blank-canvas‚' state, meaning they are in their raw material forms which allows people the opportunity to customize and make them their own. As these constructed landscapes help promote neighborhood stability, continued development of surrounding vacant lots and abandoned buildings becomes more economically feasible. The BOX! is about generating a sense of self-reliance and collective efficacy for residents in the construction of their own lives.
Problem:This is Detroit now: $173 million in lost tax revenue from 125,000 vacant, pheasant-filled parcels exploding with wildflowers; two-story houses spaced generously apart; a population stuck in an environment of social, economic, and environmental disinvestment who hang from the lower portions of the economic pyramid; and finally, crumbling educational institutions, parks, community centers, and basic infrastructural services like power, water, and sewer.
Process:The BOX! began as an idea for a mobile, small-scale intervention to be built for the Heidelberg Project in Detroit as a teaching resource for art and environmental education for inner city youth. The design was expanded to encompass ailing Detroit as a whole. Extensive research preceeded the design with a heavy compilation coming from the public interest design sector complimented by research in shipping methodology, mobile architecture, and historical theory of Detroit. I gained firsthand knowledge of Detroiter's problems through working with Heidelberg and implemented their mission of public art to cause conversation and instigate change. All sides were considered to try to achieve an honest, realistic, and doable project: the city, the homeless, businesses, property + home owners, youth, elderly, parents, african american, latino, white, etc. Research was also conducted through making; many prototype components were assembled to determine constructability, durability, and aesthetic character.
Environmental Impact:Environmental systems such as rainwater collection and the generation of off-grid electricity utilize and showcase sustainable building technologies yet balance technological sophistication with the 'DIY' mentality. Sustainable technologies used for the BOX! can be easily taught, understood, and reproduced by the average Detroiter. The BOX! eliminates the need to plug into a permanent water and power supply through self-contained rainwater and electricity harvesting systems. Rainwater is harvested from the lamella pavilions, shipping containers, roofs, and in some cases a new roof structure is placed over top of existing buildings. Electrical power is generated by photovoltaics on the container roofs or using merry-go-round electrical generators. Water is pumped via the merry-go-rounds and food is cooked using solar cookers or fire pits. Otherwise ordinary or waste materials, harvested from dilapidated buildings or scrap yards, are converted and assembled to create amenities like benches, pavilions, and light sculptures.
Social Impact:The BOX! is a community-driven participatory process, avoiding alienation and allowing the community to have a voice in the decision-making of the project. A pioneer BOX! arrives as a meetinghouse where the community decides the parts + functions it wants. More BOXES! follow with the entire installation and the community is asked to help set up.
Difficulties Encountered:Designing a mobile intervention that would not only be code compliant but hold up to human usage by a gamut of stakeholders and users, from children and teenagers to the elderly was extremely difficult. Another difficulty addressed is the possibility of scrapping and vandalism to the pieces themselves. Components were designed in a certain way, avoiding untreated steal and using strong connection details to deter vandals from disassembling and selling off metal. However, some less-extreme vandalism would be seen as a partial success as it would signal people taking over and owning their space; such actions might include painting, graffiti, reassembling, repositioning, adding, and adding-onto existing components. Finally, the ongoing difficulty is that this is still a theoretical project. However, the BOX! has great potential anywhere there is economic disinvestment and is the skeleton of a good idea that could still realized and implemented if seen by the right people.
Should Win Because:The BOX!, is a real world, scalable, social, artistic and environmental intervention created to help bring stability, pride, investment, and self-reliance back to neglected populations. The name itself sends a positive + urgent message to the people that change is sitting right there, in an orange shipping container, ready to be unpacked. Mobility allows it to infill areas in need of a catalytic spark without risking substantial investment as it can simply be moved if it fails.
Jessica Lowry | Austin, TX
Key to the Street's Walkable Urban Design Tool is a mobile service that easily allows anyone to design and submit suggestions for more eco-friendly walkable streets.
ClientCity of Austin Key to the Street Website
ProjectHave you ever felt like sharing your ideas for how to make more walking and public spaces in your neighborhood? Can you see simple solutions that would improve accessibility and pedestrian flow in your community? Do you believe that walking improves health, helps the environment and is a lot more social than driving in a car? If you are a citizen that would like to share your thoughts with your local neighborhood, community organization, town or city then let Key to the Street help you. Key to the Street's Walkable Urban Design Tool is a mobile service that easily allows anyone to design and submit suggestions for more eco-friendly walkable streets. It aims to break down silos between government agencies/planners and regular citizens. Key to the Street establishes a new way to think about citizen-centric urban planning. Get your ideas in front of planners, architects, urban designers and project managers–the very same people who shape the streets, and sidewalks and public spaces in your local those neighborhoods you call home. Anyone with an internet connection and mobile device can participate in public interest design. KTTS is a mobile website that allows individuals to combine photographs, text and simple designs to visualize how they would like their streets to be better designed and get this information to the decision makers in their community. KTTS involves more perspectives into design solutions and is a free platform that enables greater collaboration from a broader demographic of local experts.
ProblemKTTS builds a bridge between citizens and their local governments. Often urban and municipal planning processes happen behind closed doors with only the input of consultants and the occasional 'town hall' feedback session. KTTS is an easy way for citizens to share their suggestions for street improvements directly with the decision makers. The best people to design public streets in a more walkable way are the locals who tread upon them every day.
ProcessOver the past six months wireframes, personas, interaction designs and contextual interviews have been produced in order to design a tool that adds value to city planners and local citizens. Extensive research has been conducted on various issues causing modern cities to be deemed 'unwalkable' in the fields of: Environmental Psychology, Cultural Anthropology, Urban Design and Architecture. The City of Austin have been a valuable stakeholder in the evolution of the idea. By providing the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan and meeting frequently to collaborate on ideas. The concept was pitched to The Banff Centre at SXSW in March and the project won the prize of a 2-week creative residence. The design features will be created as a proof of concept in August at The Banff Centre. The project won at a pitch session held by Elance in Austin and was awarded first prize of $1500 to hire freelancers.
Environmental ImpactImagine if more people walked in their local community? Less cars on the roads would significantly reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion. Greater attention would be spent on the beautification of our communities. It's virtually impossible to be aware of the lack of sidewalks and unsafe walking conditions when few people experience it first hand. KTTS facilitates an easy dialogue between citizens and their governments, enabling public interest design to influence the way streets and sidewalks are designed and maintained. The goal is to inspire people to share their thoughts with their local governments about what would motivate them to walk more and drive less. Home isn't merely a house or apartment, but a local area in which some of the most meaningful aspects of life are experienced. The street is both familiar and intimate. As human-beings we are affected by our environment influences our behavior and we in turn influence the environment.
Social ImpactGreater collaboration on urban design from a broader demographic will result in better design solutions. It's vital to accept and nurture the realities of different cultures within our cities. A happy society is one where the majority of peoples' needs are met. All humans have fundamental environmental needs and as each need is met they move up the hierarchy to greater levels of contentment. When an individuals environment is insufficient they are unable to advance up the hierarchy and this failure to advance causes psychological and emotional dysfunction. All of us have a continuing need to belong to a social group akin to the old neighborhood where we are known, have a sense of place, and where people have a sense of responsibility for each other.
DifficultiesKTTS needs a client to demonstrate the tool with. We are looking for a local community organization, municipal government or city that is about to launch a public consultation process regarding streets, sidewalks or accessibility issues in the community. We would like to offer KTTS as a tool to support that process and in turn help us do user testing. Getting to the point where we're ready to showcase the design as a functioning prototype has been a labour or love. Funding has been a constant struggle. City planners are interested in using the tool once it's built, but there hasn't been any early investors in the project. The tool won't be our greatest challenge. This tool represents a new way of behaving. Shifting people's mindsets from their car being their only mode of transportation; to walking, and alternative modes of transportation isn't a small feat.
Should Win BecauseThe principles of human-centered design have been applied to the online experience through agile development with great success. Continuous software is easier to use and simple to understand. The same could hold true to urban development. Why not involve the entire community in the design of their community? Key to the Street is more than a web-based tool accessible on any mobile device; it is a revolution, and everyone will carry it in their pocket. Connected cities have a flow and beauty that lends to an inclusive culture that makes space for everyone. The ability for SXSW Eco participants to try the first version of Key to the Street's Tool will be a momentous event. Participants will be invited to create and view designs. The story of the tool and its potential impact on creating more connected communities for creative exploration will be on display.
Hiromi Tabei, Architecture for Humanity | Katakami, Japan
In a community strongly affected by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, this multi-purpose structure hosts a community center for kids to enjoy space freely and safely, as well as a space for mothers to be able to work and watch the children simultaneously. see more
ProjectArchitecture for Humanity lended its project management and construction administration expertise to develop a market and youth center in the Kitakami neighborhood of Ishinomaki. In a community strongly affected by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, this multi-purpose structure hosts a community center for kids to enjoy space freely and safely, as well as a space for mothers to be able to work and watch the children simultaneously. This new building also provides a local market with fresh produce; before residents had to drive 15 minutes to the nearest grocery store due to a scarcity in food post-disaster. Because of its high visibility, it attracts visitors and business ensuring long lasting financial stability. Today this center is used by many youth as their home after school, and four Kitakami women now have jobs where none did prior to the disaster. The Youth (and Community) Center enjoys constant activity and a robust calendar of youth design workshops and English classes, becoming a true hub of the community.
ProblemThis design solves the lack of community centers, public space, study space for youth, and accessibility to local markets that the Kitakami community lost in the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake. It provides a free and safe space for children to play, and acts as a fresh food hub along the highway that connects two major cities. In addition, it has given mothers a place to work while watching their children play.
ProcessOwner Naomi Sato and other community members, including a city official, were consulted to understand the vision for what they wanted this unique building to become. An important component to the design was to have the market and youth center adjacent to each other to be able to watch their children. This was to be accomplished by constructing the center of the building elevated a little higher so adults could watch the kids while working, using both spaces simultaneously. This would result in making the space multi-generational and have a multi-purpose use Furthermore, the choice of building materials were considered from a traditional and environmentally friendly approach.
Environmental ImpactThe space has a lot of natural light that makes it a pleasant environment for all community members to enjoy and decreases the need for high-energy consumption. Not only was local wood used, but also the use of stucco was a healthier alternative to painting with harmful chemical that causes the Sick House Syndrome. The hoppers on the ceiling allowed for natural ventiliation. This innovative building system pieced together several wood frame modules, a strategy that reduced the overall cost. The walls themselves have thermal and acoustic insulation properties imbued within them as well. The design choice to use traditional building techniques and materials that steered away from overbearing use of chemicals typically used in modern building methods.
Social Impact"Because the built environment promotes a collaborative use of public space, the community has used this building to sell crafts, fresh produce, host meetings, and notably provides a space for children to play where adults can work and watch over the children simultaneously. It is crucial that there is a clean and healthy space for children and community members to mentally recover from the post-disaster trauma. The accessibility to the Kitakami market is of particular importance to the elderly community who previously had to rely on rides from neighbors to take them to distant towns to shop. After disasters, it is important to rebuild in a resilient fashion, but equally as important to address the current needs of survivors in that process, such as traditional techniques and materials. By reproducing familiar building techniques, the traditional construction processes support the mental recovery from the trauma of the disaster.
DifficultiesDue to the tsunami and earthquake, building resources and materials have become scarce. An important component to the construction was concrete, which had delayed delivery to the work site due to supply shortages across the country. What the team was unaware of upon arrival was the difficulty of securing a contractor because most were working for the government and their rebuilding initiatives. Also, a labor shortage was addressed by the help of volunteers from the outside which allowed for another level of connectivity amongst the community.
Should Win BecauseDue to the tsunami and earthquake, building resources and materials have become scarce. An important component to the construction was concrete, which had delayed delivery to the work site due to supply shortages across the country. What the team was unaware of upon arrival was the difficulty of securing a contractor because most were working for the government and their rebuilding initiatives. Also, a labor shortage was addressed by the help of volunteers from the outside which allowed for another level of connectivity amongst the community.
Aki Ishida with VA Tech, for the National Cherry Blossom Festival | Washington, D.C.
This digitally interactive installation consists of folded mulberry paper illuminated with LED lights and daylight to create a multi-sensory space that responds to people's presence and behavior. see more
ClientNational Cherry Blossom Festival
ProjectThis digitally interactive installation consists of folded mulberry paper illuminated with LED lights and daylight to create a multi-sensory space that responds to people's presence and behavior. Inspired by traditional Japanese lantern festivals and cherry blossom viewing, the installation creates an ephemeral place of gathering through light. This is achieved by three means: 1) Challenging the use of mulberry paper as material to capture light, both electric and natural, 2) Integrating technology that enables people's interaction with their environment and with each other, and 3) Running a public workshop in which the viewers also become the makers of the work. A line of 15 ultrasonic sensors and 5 speakers are located along the east wall of the loggia opposite of the arches. As the sensors capture presence of people entering the space, they activate the shift in light hue and sound. At the same time, change in hues of the LED fixtures along the floor is projected onto the field of paper lanterns overhead. Those who actively try to explore how they could affect the sound and light are rewarded by the appearance of deeper notes and hues, which could also emerge in response to a general flurry of activities by multiple participants.
ProblemThe experience of going an art museum has traditionally been static, and the opportunities for the public to make art are too rare in the US. This project takes a courtyard in a historic and transforms it into a space to communally make, display, and experience art. The visitors become participants in the making of the installation during the lantern making workshop, and in the experiencing of the work through interactive light and sound.
ProcessThe paper lanterns were designed in collaboration with a group of architecture students. We tested many prototypes of mulberry paper lanterns that 1) capture and hold the light, 2) would not be damaged in a gust of wind, and, very importantly, 3) could be produced by visitors of all ages and skill levels within six hours of the public workshop. A similar, but less ambitious lantern project by the same key designers was installed at a local farmers market 7 months prior, and the installation in Washington DC built upon its strengths and improved upon its shortcomings. Ultrasonic sensors were used in place of webcams to capture people's motion so that the change in the light conditions would not accidentally trigger the sensor and result in shifting color. We experimented with ways of integrating technology that enables people's interaction with their environment and with each other.
Environmental ImpactAt only 0.68 watts per square foot, the LED fixtures minimize the use of energy. The grid frames from which the lanterns are hung are made of bamboo. Bamboo is a sustainable material for its fast growth and its capacity to prevent soil erosion. Because of its great strength in both compression and tension, we were able to minimize the amount of materials. Bamboo joints were tied with natural sisal twines, and both mulberry paper and bamboo were recycled after dismantling.
Social ImpactThe paper lanterns were produced in a day-long public workshop in which the design team taught the visitors how to fold the lanterns and add to the bamboo grid frame. Community engagement was essential to the execution of this project. The installation is participatory at multiple levels: first, during the process of communal production; then later when people move through the space beneath the lanterns to participate in viewing and discovering of the shifting light and sound. The Freer|Sackler Galleries received over 22,000 visitors the weekend of the workshop and installation. Many of these visitors became makers of art, not simply viewers.
DifficultiesWe were very limited in the ways in which the installation could be supported by the existing building due to of its historic preservation status. As a result, the only things that touched the building were 11 aluminum poles temporarily tensioned against the walls and columns. To minimize the load on the poles, we used lightweight bamboo to build a grid frame from which the lanterns are hung, and all light fixtures, speakers, sensor and electronic parts were placed on the ground, not suspended from above. Other challenges resulted from unpredictability that is inherent in participatory creation by the public. Not knowing exactly how many museum visitors will participate in the lantern making workshop, allowing enough freedom yet constraining how they could personalize their lanterns, and having quality control of the lanterns made by the public were some of the challenges.
Should Win BecauseWe should win the SXSW Eco Design Award for innovative engagement of its participants, material resources, and the site. It is a work of art that engages the public during and after its production process. This is achieved through a lantern making workshop in which the viewers also become the makers of the work, and by encouraging interaction between the artwork and the participants and between one participant and another. The project is restrained in its use of resources and materials; It is made of sustainable, recyclable materials of paper and bamboo illuminated with natural light during the day and energy efficient LED at night. Finally, it is an innovative translation of a traditional lantern festival in a contemporary setting through integration of digitally programmed interactive light- and sound-scape.
Sarah Gamble, Lynn Osgood, GO Collaborative | Austin, TX
We propose a temporary installation picturing heroes of the local sustainability movement through a series of 'statues' throughout the Downtown / Convention Center areas. see more
ProjectOne doesn't have to be a hero or celebrity to be an essential player on the frontline of the sustainability movement. Everyday, individuals work behind the scenes to make Austin an environmentally progressive place for us all to call home. To honor these Austinites who work on the front lines, we propose a temporary installation picturing these individuals through a series of 'statues' throughout the Downtown / Convention Center areas. The installation will include six to eight 2-dimensional 'statues'. The statue size, about 8 feet tall, is scaled to public spaces and meant to evoke the heroic tone of more traditional park statues. The figures will serves as landmarks within the urban fabric for convention attendees, and they will play off of our desire to mark our travels to other places by taking photos of ourselves with statues of 'local historic heroes'. We imagine the statues sited in exterior and interior locations, such as city streets, parks, and the Convention Center lobby. Specific locations are flexible and statues would be constructed for interior or exterior use. To construct the statues, exterior-grade prints, commonly used for commercial signage, would be mounted to polygal panels, a structural plastic panel commonly used in greenhouse roofs. The statue bases would be constructed of plywood and custom designed with variations in height and shape for the selected locations and interactability with visitors. A brief description of the individual pictured will highlight their daily work and affiliated organization / employer.
ProblemIn reflecting on Austin's notoriety around the USA for both media celebrities and environmental efforts, the project introduces visitors to these unheralded heroes with Austin's sustainability community. They are individuals who call Austin home year round. Stories and images of these Austinites will return home with visitors in the form of conversation, tweets, Fb posts, and images. Spatially, the statues will act as temporary landmarks: places to gather and points of direction. They will be the subject of conversation on the ground and in social media. "Hey John. Did you get your picture taken with Jimmy, the grocery clerk yet?"
Environmental ImpactThe installation will raise awareness of the under-recognized 'man on the ground' and the cumulative effect of many working toward a more sustainable place to live and work. Descriptions included on the statue bases will highlight the individual's organization / employer and their contribution to environmental sustainability.
Social ImpactThe statue series will honor typical residents, in contrast to widely known political leaders or celebrities. The individuals honored will represent the diversity of Austin's population and the variety of vocations / jobs that contribute to the sustainable workforce. The installation will impact common assumptions or stereotypes about the typical Austinite and those working on issues of sustainability.
DifficultiesThere is so much going on in Austin in the sustainability movement. With a finalized budget and number of statues to be constructed, the selection of individuals will need to be carefully choreographed in order to truly represent the community.
Should Win BecauseBecause our design isn't just about recognizing these 8 individuals or the statues produced. This design proposal is about recognizing the work we all do for a sustainable future–in a spontaneous and playful way. The statues raise our awareness of the sustainable workforce and their contributions. Through social media and (old fashioned) conversation, this project will send convention attendees home with a new perspective on our great city and its residents.
Samantha Harmon, Lexicon for Sustainability | Petaluma, CA
The Lexicon of Sustainability is a multi-platform project based on a simple premise: People can't be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don't know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability. see more
ProjectThe Lexicon of Sustainability is a multi-platform project based on a simple premise: People can't be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don't know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability. For three years, filmmaker/photographer Douglas Gayeton and producer Laura Howard-Gayeton have crisscrossed the United States to learn this new language of sustainability from its foremost practitioners in sustainable agriculture. These 200 plus thought leaders include farmers, coffee roasters, beekeepers, fishermen, and icons like Alice Waters, Wes Jackson, Vandana Shiva, Will Allen and Temple Grandin. Combining these insights with Douglas Gayeton's documentary photographs, the Lexicon project has created a series of "information artworks" that depict important terms and concepts in a highly visual and accessible approach. The purpose of these artworks is to share this new language that engages, promotes and activates conversation. These conversations then lead to a path to more sustainable food and farming systems due to consumer awareness and demand. And now, these "Information Artworks" are being transformed into life sized wheatpaste posters. Austin students and local artists will be adding the final touches to the large posters by hand painting them before they are pasted up along city streets for pedestrians to discover.
ProblemThere is a necessity for more accessible and transparent solutions to living a sustainable life. The language of sustainability is important, but it has not been explained to the public, and the terms are often misconstrued. The idea that terms have the power to shift people's consciousness and thereby shift the way industries do business is real. Our life-sized public art is an accessible way to get the word out to urban communities and neighborhoods.
ProcessA Los Angeles artist that goes by the name of Ra Sol reached out to Lexicon wanting to get involved with the project. Ra Sol deconstructed the information artwork into black & white images. He then hand-painted the prints. In April we installed these wheatpaste posters around the streets of San Francisco.
Environmental ImpactThe environmental impact of these wheatpaste posters is minimal. They can be printed on recycled paper, and watercolor paints are used which are the least hazardous. Also the wheatpaste used to apply the posters to walls is made of organic material, vegetable starch and water.
Social ImpactThe impact of the wheatpaste posters will be beneficial. The purpose of the street art is to share the knowledge we've gathered to the public in an engaging, creative and accessible way. Through these creative and informative artworks, we seek to educate and activate people to pay closer attention to how they eat, what they buy, and where their responsibility begins for creating a healthier, safer food system in America.
DifficultiesWe have met many highly educated and dedicated people who are deeply engaged in the sustainability conversation, and yet they themselves don't know the distinctions between so many of the sustainability terms. This puts our society at a great disadvantage because without a unified voice, conversations go no where. This validates the need for a project like Lexicon to promote sustainable information and transparent communication through public art.
Should Win BecauseThe goal of the Lexicon of Sustainability is to engage the public and activate conversations focused on sustainable solutions for a healthier global society and planet. These posters will give us the necessary format to engage the busy public in a quick, fun and informational way. We will garner the attention of those who can't find the time to research topics they feel are important to know for the health of their families, local communities and the planet. Lexicon's information artwork continues to motivate people to dig deeper into living a more sustainable life.
John Hartmann, Freecell Architecture | Brooklyn, NY
Through posters adhered to construction fences, Local Previews suggests big buildings in small shells, with unlikely pairings that take advantage of limited spaces and serve particular needs. see more
ProjectLocal Previews, the architectural what if? What if we could build our dreams? We all have an innate ability to imagine activity onto vacancies. A construction fence provokes our imagination to see the potential of a vacant lot and we use our ability to imagine projects on them. What do we need in our community? Whom do we want for a neighbor? Through posters adhered to construction fences, Local Previews suggests big buildings in small shells, with unlikely pairings that take advantage of limited spaces and serve particular needs. City Sort calls for a neighborhood recycling center with a rooftop greenhouse in the Lower East Side. SKY-field proposes a vertical farming infrastructure, filtering and recycling an East River water supply to become the principal source of seasonal organic produce in New York City for New York City. Mahjong Palace is a 10-story boutique hotel in Sunset Park. Its mineral pool sits above the glass ceiling Aqua Lounge, with mahjong game tables in the casino below. New York neighborhoods rarely stand still. This flux contributes to the city's vitality, but is largely driven by developers with little consideration for the overall vigor of public space. We can change this dynamic by generating programs responding to social and physical neighborhood character. Local Previews, a form of architectural graffiti, captures the imagination of residents and passersby. We want to challenge everyone to question the impending changes. An empty construction site begs us to imagine the potential of what could be.
ProblemLocal Previews challenges the rapid redevelopment of neighborhoods without consideration for, or consultation with, the existing denizens. Most profit driven projects are a paradox since they replace the character of the neighborhood that they are capitalizing on, they in turn, are responsible for diluting the culture. Our goal is to raise awareness of development understanding that with the right ingredients new building can have a positive effect on a community.
ProcessThe process starts with our own awareness of neighborhood change and real estate speculation. We note that the demographics of an area are shifting and the existing stores, restaurants, and inhabitants are beginning to move out. Our research comprises of knowing and enjoying the neighborhood. What makes the place unique and where do people congregate? The next phase is to locate vacant spaces that are ripe for development. We then draft proposals and design new buildings with challenging programs. We define 'challenging' as a project that is too good to be true, too extreme given site or structural capabilities, or that pushes the current laws. Our ideas are then printed onto posters that are plastered on construction fences to look like the real 'coming soon' plans for the site. People often first see our projects as possible but then recognize their surreality and understand them as a prevarication.
Environmental ImpactLocal Previews is an 'idea' project that manifests itself as posters in the city so there is no direct environmental impact. Our hope is to inspire thinking that stimulates more ecologically proactive building in the urban fabric. The impact is one of awareness with many of the projects, like the SKY-field and City Sort, present ideas that are about greening the city to include ways that incorporate growing local food, water purification, and reducing the heat island effect.
Social ImpactLocal Previews gives the community the tools to dream in the language of architecture and urban design. The project raises awareness about the larger forces that have major impact on the character and workings of neighborhoods. We have provoked dialogues about what is and should be built. Since our project is geared towards community and social impact we receive a lot of feedback, on the street and via email, describing excitement, disbelief, and frustration about our proposals. This is our goal. Buildings provide a living exoskeleton for the lives of their inhabitants. The size and location of housing, commerce, industry, parks and transportation is the business of all and our work facilitates this discussion. We strive to make people converse about their surroundings and to question change. In dynamic growing environments, change is inevitable. Our mission is to empower people's desires to shape the future of their city.
DifficultiesOur actions are illegal because of the 'Post No Bills' law. We have yet to be reprimanded or detained by authorities but our posters often have a short life. The greatest difficulty is working towards a deadline, waking up before the crack of dawn, and wheat-pasting huge sheets of paper to only have them torn down in a few days by the property owner.
Should Win BecauseOur unique built environment is under threat by big-business-developers who consider profit over spatial qualities. Local Previews wants people to become aware that they deserve a voice in the places around them. Local Previews should be considered for the award since it facilitates, and sometimes provokes, a dialogue on how to shape and preserve the future of our cities. Recognition fuels this work and research, which is essential since it is not funded but produced to protect the existing and encourage the making of unique places. We believe the special mix of culture and idiosyncrasies should define our spaces and not the homogeneous plans of corporations.
Patrick Keeney, RTKL | Washington, DC
The Looper repurposes an existing river barge into a greenhouse which collects, uses, filters, and returns water to the river in a remediated state–a loop. see more
ProjectThe United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently reported that approximately 55% of the nation's rivers and streams are in "poor condition for aquatic life". The study found that many of these rivers suffer from excessive nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer runoff, decreased vegetative cover from human development, and have increased bacteria and mercury levels. The state of our nation's waterways are indeed threatened. Knowing that they are vital resources to our health, prosperity, and the natural environment, the Looper is an attempt to use a greenhouse to reverse this trend. The Looper challenges the idea of a greenhouse and leverages one very simple concept: the growing of plants inherently cleans an ecosystem. To do this, The Looper repurposes an existing river barge into a greenhouse which collects, uses, filters, and returns water to the river in a remediated state–a loop. At the heart of the vessel is a 'living machine' that distributes filtered river water to an aquaponics system growing both plants and fish. As the greenhouse barge moves along the river, it is able to restore water and habitat, serve multiple communities with access to fresh produce, and act as a floating classroom for an ecologically abundant future.
ProblemThe Looper was originally designed in conjunction with Cascadia's Big 'GREEN' Greenhouse Design Competition. The competition sought entries that met two main design criteria: Extend the growing season in the North Puget Sound bio region, and Follow the design guidelines of the Living Building Challenge. Successful entries were encouraged to rethink the role of the greenhouse for the future of locally-grown, fresh produce. The Looper does just that! - Closing a bigger loop while feeding a growing community.
ProcessThe Looper team is comprised of 10 diverse teammates including architects, engineers, a graphic designer, and an outdoor/botanist enthusiast, who are spread throughout the United States. The team set up an online blog to foster communication that was updated live throughout the project to share research ideas, sketches, links, and discussions in real-time. This blog encouraged an open and transparent design process, and as a result, was able to expand the number of collaborators, participation, and interest beyond the core team. Twice throughout the design period, the Looper team hosted live charrettes with outside peer reviewers to gain additional insight and feedback. Research for the Looper covered a diverse range of topics, including the historical and cultural identity of the Puget Sound bio region, low impact/high yield gardening techniques (aquaponics vs hydroponics vs soil), and passive and active greenhouse design strategies, as well as specific Snohomish County logistics.
Environmental ImpactThe 'building' was designed in accordance with the Living Building Challenge, addressing each principle–site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty–to create a zero-impact design. The system of water collection - cleansing - then release is supplied wholly by on-site sources, creating a full loop, net-zero water design. This cleansing also meets the LBC's site requirement for remediating a brownfield, the Snohomish River as the brownfield! Energy consumption was accurately modeled to ensure that it met the LBC's net-zero energy petal. This was achieved by first optimizing through passive strategies, then further minimizing via active strategies, then ultimately offsetting all energy consumption with renewable sources. To help meet the LBC's materials petal, the Looper has repurposed a standard river barge, reusing what would otherwise be headed for the waste stream, while also adhering to the LBC's strict red list for banned materials and substances.
Social ImpactWe envision the Looper having a co-op style work ethic. As a volunteer destination providing practical, first hand experiences, the Looper will act as a mobile hub for the communities it serves. The volunteers bring the life, labor and love to the entire system by not only tending to the needs of the greenhouse, but by creating the connections that reach out beyond the river, into the towns and villages that will support and benefit from it. Co-op systems are incubators of ideas where people can gather, work together towards a common goal, and share knowledge not only with each other, but with the public at large by hosting workshops and lectures, inviting schools to visit and allowing connections to be made organically as needs arise in the community.
DifficultiesOne of the difficulties we encountered was creating a perfomative design which met all of the imperatives of the LBC, while continuing to serve its original function as a greenhouse and education center. One of the hardest imperatives for us to meet was finding an appropriate energy source to allow for a 100% net zero project. Of the commonly used renewable resources, neither solar or wind power proved to be appropriate for the project location. We determined that the best course of action was to use the power available on the site, the river current. We employed a series of tidal turbines, one stationed at each barge docking station, where both the Looper barge could plug-in to charge, and other communities boats could charge as well. In this way, we were both able to solve our energy needs, and give back to the community.
Should Win BecauseWhile the Looper was originally designed for the Snohomish River in Seattle, Washington, the beauty of the design concept is that it can easily be adapted to regions outside of the Puget Sound. The potential for positive impact from this scalable idea is great: not only improving the health of our waterways and providing locally-grown fresh produce, but also teaching the community about our impact on the surrounding environment. Our goal is to someday build the first Looper. In order to so, there is much work to be done to find a funding source for this idea, as well as a supporting volunteer organization to run and manage the barge. Winning the SXSW Eco Design award would offer us a large platform to share the idea of the Looper in the hopes of someday getting the first barge built and running.
Aki Ishida with VA Tech | Blacksburg, VA
Row of mulberry paper kites suspended from timber pavilion sway and rotate together in response to wind. At night, they are lit with LED lights to create a luminous outdoor ceiling. see more
ClientAmerican Institute of Architects, Blue Ridge Chapter
ProjectLuminous Kite Lanterns was designed and installed collaboratively by a team led by architect Aki Ishida and students and faculty of Virginia Tech. It was commissioned by the American Institute of Architect (AIA) Blue Ridge chapter for its 2012 Design Award Exhibit on September 17, 2012. The work is sited at the Blacksburg Farmers Market in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. This public installation engaged the university, farmers market vendors, and local residents of all ages. Row of mulberry paper kites suspended from timber pavilion sway and rotate together in response to wind. At night, they are lit with LED lights to create a luminous outdoor ceiling. The color of lights shifts from warm white to orange as people enter the space under the kites and becomes intense red as the occupants' motion increases. Ambient sound of wood chimes is heard as people's motion is captured by sensors, creating a multisensory space that responds to people's presence and natural forces of the breeze. Through integration of digital technology, Luminous Kite Lanterns brings awareness to our interconnectedness to nature and among people occupying a public space.
ProblemMany large cities have active public art programs for their residents, but access to art installations in small towns in the US is often limited. The project responded by creating an accessible, interactive place of gathering with a temporary installation on a limited budget. There are many public spaces that could be activated by art, but opportunities are overlooked. Through partnerships with local non-profit organizations, we strengthened the ties between them and the university.
ProcessMultiple mockups of the kites were made to determine the appropriate level of movement and constraint so that they would respond to the wind but remain stable under a gust of wind. We tested different paper dimensions, apertures in the paper, curvature of the bamboo strips shaping the kite, and the connection detail of the kites to the strings of chains. We also consulted kite artists through Drachen Foundation, a non-profit corporation dedicated to kite knowledge, for their opinions on how to stabilize the kites while maintaining some movement. Sound and light interaction was designed collaboratively with computer scientists and digital sound artists using Max/MSP, a visual dataflow programming for interactive environment. We tested various sensitivity levels of the web cam sensors and the response time and duration of light color and sound change to achieve the appropriate levels of visual and aural effects.
Environmental ImpactThe installation capitalizes on three resources that already exist on the site: daylight, wind, and people - to activate the space. Rather than resisting the wind force and creating a static installation, the kites move in response to the direction and speed of wind. During the day, the kites are illuminated by natural light, and at night, the LED fixtures provide lighting with a minimal use of energy. The kites were made of mulberry paper and bamboo, both of which were recycled after dismantling.
Social ImpactThe project engaged local non-profit organizations to raise awareness of the role of public art in creating a place of community gathering. The exhibit opening event attracted over 200 adults and children, and it was seen by thousands of residents and university students over the next three days. The project also became an opportunity to promote inter-cultural understanding by exhibiting a design that is inspired by Japanese culture. Over the days following the reception event, the sound of wood chimes caused people passing by to turn their heads and stop. Some stayed longer to experiment how they can alter the soundscape with their bodies. Vendors at the Saturday farmers market remarked how the kite lanterns brought the scale of the tall timber structure down to more intimate, human body scale. Our project generated interest in the leaders of the farmers market to make installations by different artists an annual event.
DifficultiesIt was a challenge to achieve the right level of movement in a field of kites to active the space. If they swayed too much, they become tangled. If they were too restrained, the work lost the kinetic qualities we aimed for. It was not helpful to test the kites' behaviors indoors or at a smaller scale model; they needed to be tested in a sufficient quantity at full scale outside, so there was a large quantity of failed kites until we arrived at solution that worked. Mulberry paper with its long fibers is very strong compared to other translucent papers, but there were portions of the kites that were vulnerable to tearing in a gust of wind. In designing the digital interaction, the challenge was to make the shifting of colors and sounds noticeable, yet not too obvious that it leaves little room for exploration.
Should Win BecauseWe should win the SXSW Eco Design Award for innovative engagement of natural forces on the site, material resources, and the community. The project is restrained in its use of resources and materials; It is made of sustainable, recyclable paper and bamboo illuminated with natural light during the day and energy efficient LED at night, and is activated by the wind and people present at the site. In a rural college town, it brought awareness to the impact that art installations could have on public places. Our project stirred interest in the leaders of the farmers market to make installations by different artists an annual event. Luminous Kite Lanterns was an innovative translation of a traditional lantern festival in a contemporary setting outside of Japan. Through integration of digital technology, it brought awareness to our interconnectedness with nature and among people occupying a public space.
Sascha Mayer | Burlington, VT
Mamava creates design solutions for nursing mamas on the go. Our first project will be a free standing Lactation Station installed at Burlington International Airport in Burlington, Vermont this fall. see more
ClientBurlington International Airport Mamava Project Website
ProjectMamava creates design solutions for nursing mamas on the go. Our first project will be a free standing Lactation Station installed at Burlington International Airport in Burlington, Vermont this fall. Mamava is committed to changing the perception of pumping and nursing with design solutions that allow every woman the option to nurse regardless of circumstance. The Mamava Lactation Station offers nursing mothers a safe, clean, functional, and beautifully designed space to pump/nurse when they are away from home or at work. These women are committed to their infant's health and well-being in an era when expressing milk in public places or workspaces is not often accommodated even though the mandate and need exists.
ProblemMamava is for women who need to express milk with a breast pump when they are away from their baby for work, play, or travel. Mamava is a solution for HR managers, building managers, and hospitality coordinators who know that a comfortable mama is a healthy, productive, happy mama. A woman should be able to breastfeed her baby anywhere she wants to, but there is also a need for comfortable places for a woman to nurse in privacy.
ProcessStarting with experience and immersion (we were working nursing mothers) we made sketches and early prototypes and invited dialogue and feedback. We fielded an online survey, and conducted two focus groups with nursing mothers (one with a baby who interacted with an early prototype). Our philosophy was fail fast fail cheap. The current lactation station design was developed by G3 Kiosko, our manufacturing partner (based on our design brief), and is being built by G3 Kiosko in Vermont. We have been working with mamas and our local hospital, airport, and school system to gain a better understanding of installation issues and user needs. User feedback and insight that we gather from the first free-standing lactation station at the airport will inform our next round of development and prototyping, which will focus on producing a compact, lightweight version for temporary use in workplaces with limited space (schools, offices with open floor plans, warehouses, etc.).
Environmental ImpactAccording to research reported in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2010, if 90% of U.S. mothers nursed exclusively for the first six months we would save $13 billion in medical costs and 900 infant lives yearly. The cost of formula for a baby for six months is roughly $630. Extrapolate the environmental costs of raising dairy cows or farming soybeans, processing, transportation, packaging, and more transportation, and the environmental impact and savings from increased breastfeeding are considerable. The Lactation Station itself is built with an aluminum frame for reduced weight and recyclability, and highly durable materials for longevity against wear and tear in public venues.
Social ImpactBreastfeeding protects babies from illnesses including diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma. Children who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS. Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. 4,000,000 babies are born in the U.S. yearly. 77% of moms (about 3,000,000) start out nursing. Many nursing mothers quit, mostly because they don't have the support to continue breastfeeding. Let's face it: pumping in a restroom or car is unclean, uncomfortable, and unacceptable. In 2011, the Affordable Care Act made support for nursing mothers the law, requiring organizations with more than 50 employees to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for up to one year after her child's birth and to provide a place, other than a bathroom to do it.
DifficultiesThe number one challenge has been explaining the logistics of breastfeeding. Many of our partners didn't understand that a woman who wants to breastfeed has to pump while she is away from her baby, and didn't realize that for the most part women are having to do this in restrooms, cars or other undesirable locations for (essentially) preparing food. Another challenge are the diverse and divergent cultural dynamics surrounding this issue. How and if a woman breastfeeds should be a choice, but in order for it to be a choice she needs to realistically be able to have the time and space to do so. We also never want a breastfeeding mother to feel she has to go 'back in the closet' with her baby. A woman should be able to breastfeed her baby anywhere she wants to, but there is also a need for comfortable places for a woman to nurse in privacy.
Should Win BecauseBreast milk is a delicious, nutritionally balanced food, a wonder elixir that helps prevent illness, reduce obesity, and support brain development. It can be delivered on demand according to users needs, it's essentially free, and it comes in the most amazing packaging ever created. But so many mothers don't nurse because they don't have the support they need. Mamava seeks to solve this problem and no less than change the culture of breastfeeding, by delivering solutions and a message that is optimistic, overt, not clinical, and apologetic. We want to tell our story in the company of progressive friends who can help spread the word and help us fulfill our mission of a healthier society due to a changed cultural perception of pumping/nursing that affords every woman the opportunity to nurse her child regardless of her circumstances.
Hiromi Tabei, Architecture for Humanity | Japan
The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011 wiped out most of the Maeami-hama village, located on the Oshika Peninsula. see more
Project"The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011 wiped out most of the Maeami-hama village, located on the Oshika Peninsula. Villagers established the Maeami-hama Reconstruction Team in May 2011 after residents lamented the government's slow response. The team's nine members, representing the 80-person village, sought a new community house with storage for the displaced fishermen, fishing equipment and community activities. The temporary housing complex had no space for family gatherings such as weddings, funerals and other events. Architecture for Humanity brought in Kobayashi-Maki Design Workshop (KMDW) and Keio University for their innovative post-disaster construction system to quickly raise a permanent house with the fishermen themselves. The design uses interlocking plywood pieces as a structural and sheathing system ‚Äì the numbered elements are accompanied by easy-to-read assembly instructions. The Maeami-hama Reconstruction Project Team assembled the house over a period of weeks with minimal reliance on skilled builders and complicated equipment. They tend to become scarce after a major disaster. The house now hosts women's group meetings, meetings with governmental officials, and practice sessions for traditional "Shishimai (Lion Dance)".
ProblemThe isolation of the site was the major problem. It was hard to bring in a machinery, to secure skilled workers, and to source building materials. We overcame these challenges by adapting an innovative building method that KMDW and Keio University developed after the tsunami. The method was to create a system using interlocking plywood sheets with a construction manual that could be easily followed by non-skilled builders, and to construct a permanent structure.
Process"Many affected areas after the 2011 tsunami were suffering the lack of skilled labors and building materials, and slowed down the reconstruction effort. KMDW and Keio University developed this plywood house building method that the entire structure is made of plywood to address the issue. A structural engineer analyzed the system, and concluded this meets the current building code. The designer felt important for community members to participate in a construction process to cultivate the sense of ownership. They developed an easy-to-follow construction manual for anyone to build a small but permanent structure when they need to.
Environmental Impact"KMDW and Keio University looked into the locally sourced material to develop the new building method. They learned a town next to Maeami-hama has the largest plywood manufacturer in Japan, and that was how they decided to use plywood. Large openings with custom-made doors invite fresh sea breeze. Layered translucent polycarbonate sheets on walls and doors provide diffused natural light inside, so they don't have to use artificial lighting until dark.
Social ImpactThe Maeami-hama Reconstruction Project Team was the driver of this project. They came to us with their vision to have a community house that everybody in the village can be benefited. They found time and volunteered during the construction to build their community house by themselves because they truly wanted it. Sometimes we encounter communities after a disaster that they get used to receiving aid, and become ignorant to what people are giving to them. Our approach of having our end-users involved in design and construction creates a sustainable and resilient community because they are the ones creating a space that they need.
Difficulties"The biggest obstacle was the struggle among the community to find a common idea of their future after the disaster. We had many meetings and correspondence to suggest what they could be, but they needed to reach a consensus by themselves at the end of the day. Soul-searching as a community for the first time in the post-disaster environment is not easy. However, their idea was much stronger when they came out of the tunnel. Sometimes fishermen were too busy with their own work, so the pace of construction slowed down. However having a dedicated supervisor and other volunteers helped the project moving forward. Because of the tight budget, designers and volunteers donated many hours of work for this project. It is not always easy to get pro bono services. By looking at smily faces at the opening ceremony, however, everybody seemed satisfied and proud of this project
Should Win BecauseThe Maeami-hama Community House project is one of the most representative projects of Architecture for Humanity because of its community involvement in construction and environmentally sustainable design approach. Our approach has proven to be a successful model especially in a post-disaster reconstruction period to regain the sense of normalcy, and to establish the sense of ownership in affected communities. Our projects build hope for their future with community members, and create socially and environmentally sustainable spaces. This innovative building method is transferrable to different communities and location.
Christina Mirando, Women.Design.Build | Austin, TX
Women.Design.Build's (WDB) mission is to create communities of empowered women and girls by equipping them with the right tools and resources to lead self-sufficient lives and build strong communities. see more
ProjectWomen.Design.Build's (WDB) mission is to create communities of empowered women and girls by equipping them with the right tools and resources to lead self-sufficient lives and build strong communities. Our skill-based workshops inspire general public women as well as our city's most vulnerable female populations to be strong leaders and problem-solvers. To broaden our impact, we are developing a Mobile Workshop: a shop space on wheels that will make design and building technologies, materials, and equipment readily available to the greater Austin community. It's open door design will transform schools, vacant parking lots, driveways, and public parks into a fully equipped shop space. Not only will the trailer feature sustainable technologies such as a solar powered generator, but it will also empower and educate our community to lead more self-sufficient and healthier lives. The Mobile Workshop will be outfitted with the basic tools of a traditional shop, which will enable Women.Design.Build to expand our teaching capabilities and radically increase our impact in the Austin area. The most meaningful impact will be in our community partner workshop offerings. With more consistent access to mobile equipment, Women.Design.Build can strengthen programming with existing partners and expand services to organizations that are working to empower and educate our city's most vulnerable female populations. In addition to offering services to vulnerable populations, the Mobile Workshop will also be available for the greater Austin community to use via private events, outdoor festivals, public school activities, and much more.
ProblemWomen.Design.Build empowers our city's most vulnerable communities of women and girls via tailored educational opportunities. Oftentimes, we must travel to these communities to conduct our programming. This model inhibits our ability to broaden our impact because it is neither scalable nor replicable. A Mobile Workshop outfitted with the basic tools of a traditional shop will enable WDB to expand our teaching capabilities, radically increase our impact, and solve the transportation challenge.
ProcessOur process is as follows: Community Engagement & Market Analysis: Identify the demonstrated need via US Census findings Engage current and potential WDB stakeholders in program development Compile mobile business case study Determine community impact Outline main programs Physical Design & Implementation: Prototype design based on stakeholder and market analysis findings Test prototype Program Evaluation & Iteration: Assess program outputs and outcomes and survey constituents Refine structure through iterative design process Determine additional earned income models.
Environmental ImpactOur environment is a living, breathing ecosystem that needs to be taken into account when creating truly sustainable solutions. The environmental impact of the Women.Design.Build Mobile Workshop will be directly correlated to a more confident group of women and girls that are empowered with new skills. Women.Design.Build believes that the core tenants of a sustainable society are equity, environment, and economics. The purpose of Women.Design.Build is to foster an environment where women have the safe space to explore new skills. We believe this creates a new form of equity that builds stronger communities. We also understand that new and more opportunities are essential to growth for individuals and our communities. Women.Design.Build aspires to work with the most marginalized communities so that they themselves can address the issues of equality. We believe more equal communities will build healthier and wealthier communities.
h4>Social Impact The investment in women has noteworthy impacts on sustainability and the community. Research indicates that when you invest in a woman, she is shown to reinvest 90% of her income in her family and community, amounting to more money spent on items such as healthcare, education, and home improvement. Through its scalable and transportable design, the Mobile Workshop has the potential to empower our city's most vulnerable female communities via skill-based workshops. Women.Design.Build provides essential training that can improve a woman's livelihood by empowering her to self-perform home maintenance tasks, an opportunity that enables her to stretch her income even further and provide a healthier home for her family. When you invest in women, you are advocating for higher GDPs, increased gender equality, and healthier communities. Women.Design.Build is an integral player in this female empowerment equation.
The difficulties we have encountered are minimal considering we are in the very early stages of development. However, we anticipate a potential challenge could be when determining the Mobile Workshop's programs and stakeholders. With scale comes more opportunity. Although more opportunities can serve as a launchpad for success and greater impact, they can also dilute and distract from an organization's main purpose. As a young yet quickly evolving organization, we approach new initiatives and opportunities with thoughtfulness in an effort to avoid risk and failure. With that said, prototyping the Mobile Workshop will be a critical step in defining and refining its main programs. From there, we will be able to intelligently problem-solve and iterate the design based on challenges that arise from the first prototyping stage.
Should Win BecauseThe Mobile Workshop is an innovative way to bring creative confidence back into the classroom, empower vulnerable communities to be resourceful problem solvers, and challenge our understanding of public space. Women.Design.Build should win the SXSW Eco Design Award because our design is the first mobile education model that is addressing the specific challenges facing women and the city's concurrent housing costs. From a funding perspective, the Mobile Workshop has the potential to generate its own revenue via general public and private event services. This type of model demonstrates financial stability, which is critical to the success and scalability of the Mobile Workshop. Overall, the Mobile Workshop's creative platform and included design features will highlight the importance of design.build education by making it accessible and fun. The city of Austin, with its both creative and community-minded culture, would benefit greatly from this type of service.
Laurie Sumiye, Worm LLC | Brooklyn, NY
Walk + Talk is an educational and public engagement mobile application based on the documentary film, MY BROOKLYN.
ClientPratt Center for Community Development and the Brooklyn Historical Society My Brooklyn: Walk + Talk Website
ProjectWalk + Talk is an educational and public engagement mobile application based on the documentary film, MY BROOKLYN. Downtown Brooklyn has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past eight years as a result of a massive development plan. This app is a guided, augmented-reality walking tour of the places featured in the film, engaging audiences through compelling storytelling, participant observation and self-documentation. Visitors select one of four tours led by MY BROOKLYN director Kelly Anderson and producer Allison Lirish Dean. Like a DVD commentary, they share personal anecdotes about the neighborhood's history, culture and politics. Videos revisiting characters and places featured in MY BROOKLYN are geo-tagged. Augmented reality shows what sites were like in the past, or what they are proposed to look like–revealing the politics of redevelopment and gentrification, making the invisible visible. Key features include the ability for visitors to capture images of changing spaces and to participate in real-time conversations. When prompted, visitors document their experience using their cameras or by typing messages and then geo-tag them to designated hotspots marked with W+T decals so curious pedestrians can stumble upon them. By openly publishing comments, pictures and video, Walk + Talk generates data which could be used by our partners working for more equitable planning in NYC. Walk + Talk is designed for residents and first-timers alike; to engage people in the relationship between the built environment and the culture, social life, and economics that have shaped it and that continue to shape it.
Problem"For 50 years we've built greenways, urban farms and affordable housing by bringing communities together to brainstorm and articulate their ideas. But we're stuck using inadequate technology–PowerPoint, in scheduled meetings. We urgently need to be reaching many more people, out on the street, using the technology they already have in their pockets." Alyssa Katz, Senior Fellow Pratt Center for Community Development
ProcessAt the 2011 BAVC Producers Institute for New Media Technologies, with the help of game designers and technologists, we developed the idea for BROOKLYN: THE GAME, an augmented-reality smartphone game where players explore Downtown Brooklyn, its history, culture and development policies, and contribute to dialogue about the city's future. MY BROOKLYN premiered to sold-out crowds in June 2012 at the Brooklyn Film Festival. It has since screened at numerous festivals, winning awards and culminating in a successful NY theatrical run. To address the needs of our newly engaged local audiences, we evolved the concept to focus on the educational and visitor participation features. We are currently in the process of redesigning the app and implementing new technologies. Laurie executed the technical and design research, as well as designing concept mockups. Allison contributed original research and urban planning expertise. Kelly leads the creative vision and provides media expertise.
Environmental ImpactThe design's environmental impact is extremely light. The project's material components only requires small window decals to mark hotspots and discreet signage to designate starting points in the physical spaces, as not to overwhelm or obscure what is already there. The app uses GPS and RFID technologies reveal virtual annotated descriptions which are context and location-specific to each stop of the tour. Also, because the design is digital by nature, it saves paper and resources that would be expended for public visioning sessions.
Social ImpactWe are partnered with the Pratt Center for Community Development and the Brooklyn Historical Society, who are committed to using Walk + Talk for data collection, public education and community engagement. Walk + Talk will reframe the gentrification debate: instead of people sniping fruitlessly on online forums, we can use that energy to build consensus and provide measurable feedback mechanisms. We are committed to using Walk + Talk to bridge the divide between old and new residents of neighborhoods in the midst of change, so together we can build a just, sustainable and diverse city. Long after the events depicted in MY BROOKLYN, people using Walk + Talk will continue to document the present and near future of Downtown Brooklyn as a collective, open resource. Additionally, because the project is open-source, other artists and organizations will be able to create their own versions using our frameworks.
DifficultiesOur difficulties at this point involves securing funding for our project. We deeply believe it can benefit not only our proud Brooklyn residents, but other communities facing similar challenges.
Should WIn BecauseHow do you engage people to become more aware of their environments, and become active agents of change? We wanted to combine the desire for people talk about and document their neighborhoods with the need for planners and non-profit organizations to gather useful data from their communities. Walk + Talk is a tool to enable residents and visitors to voice their opinions and participate in the dialog of urban planning. We envision that this model could be used in a variety of ways to effectively corral public participation for civic, government and land use projects. Walk + Talk is also a documentary, a hyperlocal history, an educational experience, an opportunity for engaging in an urban space in a new, exciting way. Using locative media, spatial narrative, augmented spaces and urban planning practice, Walk + Talk works within the shifting urban landscape, weaving a multi-layered story to recognize the contentious histories of Downtown Brooklyn and beyond.
Aaron Selverston, Owlized | San Francisco
OWL is a civic engagement tool designed to give the public a more vivid, immersive look at proposed construction projects. see more
ClientSan Francisco Department of Public Works The OWL Project Website
Project DescriptionOWL is a civic engagement tool designed to give the public a more vivid, immersive look at proposed construction projects. Created by Owlized and powered by Autodesk Infraworks, OWL creates a virtual reality experience allowing you to step into the future and look around inside a 3D representation of the place where you live. The visualizations inside OWL depict a proposed design--be it a park, art scuplture, highrise or bridge--within the context of its real built environment, so that you can make an informed choice when deciding your level of support and offering feedback to city planners and developers. If there are multiple design options under consideration, you can switch between them at the touch of a button. OWL is designed to ultimately be installed on the sidewalk, in the public domain, so that everyday people can see the future design options of their city and give relevant feedback. San Francisco's Department of Public Works was first to adopt the OWL as part of Better Market Street, the City of San Francisco's effort to revitalize the central corridor. Now, the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation and the San Francisco Transportation Authority are eager to use OWLs to show off other respective projects, including proposed Living Innovation Zones downtown and new Bus Rapid-Transit (BRT) lanes on Van Ness Ave. OWL was rapid-prototyped on 3D printers at Autodesk's maker lab. The process saved time, energy and raw materials by allowing for digital design and first-run production.
ProblemFor hundreds of years, cities have been designed with minimal feedback from the public. People often feel alienated from the urban design process, and the demographic of people who do show up at public meetings to give feedback rarely represents the diverse cross-section of the public that is most impacted by new construction. Only by taking public engagement initiatives to the streets--where real people are--can you get a representative sample and make the best decisions.
ProcessThe idea was to create an art-deco style owl head, similar to those antique coin-operated binoculars found at scenic viewpoints. We felt that a skeuomorphic design would provide an inviting and intuitive user experience. Owlized reviewed 16 charcoal owl sketches before selecting one and modeling it in 3D. Then, our partners at Autodesk took the OWL model and prepared it for production using Fusion 360. We explored various video display solutions, including an Oculus Rift, before deciding on an iPad mini, which is housed inside the OWL running a modified version of Autodesk Infraworks that is controlled by the OWL's buttons.
Environmental ImpactOWL will invariably be used to show the public environmental visualizations of their surroundings by using datasets that can be layered on top of the 3D model of the city. Imagine being able to look around and see a color-coded heatmap of energy-efficient buildings, or to see the projected effects of sea-level rise. The visual impact will drive social and political change, because seeing is believing.
Social ImpactOWL sets a new standard for civic engagement by reversing an antiquated process for urban design. No longer do you have to show up at a public meeting on a weeknight and look at sketches for a proposed construction project printed on butcher paper and hung on the wall. OWLs will be installed in the public realm, where everyday people can see and decided on their favorite design for the future. OWL democratizes public engagement like never before.
DifficultiesWe wanted to use a stereoscopic HD Oculus Rift to power the visualizations, but that technology wasn't quite ready, so we used an iPad. We anticipate within 6 months the Oculus will be ready for the OWL. We also encountered some challenges with the 3D printers, which occasionally failed. Finally, we were originally going to 3D print the entire device, top to bottom, but ended up welding the base out of steel pipe because it would have taken an entire week to 3D print it.
Should Win BecauseSeeing is believing, and if we want to believe in a greener future, we need to see in vivid detail what it will look like. For every 1,000 fantastic green designs, only one will actually be prototyped or built. For all the dire warnings about sea level rise, few people have actually seen what the effects will look like. Society needs a better way of engaging the public in our built environment--one that is interactive, engaging, and able to solicit your feedback. OWL will forever transform public engagement by creating an entirely new standard for seeing, and believing, the future.
Jason Minter, Pedestrian | Austin, TX
Porches have always been an interstitial space between public and private realms. see more
ProjectWe wanted to build a porch with Patranella's Bakery and Cafe for several reasons. Of course the project benefits the bakery by improving curb appeal and added seating, but we were more interested in the porch as a public space. Porches have always been an interstitial space between public and private realms. A portion of one's private property that is offered up to the public as a place for meeting, celebrating community, and sharing iced tea. But as garages have gained prominence in American neighborhoods, porches have diminished. Today they are all but extinct. With Patranella's porch we aim to rebuild a piece of that American neighborhood by offering a place for everyone to come, sit, and stay a while.
ProblemMy ultimate aim of the project was to challenge the current state of Architecture. Being that architects care little about the general public and the general public in turn cares little about architecture. In response to this paradigm I wanted to reach out to general public in a sort of marketing campaign on behalf of Architecture. The goal was to catalyze architectural discussion among the general public, instigated through proactive action.
ProcessThe ideas behind Patranella's Porch began after reading "The Architectural Meltdown", where Scott Timberg correlates Architectures staggering 13.9% unemployment rate with its disconnect with the public at large. Here I began to read the classics to try to understand where architecture derailed, however I was derailed after reading Jane Jacob's "Death and Life of the Great American City", where she explains that because contemporary urban planning is based on ideas conceived 100 years ago by men who wanted to dismantle cities, its basic concepts are intrinsically flawed. Instead the design profession must ignore the old canon and begin to generate a new expertise it can trust. Likewise, I endeavored leave the studio, and walk the streets of my neighborhood relying on this tactile experience to guide the project's development.
Environmental ImpactThe environmental impact of Patranella's Porch can best be measured in waste material diverted from landfills. The main material used in the project was 300 wine bottles that were excavated from dumpsters. Other reclaimed materials included timber from downed oaks from a dormitory construction site and used cork bottle stoppers.
Social ImpactThis project impacted the community though transforming 210ft2 of space into place. More importantly, Patranella's Porch effectively ignited an architectural conversation in the town of Bryan, TX. Thanks to The Eagle, a local paper who publicized the project and its aims, for a moment the community was buzzing with comments on what could be done in Bryan through Architecture, especially through the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University. This conversation alone is a great victory in my eyes, but it was taken a step further when the community funded the project 120% through a kickstarter.com campaign.
DifficultiesThe most formidable obstacle in the implementation of Patranella's Porch was funding. I planned to fund raise in March, but the month was consumed by redesign efforts. Before I knew it, April 1st came and if I wanted to accomplish anything physical before my May 1st academic deadline, I would have to compromise. Under duress, I decided to forge ahead. I took out a loan for the estimated project cost and began construction immediately. Simultaneously I ran a Kickstarter.com campaign in an attempt to recoup the funds. In the end my faith in the project's perceived value to the general public paid off as the community rallied around it–meeting our funding goals and then some.
Should Win BecausePatranella's Porch is worthy of this design award not only because it embodies the pillars of SXSW Eco, but also because It speaks to what can happen when access to design is granted to the general public. It proves that the general public values good design when they are brought into the process. Furthermore, they crave public space to occupy, and communities spilling over with social capital and interconnections. All of this is grounds for further exploration into the intersection between design and the general public and warrants recognition.
Elizabeth Jones, bcWORKSHOP | Dallas, TX
Active and resilient neighborhoods are the foundation of a successful city. POP [People Organizing Place] Dallas is the bcWORKSHOP public design effort strengthening the social, economic, and physical health of Dallas's neighborhoods. see more
ClientNational Endowment of the Arts and 6 Dallas Neighborhoods POP Project Website
ProjectActive and resilient neighborhoods are the foundation of a successful city. POP [People Organizing Place] Dallas is the bcWORKSHOP public design effort strengthening the social, economic, and physical health of Dallas's neighborhoods. As a component of POP Dallas, Neighborhood Stories strengthens awareness of our city, celebrates the diverse places that give it character and texture, and creates a platform for active dialogue about its history and future. bcWORKSHOP was recently awarded an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to host a series of six Neighborhood Stories events in partnership with local organizations and residents. Activities may include an exhibit of neighborhood history showing the development of the neighborhood over time, a film sharing the voices of neighborhood residents, opportunities for participants to contribute their own memories, and other activities that celebrate the unique culture of each neighborhood. The first event was held on October 27, 2012 in the Dallas Arts District, followed by La Bajada on November 17, Dolphin Heights on March 16, Wynnewood North on May 11, and Tenth Street on June 15. Over 1,400 people have attended the events to date. The Mount Auburn event will take place in August 2013.
ProblemNeighborhood Stories produced a series of six events that have engaged and celebrated six communities, creating an active dialogue about the history and the future of the city. These events took place in areas with a history of neglect, disinvestment, and an average income as much as 80% or below the Dallas-area median level. These neighborhoods date back to Dallas's earliest settlement, but are often stigmatized or under-valued by other Dallas residents and representatives.
ProcessNeighborhood Stories events are the conclusion of concentrated and immersive neighborhood research. Research is composed of two complementary and concurrent tracks: physical and social histories. Written materials, archives, mapping, and collecting artifacts composed the physical track. Collection of personal stories via filmed interviews drove the social research. The culminating event for each community derived from an understanding developed during the research phase, and included activities meaningful to the community: sledding down the Trinity River levees, a children's pastime in La Bajada; playing carnival games to represent the former circus stop in Dolphin Heights; re-creation of the movie theater experience near the site of a demolished theater in Wynnewood North; and choir performances and communal BBQ dinner in Tenth Street. Common elements of the neighborhood stories events are an exhibit, short film screening, and continued recordings of the community's stories, all within a reunion-type atmosphere connecting friends and neighbors.
Environmental ImpactNeighborhood Stories events utilized a vacant or undeveloped location in each community. These events left no environmental footprint and in many cases improved the site on which it was held - including picking up trash and mowing grass to accommodate the event. Two refurbished shipping containers, modified using reclaimed or recycled materials to create a gallery space and commissary, activated each site, framing a space for the community to gather. Additional activities organized around the containers used the existing topography and assets of the site, eliminating any permanent change to the natural environment. The events sought to influence or create neighborhood advocates invested in the responsible development of their community's future. The social, economic, and environmental impacts of the neighborhood were highlighted to energize each community to demand more equitable investment in the future development of the built environment and infrastructure of the city.
Social ImpactNeighborhood Stories celebrates the unique culture and development of Dallas neighborhoods. It strengthens awareness of the City of Dallas, celebrates the diverse places that give it character and texture, and creates a platform for active dialogue about its history and future. These events have so far engaged over 1,000 participants in six diverse Dallas neighborhoods. The initiative has compiled a collection of over 300 interviews, created and screened five short neighborhood documentaries, and posted a large part of that material online generating a total of 944 views to date. The Neighborhood Stories initiative is an on-going, city-wide effort to strengthen awareness of the city, increase neighborhood cohesion and engagement, and provide a platform for constructive dialogue between residents and community stakeholders and a larger audience.
DifficultiesNo major unexpected difficulties were encountered. A critical element to the immersive research process was approaching every neighborhood community with a fresh set of eyes. This involved discarding any previous conceptions and the expectation that a successful engagement strategy of one community would transfer to another. In three of the six communities, bcWORKSHOP had previously partnered with community organizations on other projects. While an asset in many ways, we also learned that within each neighborhood there are often multiple communities that may lack cohesion or connectivity with one another. Developing a relationship with communities that may overlap or disagree can be challenging, and it was sometimes more difficult to gain trust as a neutral third-party organization.
Should Win BecauseNeighborhood Stories is a replicable and proven method for strengthening community cohesion, amplifying the voice of underrepresented and disenfranchised neighborhoods, and stimulating discourse on how past policy and infrastructure decisions affect communities unevenly within one city. Creative re-purposing of a shipping container is a cost-effective and environmentally responsible way to create temporary spaces for engagement and an effective visioning tool to change perceptions and possibilities of a neglected space. There have been a number of immediate outcomes: resident participation in community led events; rescreening of the films at neighborhood association meetings and hosted by other online sites; reuniting two churches within the Tenth Street neighborhood, and connecting residents with the local Rebuilding Together chapter. Long-term outcomes are expected to multiply as the films, exhibits, and exhibit guidebooks continue to be shared at community events and stimulate dialogue on these six neighborhoods and others in Dallas.
Huy Bui, Plant-in City | Brooklyn, NY
Planting instant green space, illumunating neighborhoods, blocks and cities. The project is mobile and functions on multiple scales and can be applied to anywhere indoors and/or outdoors and has the potential to go off the power grid. see more
ClientMark Miller Gallery Plant-In City Website
ProjectPlanting instant green space, illumunating neighborhoods, blocks and cities. The project is mobile and functions on multiple scales and can be applied to anywhere indoors and/or outdoors and has the potential to go off the power grid. We see it situated in an empty parking space, or garage, or situated in a sliver between two building, bringing light and nature, thus creating an instant interactive park, without the need of intrusive planning and permits.
ProblemOur goal is to establish more park space, be it indoors/outdoors. We feel that park space is formally experienced during the day but we feel that having park space that is lit and can provide light to blighted or dark zones through out the city will make it safer and more appealing.
ProcessThe design, began with examining our own day to day lives. We spend a lot of time indoors surrounded by technology and hardware and were "looking for an opposing force to balance all of that and considered creating a living wall." We were intrigued by this idea, but we felt it was a bit static and we were looking for something more dynamic, scale-able and mobile park space. We conceived of a simple dna or modular "green" block/brick. we can imagine a multitude of blocks, that can form into a wall, a structure, that is all interconnected, thus creating a system for creating and or delineating space. in June 2012 we raised 25k + to exhibit a the first large scale installation at the mark miller gallery.
Environmental ImpactWe hope to inspire a new paradigm of thinking. Though it is important to continue to conserve and protect our environment, however we must transition to creating nature. We are not trying to replicate an idlyic form but to reconstruct, re-contextualize a nature that integrates into our everyday city life. We also understand the power of flexibility, pre-fabrication and on every scale of construction, from building to cities, this building method is a more economical and sustainable process.
Social ImpactPlant-in City is a flexible, adaptable and scale-able architecture that can be seen in so many different ways. It can find it's way in alley ways, storefronts, windows, office and hotel lobbies. They can be dispatched to empty void spaces and create instant park spaces, without permits, stable infrastructure etc. We think the idea of prefabrication of park space is an idea that is worth exploring and feel that it has an immediate impact and transforming any city.
DifficultiesWe've experienced quite an adventurous road with Plant-in City. We began with a simple seed of an idea, of creating green space for urban environments. We wanted to make an impact and turned to Kickstarter to launch a campaign to raise awareness and funding for the first large-scale installation of plant-in city. We met that challenge and exhibited this powerful exhibition at the Mark Miller Gallery.
Should Win BecauseWe see Plant-in City as a clever and flexible solution to bring more greenery to urban spaces. We have received encouragement and support from NYC and all over the world. Now we want to share our ideas and work with the great community gathered in Austin for SXSW Eco. The feedback and connections coming from this community could really help us shape the future of our ideas and work. Winning any award at SXSW Eco, would also be a tremendous honor and validation of our ideas and our R&D process.
David Jurca, Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative | Cleveland, OH
Pop Up Rockwell was a one-week experiment to test "complete & green street" improvements on four blocks of downtown Cleveland's Rockwell Avenue (between W. Roadway and E. 6th Street), which took place during April 21-27, 2012. see more
ClientCity of Cleveland Office of Sustainability Pop Up Rockwell Website
ProjectPop Up Rockwell was a one-week experiment to test "complete & green street" improvements on four blocks of downtown Cleveland's Rockwell Avenue (between W. Roadway and E. 6th Street), which took place during April 21-27, 2012. The week-long installation was the culmination of a five week graduate urban design studio involving the research, design, installation and evaluation of proposed street transformations. The interventions included Cleveland's first cycle track, stormwater biofiltration / WiFi enabled (Bi-Fi) benches, and wind animated public art. The project builds on the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative's (CUDC) expertise in temporary urbanism developed through Pop Up City, an initiative started by the CUDC in 2007. The project was implemented by graduate students at Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, but involves partnership with 21 stakeholder groups representing advocacy organizations, non-profits, municipal government, federal agencies and local businesses. Lessons learned from the short-term project have influenced decisions for permanent changes on Rockwell Avenue and the temporary use model has become more widely used in other public engagement processes in Cleveland. Pop Up Rockwell gave city officials, bicycling advocacy groups and members of the public an opportunity to experience and respond to a future vision of the city in three dimensions, in a real environment, before large financial and political commitments are made. A full project report including details on the installations, design process, lessons learned and additional temporary use resources can be downloaded from the project website at www.PopUpRockwell.com
ProblemThe City of Cleveland recently passed a Complete & Green Streets Ordinance, but most Clevelanders didn't know what those streets looked like. Decisions on what to do in the this location were stymied between objections to cycle tracks from the City and demands for improved facilities from bicycle advocacy groups. Cyclists didn't have a dedicated and safe route through downtown Cleveland.
ProcessThe project started with meetings between the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) and the Sustainable Transportation Action Team (STAT) bike advocacy group to select priority streets for a bike corridor. The CUDC held follow up meetings with the City of Cleveland, Historic Gateway District (local community development corporation), and 20 other local stakeholders after a preferred street corridor was selected. The spring 2012 graduate design studio at the CUDC provided an ideal environment to develop the project, providing the student with a design/build project experience. The project required a temporary street obstruction permit from the City of Cleveland, which was submitted by the students. In partnership with artist Jimmy Kuehnle, the project also included a large inflatable billboard, named the Input Gathering Device or IGD, designed to draw attention to our public survey station. We walked along the street on multiple occasions to collect feedback on from the actual people that use the street.
Environmental ImpactPop Up Rockwell slowed down traffic speeds, added temporary crosswalks, installed needed benches and covered transit waiting environments, creating a more pedestrian safe space along Rockwell Avenue. The Bi-Fi benches also prototyped a concept for sidewalk benches that create a buffer between cars and the sidewalk, while providing a measurable level of pollutant filtration from curbside stormwater runoff. Bicycle counts were also taken before and during the intervention, showing a significant increase in bike usage and reported comfort levels as a result of the cycle track.
Social ImpactThe pop up streetscape project helped to illustrate a recently adopted Complete Streets ordinance and was used to train the city's Public Works staff in the principles of sustainable street design. Two of the City of Cleveland's weekly Complete & Green Street task force meetings were held on the site of the project, providing team members with a physical embodiment of the concepts discussed. By effectively 'bringing the public meeting to the streets,' Pop Up Rockwell engaged many individuals that may not typically attend a public meeting. This broader range of participants provided the design team with feedback that more accurately represented the diversity of the actual users of the project. Relationships between bike advocacy groups and city departments were improved through mutual understanding of the project's results.
DifficultiesInteraction with the City's engineering department was at times difficult, because approvals were delayed beyond the expected dates. The timeframe for design, fabrication and installation, was very compressed, due to the 5 week studio schedule. The pop up streetscape was only installed for one week, which would ideally have stayed up longer in order to gain more accurate observations of bike and vehicular usage. The execution of the project was also affected by the severe winds experienced during an unseasonably cold and inhospitable last week of April.
Should Win BecausePop Up Rockwell provided a replicable example of temporary placemaking, within an environment rarely considered hospitable to cyclists or pedestrians. The project embodies a third way forward, which recognizes the need for automobile infrastructure, but takes a step in the future to show us new possibilities for a people-centric city.
Douglas Burnham, envelope A + D | Berkeley, CA
PROXY is a temporary two-block project located in San Francisco seeking to mobilize a flexible environment of food, art, culture, and retail within renovated shipping containers. see more
ProjectPROXY is a temporary two-block project located in San Francisco seeking to mobilize a flexible environment of food, art, culture, and retail within renovated shipping containers. PROXY is both a response and solution to the ever changing urban lifecycle, existing as a temporary placeholder and an instigator of evolving cultural curiosities in art, food, retail and events. Our design embraces the vast diversity of a city and encourages the rotation of new ideas and businesses as well as innovative public art installations which come and go like new visitors at the site.
ProblemDemonstrating and defining flexible urbanism, PROXY transforms vacant lots on Octavia Boulevard, formerly the site of the elevated Central Freeway before it was demolished by the Loma Prieta earthquake. Utilizing space abandoned by developers in the economic downturn, PROXY was designed to thwart the notion that the value of architecture is in its final, rarified condition. At its core, PROXY is an intensive interim programming framework designed to promote vibrancy in the city.
ProcessThe idea of PROXY is not only temporary but context-dependent: its development is determined by the specificity of the site. For this reason, the questions we started with in Hayes Valley were: What does the neighborhood need? What uses can be supported on each site? What site is right for which use? When we started our investigation, Hayes Valley already had proposals underway for three urban farms, so we focused on the vacant lots that had the potential to support a vibrant urban experience that was different from, but complementary to, what existed nearby. We hypothesized many possible temporary programs organized under the headings art, food, retail, and community, each rooted in San Francisco's specific cultural tendencies. At its full potential as an urban construct, PROXY will offer a dynamic, interactive, and immersive experience with a Northern California sensibility toward the enjoyment of good food, wine, beer, art, and design.
Environmental ImpactThe ethic of re-use is an important sustainable element of the project. The reclaimed shipping containers are durable and can be craned in and out easily, so they will continue to be used by our vendors long after PROXY's inhabitation of these specific sites. Because they are open to the exterior, none of the spaces are heated and so do not use energy for this end. In fact, the PROXY Biergarten distributes blankets instead of providing heat lamps for its patrons, simultaneously saving energy and creating a cozy sense of community.
Social ImpactMaintaining the relevance of the city as a place that embodies our current cultural condition requires re-imagining the surfaces and spaces of the city as an active, flexible and dynamic cultural interface. The atomization of digital technology, the ubiquitous nature of information access and increased personal mobility untethers currently fixed programs from their spatio-temporal conditions. Working, eating, and playing are already beginning to happen 'at-large' in those unplanned places where we want to spend more time. The new city will intensify and extend our interface with the existing resources and produce conditions for a wide range of performative and experiential conditions, while allowing for heterogeneous programmatic elements to occupy flexible territories of both space and time. A content machine, tied to the pace of contemporary culture, PROXY embraces the city's diversity and encourages the rotation of new ideas, start-up business, and innovative art installations.
DifficultiesBecause of its interim nature, PROXY falls between many building, zoning, health, and utility company definitions. With this, nearly every turn had a roadblock that needed to be cleared through intense discussion and clarification. For example, the building code defines "temporary" as ninety days, whereas the electric utility defines it as less than five years. As a result, PROXY is expected to meet the building department's full criteria for "permanent" structures, while not afforded the ability to amortize the installation of its power infrastructure over decades because the electric utility deems it "temporary". Given these hurdles and their likely dampening effect on creating compelling interim uses that respond to the needs of the city, our hope is that the ongoing experiment of PROXY will catalyze a more responsive set of planning, building, and economic development initiatives that will simultaneously accommodate short, middle, long, and very long-term change within the city.
Should Win BecausePROXY sets out to show that this city–and all cities–can benefit from the ability to re-interpret its underutilized spaces with vital temporary inhabitations. Urban design no longer has to operate at the 100-year interval of time, but can be more responsive to the possibilities of the present through short-term uses. As active creators of the emerging urban condition, architects are uniquely qualified to synthesize and hybridize multiple roles -- urban planners, developers, interface designers, fabricators, fundraisers, philanthropists, cultural curators, good neighbors, and responsible citizens. Operating under the motto 'HERE FOR NOW', PROXY is a call to action: to seize the moment and immerse oneself in direct experience. A full-scale, real-time experiment into the mechanism of a flexible urbanism, PROXY demonstrates that by embracing the need for change in the city, we heighten not only our engagement with the surfaces and fabric of the city, but with each other.
Andy Waddle, Gensler | Austin, TX
PUBATX is a proposed concept for the adaptive reuse of the abandoned Seaholm Intake Facility in Austin, Texas. see more
ClientCity of Austin Parks and Recreation PUBATX Website
ProjectPUBATX is a proposed concept for the adaptive reuse of the abandoned Seaholm Intake Facility in Austin, Texas. The design is a response to the public competition that was sponsored by the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, the Austin Parks Foundation, the Trail Foundation, and AIA Austin. PUBÔÇ´ATX will be a public amenity complex unlike any other in Austin. Home to a watercraft rental facility, a craft brewery, a caf√©, a music venue, an observation deck, a sculpture garden, and a floating stage, PUBATX will be a hub of activity for all ages, at all hours of the day, year-round. The incomparable location of the Seaholm Intake Facility ‚Äì uniquely (and historically) stitching together land and water in the heart of Austin ‚Äì presents an unprecedented opportunity to accommodate a multiplicity of program functions in an iconic structure. PUBATX will be a microcosm of the best the city has to offer ‚Äì an urban oasis of local food and drink, recreation and relaxation, and natural and artistic sights and sounds.
ProblemThe challenge was to create an iconic adaptive reuse of the historic Art Deco structures which once provided energy and water infrastructure functions connected to the adjacent Seaholm Power Plant and Green Water Treatment Plant. The highly visible downtown site is on the banks of Lady Bird Lake and within the park and trail system. The competition invited a new vision for the neglected facility to address the needs of the public and respond to the surrounding changing environment.
ProcessTo become better acquainted with the Seaholm Intake Building, the design team toured the project site, and engaged in an internal charrette to discuss the site challenges, explore precedent projects, and compile a variety of potential adaptive reuse concepts for the facility.
Environmental ImpactPUBATX promotes social engagement and active, healthy lifestyles and is designed in such a way that sustainability can be integrated subtly and over time in accordance with the City‚Äôs green initiatives and as new technologies emerge. Most distinctively, it will be a destination visitors can walk to, run to, or bike to from the trail or paddle to from the lake. This unique approachability also adds to PUBATX's environmental impact.
Social ImpactThe local craft beer scene was experiencing a remarkable explosion in recent years even before new legislation paved the way for the Texas market's expansion. PUBATX is envisioned as a preeminent public brewery facility, a craft brewery co-op, where upstarts can take advantage of not only readily available supplies and equipment, but also a close-knit network of brewing enthusiasts and professionals, capitalizing on Austin's entrepreneurial spirit. By definition, the local pub is a drinking establishment fundamental to European, Australian, and North American culture. The pub embodies the small town, neighborhood feel that burgeoning Austin still retains. To that end, PUBATX will be more than just a craft brewery and place to have a pint; it will also be a local cafe, a park, an arts and music venue, a place for people of all walks of life to come together and, drinking or not, connect, reflect, and essentially 'tap into' Austin's unique community.
DifficultiesPUBATX is an adaptive reuse project that strives to preserve the form and facade of the Seaholm Intake facility while transforming the overall structure from a barrier between land and water into a vital connector between the two. In its current state, Seaholm is, in effect, a wall that one must go around. The proposed PUBATX creates a connection, both visually and psychologically, between the city and the lake. It is a gateway into a vibrant realm of activity, inviting both observation and participation. An unexpected challenge was figuring out how to use the available space most effectively in the narrow facility so that all of program desired options could be incorporated.
Should Win BecauseThe Seaholm Intake facility has long languished as a building that fails to engage passersby from the lake, from the trail, or from Cesar Chavez. PUBATX proposes a new vision in which the facility will not only become permanently occupied and serve a variety of uses again, but will truly become one of those 'must-see' destinations that Austinites always take visiting out-of-town guests. And, although PUBATX is imagined as a mosaic of steady activity, it is also a canvas for new ideas. As Austin continues to grow and evolve, we imagine a facility that will evolve with it.
Sean Garretson, Pegasus Planning and Development | Austin, TX
Installation of a telephone booth-size box where individuals/couples can enter and record their favorite memories of Austin. see more
ClientCongress for the New Urbanism and Austin Film Festival
ProjectInstallation of a telephone booth-size box where individuals/couples can enter and record their favorite memories of Austin.
ProblemThis project seeks to capture oral history throughout Austin and provide luminescent art in areas that need it.
ProcessWe have researched if this type of booth has been created before and found that nothing like it exists. We were inspired by the Chinese Olympic Aquatics facility that was recently turned into a giant mood ring for the country by taking the emoticons from Chinese tweets into a fancy algorithm which then transformed the external luminescent shell of the aquatics center to the color (red, orange, blue, purple) of the emotions of the country. We have wanted to create a project like this and have partnered with CNU and Austin Film Society to create this concept which we believe is very implementable throughout Austin.
Environmental ImpactOnce installed, the impact would be very positive as a public art project. The booth could be installed in sidewalks (similar to an ATM machine) and then moved if necessary (filling the holes in the sidewalk once removed).
Social ImpactThe social impact will be tremendous - not only creating public art that illuminates a sidewalk but also providing an opportunity for residents and tourists to share their favorite memory of Austin. These will be collected and then shown in a video montage at the end of each quarter or year.
Should Win BecauseThis concept has tremendous opportunity to transform the public space and at the same time provide an avenue for the public to share their feelings about Austin. It also can be easily replicated throughout the United States.
Aaron Nelson | Auckland, New Zealand
The Public-Object Nexus was a Masters research and design project focused on innovating street furniture through a human-centered design process. see more
ProjectThe Public-Object Nexus was a Masters research and design project focused on innovating street furniture through a human-centered design process. The study was conducted in Auckland, New Zealand as part of a graduate course in Product Design at the Auckland University of Technology. The primary objective of the Public-Object Nexus was to investigate how the design of street furniture can be enhanced to more effectively support an active and dynamic public lifestyle while promoting the idea of shared resources through public means. Design research was underpinned by passive ethnographic observations of urban public spaces in Auckland, New Zealand, and cross-referenced with leading urban design theory. A synthesis of research findings led to the development of the 'open-affordances' conceptual design framework emphasising three overlapping facets 1) Flexibility, 2) New Human Factors, and 3) Aiding Activity as drivers for innovation in street furniture design. Evaluation and refinement of this conceptual framework was achieved through the design and development of a series of street furniture proposals which were conceived and tested using a human-centered design methodology.
ProblemUrban Design is often focused at a macro scale where the actual needs and desires of urban public space users can be overshadowed by the implementation of a large-scale, macro-level design approach. In this scenario, street furniture is frequently installed as an afterthought where aesthetics take precedent over usability, innovation is rare, and overall design is built to prevent rather than promote incidental activity.
ProcessIn the spirit of the Human-Centered Design methodology predominantly advocated by design firms such as IDEO, this study employed a mix of 50% research methods, 50% design methods - working in a cyclical fashion in order to inform one another. Passive observational research of public spaces served as a primary method for uncovering user insights that would directly inspire proposed design interventions. In compliance with academic research standards, a comprehensive ethical review of the study's passive observational research techniques was reviewed and granted by the University's Ethics Committee. Thorough documentation of the study's contextual review and planning process is contained in the final 200+ page thesis.
Environmental ImpactThe content and development of the Public-Object Nexus was actually born through a prior Sustainable Design course in which work highlighted the notion of 'sharing' - sharing goods, resources, space, labor, etc. A continuation of this focus into Master's thesis work pinpointed the ultimate in shared resources - industrially designed objects and artifacts that populate public spaces. If the material needs of the public can be appeased through these shared objects, the resource savings through sharing are significant. An improved experience with the public objects themselves also leads to an improved spatial experience, and again can help reduce each individual's need and eco-footprint of such expansive private space. This inward-out effect also leads to better urbanism, compact development, walkability, and less car use - reducing the environmental impact of cities in general.
Social ImpactOn an overarching level, this project promotes the idea of 'public' and the public good. On a societal level, this means committing goods and resources to the public realm for equal access to all citizens. Improving the public realm helps foster the congregation of a true diversity of citizens in spaces that can then become centerpieces for strengthening a sense of community. For the design proposals within the Public-Object Nexus, enhancing the potential for public social engagement was always at the forefront. The study concluded that street furniture design that increases flexibility in use, recognizes physical and psychological comfort, and focuses on enabling user activity ('Open-Affordances') will be more successful in garnering sustained use, therefore bolstering public space sociability as a whole.
DifficultiesIn general, the subject matter of publicly shared goods (such as street furniture) is tricky largely due to prevailing preconceptions revolving around issues of vandalism, vagrancy, and undesirable activities associated with public spaces. Much of what is constructed for the public is designed to prevent unintended use rather than promote use. The result is often a slew of objects that populate a space, and are rarely used at all. In both planning and evaluation phases of the Public-Object Nexus study, a preoccupation with the subversive treatment of public objects overshadowed discussions, and offered insight into why a focus on positive user needs and true product innovation in street furniture does not typically drive what is ultimately implemented.
Should Win BecauseMy goal to present at SXSW Eco Design isn't necessarily to win, but to participate in a dialogue about promoting human-centeredness in public space design. I believe my thesis work and professional experience can add some depth and insight to the conversation. I would be truly honored to share this work, and thank the selection committee in advance for their consideration. Cheers-
Gabriel Bollag, Recirculating Farms Coalition | Concord, NC
Innovative but easy to implement recirculating farms throughout the public spaces of Austin, Texas during the South by Southwest festival. see more
ProjectInnovative but easy to implement recirculating farms throughout the public spaces of Austin, Texas during the South by Southwest festival.
ProblemAccessing healthy affordable food can be a real challenge. Slow or non-existent public transport may force people to choose easy-to-get, processed food that is inexpensive. Cities are filled with people and businesses, so often there isn't large expanses of available land for agriculture - lots are often small, irregular shaped, rocky or paved over, with poor soil or are too contaminated to grow food.
ProcessIn many cities it's cheaper and easier to buy a bag of chips than a piece of fresh fruit. We need to turn abandoned, blighted and unused or forgotten places into edible green spaces. Recirculating farms use constantly cleaned and recycled water to grow healthy fresh food: fruit, vegetables, herbs and even fish. Some are hydroponic- growing plants without soil, some aquaponic- joining aquaculture (raising fish) with plant production in one closed loop symbiotic system- where the plants keep water clean for the fish and the fish provide essential nutrients for the plants to live and grow.
Environmental ImpactLocalized urban farms cut down on fuel used for shipping and refrigeration and lowers the cost of food production as well-making good food more affordable and sustainable.
Social ImpactPeople get fresher food when it comes right from their own neighborhood, and building farms means growing new green jobs too -- in farming and related support businesses. People need access to more fresh healthy, food. Especially in cities.
DifficultiesThis project is still in the planning phase.
Should Win BecauseOur idea helps to create vibrant public spaces while having enormous environmental and social benefits. If implemented during SXSW, festival-goers can be rewarded with delicious fresh produce and be exposed and educated to the incredible benefits of recirculating farms.
Alix Scarborough, Black + Vernooy | Austin, TX
Reconnect Austin is a long-term urban design and economic development solution to a traffic problem. see more
ProjectReconnect Austin is a long-term urban design and economic development solution to a traffic problem. Like many other highways, I-35 has historically been a social, economic, cultural, and racial barrier, dividing West Austin from East Austin. Since the highway (built in the 1950s) must be reconstructed, we have the opportunity to rethink how I-35 interacts with, and impacts, our city. Based on extensive research of innovative highway solutions, we propose to lower the main lanes of this one mile stretch of I-35, cover that mile with a continuous cap, and place a city boulevard on top. The at-grade boulevard would be reconnected to the surface cross streets and the land where the frontage roads now sit would be converted to developable land. Reconnect Austin envisions a lively, walkable, civilized urban space, with mixed use buildings full of restaurants, shops, offices and residences. The boulevard would be built to Austin's Great Streets standards, with wide sidewalks, double rows of street trees, and significantly improved accessibility for all. The elevated highway will be replaced by a vibrant urban area full of opportunities for East Austin residents, downtown residents, and visitors alike. The expanse of concrete will be replaced by a boulevard with a distinct sense of place. This new East Avenue is inspired by the highway's predecessor, and will become an integral part of the downtown experience.
ProcessRecently, the Texas Department of Transportation introduced their plan for improvements along I-35. The downtown Austin section, between Lady Bird Lake and MLK Boulevard, is in need of reconstruction. Architecture and urban design firm Black + Vernooy researched innovative highway solutions that would be a substantial improvement of I-35, addressing more than just congestion. A cut-and-cap approach was chosen as a way to maintain the highway's North-South thoroughfare, while reclaiming the publicly-owned right-of-way in the corridor. We propose an urban boulevard that would reconnect our city physically and symbolically, while creating a public space that people flock to rather than run from. Through their involvement in developing the Great Streets program for the City of Austin, Black + Vernooy has articulated a blueprint for Austin's streets to become engaging, productive public spaces. Reconnect Austin, inspired by the Great Streets standards, returns a crucial part of Austin to its residents.
Environmental ImpactThis urban boulevard reclaims the I-35 corridor from high-speed through traffic, creating an equitable environment for bikes, pedestrians, transit, and local traffic. A shaded cycle track provides a key North-South connection that Austin's downtown bike infrastructure is currently lacking. Just as important, this city boulevard will allow bikes and pedestrians to safely and comfortably cross the interstate by tying into the existing street grid. Encouraging these active modes of transportation has obvious effects on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being a healthier choice for residents. In addition, by placing the main lanes of I-35 underground, we create an opportunity to sequester and mitigate the carbon dioxide emissions that were previously spewed into our air. Any cap over the main lanes will require a ventilation system and this system can filter polluted air before it is released into the atmosphere. Lastly, the cap eliminates noise pollution from the highway.
Social ImpactThe big picture of this proposal is that it restores Austin's historic urban grid, and removes the concrete barrier that has historically been a social, economic and racial divide. Currently many of Austin's East/West streets, for example 5th Street, end at the I-35 frontage road. With this design, these streets will be reconnected, giving people more transportation options and better accessibility to wherever they'd like to go. In addition to providing multi-modal transportation infrastructure, this boulevard transforms a placeless rash of concrete into a public space worth caring about. We envision mixed-use buildings and green space interacting to create a destination with a distinct sense of place. An excellent example of this vision is Austin's 2nd Street.
DifficultiesWe have received widespread community support for this proposal. However, the right-of-way currently occupied by I-35 is owned by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), and therein has been our greatest difficulty. Communicating the importance of human-scaled design to a government agency run chiefly by traffic engineers is a challenge. However, TxDOT has been open to conversation, and we feel that excellent progress is being made towards achieving an I-35 solution that is a better neighbor for everyone. Another design challenge is the sheer size and complexity of this project. We are dealing with over 1 mile of highway in the heart of Austin, necessitating involvement with TxDOT, the City of Austin, engineering firms, private investors, community groups, the media, and more. As a small architecture and design firm, we are getting a crash course in politics and public relations with this project!
Should Win BecauseReconnect Austin is visionary, timely, and achievable. We have a unique opportunity to shape Austin's future for generations, as TxDOT will soon be reconstructing the downtown section of I-35. Through urban design, we can transform the way visitors and locals interact with the I-35 corridor, connecting East and West Austin with a vibrant and accessible public space. This project will revitalize the adjacent community by civilizing highway space, removing noise and emission pollutants, and creating a cohesive identity for an underutilized area. As highways across the country crumble, Reconnect Austin should be showcased as an example for other cities. Instead of merely rebuilding aging infrastructure, we can improve it by designing with pedestrians, bicyclists, and local residents in mind.
Andrew Danziger, Hatch | Austin, TX
We anonymously hang red swings in public places inspiring playfulness worldwide. see more
ProjectWe anonymously hang red swings in public places inspiring playfulness worldwide. The Red Swing Project was founded in 2007 with the hopes of positively impacting under-utilized public spaces in Austin, Texas. Each swing was produced from scrap wood that was painted red and hung using retired rock climbing rope. We quickly realized the power of a simple red swing to transform a vacant lot or highway overpass into an unexpected playground. Over the years, nearly 250 red swings have 'mysteriously' appeared throughout the world. With each swing, we pay particular attention to the public's response to this familiar object set in an unfamiliar place. We hope to inspire and empower others to take control of their public environment by offering an open-source project that is entirely replicable.
ProblemWe look for the in between and over looked public spaces. These are areas that appear to have no ownership and are therefore less-maintained. We feel all it takes is a simple red swing to transform a vacant lot into a community park.
ProcessOur interventions are intended to be vague. We wanted something that asked the audience to participate and find their own meaning. An anonymously placed red swing meant many things to different people. We looked to graffiti and other anonymous acts of kindness for inspiration.
Environmental ImpactWe use reclaimed wood and "retired" rock climbing rope. Our rope either comes from local rock climbers or from rope manufacturers. The rope cannot be sold due to manufacturer defects, but works fine for our purposes and makes a great swing. We chose materials that are readily available and affordable. This allows other to replicate the project worldwide (which they have). The swings can change the way one looks at a place.
Social ImpactOur swings are gifts to a community. We hope they transform a highway underpass and other forgotten lands in to an oasis. In our experience, we've found that the swings often kickstart revitalization to areas and motivate the neighborhood to think differently about an area. Where trash once gathered under the bridge, we find kids playing catch and couples sharing romantic kisses on our swings.
DifficultiesSometimes swings last 1 day, other times they last 5 years. At first, we were shocked when someone cut down our swings. However, this became one of the most intriguing components of the project. The dramatically different responses began to tell us a lot about people. One person sees a lawsuit another person just sees a swing. The challenging part is to keep doing it even when you are not in control of its fate.
Should Win BecauseFor approximately $2, anyone can replicate our project. It is a simple, anonymous act that has the power to change someone's day. Plus, who doesn't like a swing?
Thor ter Kulve | de Steeg, Netherlands
I designed a collection of products that reshapes and redefines our public space. By using well known products I want to show what is possible with what already exists. see more
ProjectFor my graduation I designed a collection of products that reshapes and redefines our public space. By using well known products I want to show what is possible with what already exists. Simply attaching a bell to a lamppost transforms it into a landmark. More or less the same idea inspired my design for a fireplace insert, attachable to Holland's most wide spread public trashcan. Thanks to this design dull and derelict places become hangouts of choice and to the same object I designed an attachment that makes a fire post into a fountain. It's my strong belief that in a time of economic hardship and individual isolation we should address ourselves to public space as a collectively owned domain and possible ways to use it to our joint benefit. The term public space somehow suggests that urban environments are open to our free use. The reality is that public space is over regulated. There is little room for free use, no room for play. A serious obstacle is zoning or urban planning with the attached discussions on what is permissible where and the ambition to regulate on this for the long run. To make public space free and a life again I propose temporary intervention making short term use of the plastic possibilities of specific places.
ProblemI Like to address other ways to use our public space. making use of already existing architecture. How can i give a new impulse, meaning or even create a new situations in our public domain?
ProcessIt started out with a prototype of the straathaard. I had the urge to create a cosy fire place next to the public benches at the academy. The redefining of this place and parasitizing on the trash bin got me thinking.I did a lot of research about invisible infrastructure of our cites and eventually came up with the trash bin, lamppost, water hydrant and a tree or other firmly anchored pillars. The making process was very interesting, I made every piece by hand. so that i had total control on the simplest design solutions.
Environmental ImpactThe environmental impact of a single piece is never as big as a series of work. And to be totally honest I wasn't really thinking about how I could reduce my carbon footprint in the making process. Now we are working on the making and producing of the swing for Weltevree. In This process we create employment for the community. Besides we are looking at were we can reduce material and have the whole design made at one place to reduce shipping pollution.
Social ImpactThis impact is big. Every time I show my work at festivals, exhibitions or local markets. People are amazed. Kids love to play with the fountain and the swing. We roast marshmallows on the Straathaard while the whole area becomes blue by the big blue bulb. But people are also critical usually resulting in nice discussions about the use of our public space how we can improve this or not.
DifficultiesAl my works are, if you would take the rules strictly illegal to exhibit in the public space. Actually it is forbidden to hang a bird house in a tree if it is not your own property. This is also an issue i like to address, but also resulted in a view encounters with local authorities.But usually my work is tolerated
Should Win BecauseI think my work really fits the picture. And i should do every thing in my power to show people my vision. Hoping to trigger new thoughts, play with there imagination. But this mostly happens when people see my work. Not when its hidden away in boxes in my workshop.
Eric Tan, Gensler | New York, NY
The Blight to Bright project imagines a flexible, sustainable and community-driven system of plug & play park modules, designed to take advantage of under-utilized spaces throughout the city. see more
ClientCity of New York From Blight to Bright Project Website
ProjectThere is over 8 million sq ft of under-utilized/un-used space in NYC. We see these sites as opportunities for small-scale, local investments. A rapidly growing population corresponds to a demand for open community space in neighborhoods across the city. Recent events, such as Hurricane Sandy, have highlighted a need for innovative resilience strategies that begin to address the city's infrastructure needs, from wastewater distribution to local power generation to storage strategies. The Blight to Bright project imagines a flexible, sustainable and community-driven system of plug & play park modules, designed to take advantage of under-utilized spaces throughout the city. The design of this system is driven by two main ideas: to create a vibrant urban space and to contribute ecologically to its immediate surroundings. Each park module contains components necessary to create a lively urban space, such as seating, bicycle racks, shading, popup libraries, etc., while integrating sustainable technology into the design. Every aspect of the module is designed to serve a dual purpose. Imagine a park where the sunshade also serves as solar heat exchangers, with picnic tables that collect energy through photovoltaic cells, public toilets that collect rainwater, and bicycle rental racks that can 'download' electrical energy generated by bicycles. This will be NYC's first crowd-sourced park, as communities will be directly involved in the park's design & implementation with an integrated smartphone app. Through this initiative, we envision a better, more sustainable city that sets the foundations for growth, community & humanity.
ProblemHow can NYC prepare for the next Hurricane Sandy? And, how can resiliency be integrated into city infrastructure? NYC is the densest city in America, yet there is only 197 square feet of park space per person. To put it in perspective, the city of Houston has 977 square feet! This begs the additional question, how can we create more public parks in a city where there is limited space and a growing population?
ProcessSo, what does the future of NYC look like? The basis of our design began as a research project investigating NYC in its current state. We looked at data on its traffic patterns, population densities, areas of economic growth, as well as demographic shifts to develop a multifaceted response focusing on community involvement, resiliency, and the concept of a sustainably networked city. Through investigations of areas of underdevelopment, a location on Allen Street in Lower Manhattan was selected to serve as the test-bed for design studies. We believe that community participation is essential in any relevant urban design. As such, rather than using a top-down design process where a design is merely given to a neighborhood, the community has a direct involvement in shaping the final design. Innovative architecture and urban planning, coupled with a community lead stance towards implementation, will play an indispensable role in the creation of this new city.
Environmental ImpactThe main ecological driver is the concept of 'the networked city'. We envision the networked city as a city in which energy resources are shared, there's no concept of waste and it is designed with resiliency. Inspired by natural ecosystems, such as forests that foster mutually beneficial co-dependencies amongst its inhabitants, our design is based on a comprehensive resiliency strategy developed around overlapping layers of sustainability. Biogas, storm-water management, solar energy / rain collection & organic waste recycling are seamlessly integrated within the amenities of the public space. Every aspect is designed with a dual purpose: a resource/energy harvesting component & a community amenity. Imagine cycling racks that contain vertical growing systems, public restrooms that collect rainwater & shading canopies that convert sunlight into electricity (REPEAT!). Our system is designed to be entirely self sufficient while connecting to the city's resource supply, providing stored energy during peak demand & emergencies.
Social ImpactThis Initiative will be NYC's first crowd sourced park, allowing for direct community involvement in the creation & implementation of its design. The park's modular construction allows for plug & play simplicity coupled with an integrated smart phone app, ultimately giving communities direct access to the creation of their neighborhood parks. A menu of components ranging from typical items such as bicycle racks, seating & playgrounds to seasonal items such as outdoor saunas, portable pools, or pop-up libraries can be ordered & shipped on site: catering to a community's diverse & varying needs. The integrated smartphone app will display the location of each B2B park & the variety of programs currently featured in that park. Energy generated from the parks will be measured/ displayed real-time on the app. We envision the series of mini parks becoming a network of community driven spaces connected both ecologically & socially to its neighborhoods.
DifficultiesOne of the main challenges in designing this Park is developing a system that can easily plug itself into most, if not all, of the city's under utilized spaces. Translating this into a design meant it must be modular and simple to set up, but also fit within the hundreds of differently shaped land plots that make up the city's leftover spaces. We designed a standardized kit of parts to fit within an environment of high variability: contradictory goals that must be achieved for a successful project. With a modular system, there also arises the issue of balancing standardization with community personalization. As every community has different characteristics and needs, a one-size-fits-all design cannot work. Balancing the right amount of customizability, and combining it with the benefits of a modular system, resulted in a design that allowed for a high degree of flexibility while taking advantage of economies of scale.
Should Win BecauseOver half of the world's population now lives in cities. Yet, much of the world's urban planning & design has been guided by planning principals set forth over fifty years ago. We know we can do better. The Blight to Bright initiative is built upon the belief that community activism can be combined with innovative & compassionate design to build better living environments for everyone. We believe the urban systems we are developing will provide the foundation for growth, development & prosperity. Imagine a city in which there is no concept of waste, a city living on renewable resources, and most importantly, a city where communities come first. This reality is fully possible; technology is there to do it and we owe it to future generations to give them a better future. This Initiative is a small step in that direction. If cities are the future: let's design for them.
T. Luke Young, Architecture for Humanity | Alto Bío Bío, Chile
The Ruka Llallin Domuche ("House of Women Who Weave Like Spiders") project will empower indigenous Pehuenche communities facing economic and cultural marginalization in the area of Alto Bío Bío, Chile. see more
ClientFundacion Pehuen Ruka Llallin Domuche Website
ProjectPlace-making through sensitive, exemplary design can help even the most fragmented and marginalized communities thrive. The Ruka Llallin Domuche ("House of Women Who Weave Like Spiders") project will empower indigenous Pehuenche communities facing economic and cultural marginalization in the area of Alto Bío Bío, Chile. By constructing a multipurpose center to house a women's weaving cooperative this project will help turn a traditional craft into sustainable livelihood. Currently Pehuenche women live and weave on a small scale within their remote mountain homes. This project will provide the first opportunity for women to gather to produce textiles together, while also creating a public space accessible to visitors wanting to witness the artisans in action and learn about Pehuenche culture. In turn, the weavers will gain greater access to economic markets and the possibility to produce on a collective scale. The project acknowledges the important role these women (as matriarchs of their families), can have in improving economic and social opportunities for future generations of the Pehuenche community. Designed through participatory workshops with the weavers, the structure melds local materials and construction techniques with innovative environmental and spatial design. The structure is intended as a prototype to be adapted to other sites in the future, with the use of local materials and the potential for prefabrication allowing construction to occur in remote regions and difficult sites.
ProblemThe Pehuenche are a cultural group indigenous to the Alto Bío Bío area in the Chilean Andes. In their remote villages here, survival through subsistence farming is commonplace, leaving many families trapped below the poverty line. The recent construction of two hydroelectric plants has brought development to the area but has failed to improve Pehuenche quality of life. Moreover, it is feared that indiscriminate development could jeopardize the survival of the already threatened Pehuenche culture.
ProcessExtensive research was done in Alto Bío Bío in collaboration with local partner Fundacion Pehuen, which has been working in the area for over 20 years. The project architects held workshops at the start of the process to ensure that the weavers‚Äô programmatic demands and the values of the whole community were the addressed. A significant lesson from these workshops was importance of the hearth in Pehuenche culture. The design developed from these workshops consists of a circular plan centralized on a sunken fireplace, around which the weaving and display spaces are arranged. The entrance of the building is orientated to the North-East, the most significant direction in the Pehuenche philosophy. Symbolic patterns from the textiles form a stone patterned floor. The design unites the form and construction of a vernacular Pehuenche shelter with modern building technologies for longevity, thermal comfort and natural light.
Environmental ImpactThe design maximizes the use of passive environmental strategies to ensure the building is long-lasting and easy to maintain. In this apline climate, the design seeks to minimize the building's energy demand for heating. Celebrating the importance of fire in Pehuenche culture, the design includes a central sunken fireplace with ducts that passively transport heat directly to work spaces. Burning locally sourced timber bypasses the need for wasteful energy transformations associated with electricity. The entire building is sunk partially into the ground to provide shelter from cold winds. Sheds currently used by the weavers are typically dark, making detailed weaving difficult. To protects weavers' eyesight, an alternating angled roof profile was developed to bring more natural light into the traditional shelter form and reduce the need for electric lighting. The structure is made of locally grown timber instead of steel, minimizing fabrication and transportation energy.
Social ImpactThe project targets women, who are traditionally matriarchs of their communities yet have few opportunities for economic or social improvement. The building will provide the first space for collective production of textiles and publicly accessible point of sale. Volunteer micro-business specialists will be placed on site to train cooperative in skills to turn a traditional craft into a sustainable livelihood. Secondly, the project aims to provide the physical space for gathering currently lacking in the community. The centralized, flexible space serves the cooperative's role not only as a commercial entity, but also as a social support network for women living difficult lives in remote villages. Lastly, the building is designed to be a symbol for Pehuenche culture that celebrates the uniqueness of their way of life. Carving out a place specific to the group's culture and values could create more legitimacy and pride for a social group facing ever increasing marginalization.
DifficultiesThe burgeoning construction industry in Chile, the remote locations of the two sites, and the relatively small scope of the projects made it difficult to attract local contractors to offer competitive bids. Bids received were artificially high, due to the involvement of the large power company active in the area. A second round of bidding from alternative contractors yielded more competitive bids that allowed the project to continue. Commitments were originally made by several manufacturers to donate materials to that would allow the ambitious design to be implemented on the available budget. This led to time consuming re-designs, and the arrival of winter before the project broke ground. As a result the project was delayed an additional three months.
Should Win BecauseIn essence, this project seeks to create meaningful place for a community, combining vernacular architecture with innovations that enhance comfort and usability for its occupants. Ruka Llallin Domuche provides Pehuenche women with the infrastructure to make their way of life sustainable into the 21st century: creating a multifunctional space where weavers can produce traditional crafts, build social networks, pass skills onto future generations, and gather together as a community. Passive environmental design plays an important role in creating a comfortable, inviting and low-maintenance building that will be an asset for years to come. Achieving all of this through a single, graceful architectural gesture makes a beautiful and inspirational space that the community can be proud of and make their own. The building will be an icon that celebrates Pehuenche culture, empowering a cultural group increasingly threatened by insensitive development, anchoring and legitimizing their presence on the land.
Shagun Singh, Urban Matter Inc. | Brooklyn, NY
Silent Lights is an interactive urban installation at the intersection of Navy Street and Park Avenue in Brooklyn. It consists of five sculptural gates made of perforated steel that frames the pedestrian path without creating any dangerous blind spots. see more
ClientUrban Art/Summer Streets, NYDOT Silent Lights Website
ProjectSilent Lights is an interactive urban installation at the intersection of Navy Street and Park Avenue in Brooklyn. It consists of five sculptural gates made of perforated steel that frames the pedestrian path without creating any dangerous blind spots. This project is a commentary on urban living and challenges we face as people who live and work in loud, crowded, congested cities. The project responds to loud traffic noise at the pedestrian pathway under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway by translating it to beautiful light pattern. It is embedded with LED's that respond to traffic noise from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the streets on both sides of the underpass. The Silent Light gates are made out of perforated sheet metal. By varying the size of the perforation, we've created a wave like pattern on both sides of the each gate. This deconstructed pattern in each gate is embedded with addressable LED's. Each of these LED strips is attached to a microphone via an arduino device, an open source microprocessor that allows various pieces of hardware to communicate with each other. The gates receive and convert the sound waves above a certain threshold of noise, which is primarily created by large trucks on the overhead expressway, into light patterns. Our goal is to convert an unpleasant experience into a beautiful expression of light and art.
ProblemThe underpass where the project will be installed is a dark, unsafe, loud space which is generally avoided by pedestrians. Silent Lights will create a well-lit and safer route for commuters at night and a point of beauty and engagement at all times. Our hope is that the illuminated path will become a site of greater use and a source of community pride instead of a route to rush through or avoid.
ProcessSilent Lights started with a site survey and preliminary design explorations were developed for initial feedback from DOT structural contractors. Strategic partnerships were developed with Control Group, Red Hook Initiative and Brooklyn Arts Council to help us with interaction design, community impact and financial services. Our financial planning process started in 2012 with Designers Lighting Forum of New York offering to support us. We created a paper prototype for the gate structure followed by fabrication of the full metal prototype of the gate, and developed an interactive prototype using addressable LED's, arduino and a microphone in our studio to start exploring the full experience. The prototype was showcased at our fundraiser in Sept 2012 to garner community support and feedback which was overwhelmingly positive. We continued raising money for the project and won the Black Rock and Artplace grants in 2013, and plan to install the piece in Aug 2013.
Environmental ImpactOur plan is to move Silent Lights to an alternate underpass location in Brooklyn after the 11 month duration (stipulated by the DOT) is over. The interactive components of the project comprise of LEDs, microcontrollers and microphones which require minimal power to run. The metal will be returned to a metal recycling facility in Red Hook once the project duration is over and the technological component will be repurposed for other projects. All our labor and fabrication has been sourced locally so as to encourage local businesses as well as reduce transportation. The metal has been sourced from New Jersey which is also closer than most of the other metal providers. At every step of the installation we made sure we were using materials that are recyclable, sourcing services from local businesses and using electrical components that pulled little to no power.
Social ImpactOur plan is to use Silent Lights as a platform for education through our partnership with the Red Hook Initiative. The idea is to create a place of ownership, engagement and connection for the community by enabling a shared experience, improving a shared route and offering workshops to teens of Red Hook. We want to provide teens with the opportunity to learn and be introduced to fields and professions to which they might otherwise be unexposed. This includes subjects like computing, architecture and design. It is our hope, that these workshops will cause a strong sense of civic pride in these teens as they learn about the technology and develop a respect for the physical installation.
DifficultiesOne of the biggest hurdles we faced was raising funds for the project. Inspite of the early support from NYCDOT and Brooklyn Arts Council, we were short on funds to create the experience we envisioned. We created outreach around the project by hosting a community driven fundraiser and also gained partners like Designers Lighting Forum of New York through our press outreach. We won grants from other organizations interested in creative placemaking like Artplace and Black Rock foundation finally funding the project. The other hurdle we faced was the location of our site which has changed a couple of times because of reconstruction work being done on various segments of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. We've finally settled on a great location where the installation will add a lot of value and change the experience and dynamics of the space for the better.
Should Win BecauseSilent Lights extends the mission of the SXSW Eco Design Awards in its creative placemaking scope and its emphasis on community engagement. With continuous public access and by providing an opportunity for community dialogue, Silent Lights has become a project that inspires community interaction. On the surface, it is an exhibit of technology and kinetics. It offers light, momentary change and a flood of movement isolating itself from the constant throngs of moving vehicles. However, it is the experience of the pedestrian walking through the site everyday that is the focus of our project. From a very early stage in our design, we focused on the human conditions of the site. Our immediate goal has been to make the site more hospitable, safer and somehow instill a sense of civic pride into the everyday user.
Smart Sidewalks is a proposal to repurpose the existing payphone locations in New York City when the current contract ends in 2014. see more
Brett Snyder, Claire Napawan, Rama Chorpash, Sinead Mac Namara, Jessie Ganes, Grant Foster, Ben Busse | New York, NY
ClientNYC Digital Smart Sidewalks Website
ProjectSmart Sidewalks is a proposal to repurpose the existing payphone locations in New York City when the current contract ends in 2014. Smart Sidewalks is driven by two competing aims: to pack as much function into a single device as possible and to reduce the phonebooth's footprint. 'Everything:' communication, sustainability, and wayfinding is squeezed into 'nothing:' a 6' wide interactive strip that folds up from the sidewalk. The design works within the existing 5' sidewalk grid and has two main components. The 1st lies flush with the ground, and introduces a combined sensor and display with storm runoff storage below. The second stands vertical and functions as a touch-screen, Wi-Fi hub, energy source, charging station, and a range of other functions. In short, a location tethered smart-phone. The bent form is shaped by accessibility, viewing angle, and optimal solar exposure. A curb-cut bleeds storm water into storage cells dissipating it into existing soil. Sidewalk space is freed, putting to work the invisible space below. While Smart Sidewalks can operate independently, it also networks, charges, and augments existing mobile devices. The 6' wide ground strip both conveys and gathers information: like a vehicular road counter, it tallies every wheelchair, child, and jogger. As a publicly accessible database, information gathered from street-sides of NY will stand to fundamentally reshape the city. With a single curb cut and a thin strip of technology NYC prepares for a changing climate, gives maximum functionality to the technological savvy, and lowers the digital divide.
ProblemExisting payphones take up a lot of sidewalk real estate, are mostly unused (except in tourist neighborhoods and emergencies), and don't contribute to the city's welfare in a meaningful ways. In contrast, Smart Sidewalks will use this distributed network to create a vibrant new physical / digital ecology. Smart Sidewalks will act as a new network of location tethered smartphones while simultaneously addressing issues of stormwater runoff.
ProcessThis project was developed by a richly diverse group that included an industrial designer, landscape architect, engineer, media designer, and tech entrepreneur. In the past, a payphone might be considered only by an industrial designer, while our group recognizes that it has the potential to affect the city at many scales, from the scale of a single person, to the scale of the city itself. Our diverse group developed a way that each of these scales of operation could feed into each other creating an ecologically aware device that acts more like smart infrastructure, than a single object. Similarly, our group bridges academia and the professional world allowing research to fundamentally affect the design process.
Environmental ImpactSmart Sidewalks would have a few significant environmental impacts: First, it would act as a distributed network of water absorbing 'sponges.' Each of the 11,000 payphone locations would include a curb cut and underground filtration system. While the individual storm water absorption capacity of each payphone location would be minimal, the combined effect would be a significant improvement making New York a model of resiliency. Secondly, by creating a network of publicly accessible smartphones throughout the city, New York would be lowering the digital divide. Finally, in most conditions, Smart Sidewalks would be powered by PV panels, which are both a functional, but also major visual component of the device. This would be a highly visible demonstration of green technology.
Social ImpactSmart Sidewalks would have two main community impacts: First, it would act as a '21st century library without walls' on sidewalks throughout the city. Secondly, Smart Sidewalks tallies movement and would this create a new publicly accessible database that would increase the grain of information. Like a vehicular road counter, Smart Sidewalks passively tallies every wheelchair, child, and jogger 24/7. This massive nodal network senses wind speed, rain fall, temperature, and foot traffic with unprecedented granularity. In emergencies, Smart Sidewalks guides citizens away from danger to higher ground. As a publicly accessible database, information gathered from street-sides of NY will stand to fundamentally reshape the city.
DifficultiesOur strength is also our weakness. The very qualities that helped nurture our project–the fact that our team is distributed across the country with a wide array of expertise, is also our challenge. NYC is set up to work with corporations that have proven track records. Our loose network may have an innovative proposal, but to work with the city, our challenge is to grow in a way that makes us a feasible partner.
Should Win BecauseWe believe innovative projects are no longer static objects that can be judged by aesthetics alone. On the contrary, great urban projects must look at the way that people are using cities and must see the city itself as a platform for experimentation and ecological innovation. Smart Sidewalks, at its core, is about acknowledging many of the issues that plague cities: especially the high digital divide and stormwater runoff. By introducing a piece of infrastructure with such a wide array of functions, one could imagine a fundamental shift in the way city dwellers might use the city itself. With a single curb cut and a thin strip of technology NYC prepares for a changing climate, gives maximum functionality to the technological savvy, and lowers the digital divide.
Bland Hoke and Howard Chambers | Brooklyn, NY
Softwalks is an urban innovation studio. see more
ProjectSoftwalks is an urban innovation studio. We work on placemaking and human centered design projects with city agencies, businesses and communities to bring underutilized spaces to life. We've found success by thinking resourcefully, moving quickly and looking at problems often overlooked by others.
ProblemNew York City has over 189 miles of scaffolding covering the sidewalks. These dark tunnels are also called sidewalk sheds, and they have a detrimental impact on the walkability of urban environments. However, in NYC the vast majority of sidewalk sheds are inactive construction sites, presenting a unique opportunity for temporary placemaking. Softwalks is committed to designing simple amenities to make construction infrastructure more appealing to everyone.
ProcessThe initial concept of Softwalks was utopian, consisting of vertical gardens attached to sidewalk sheds creating a lush and verdant cityscape. After realizing the impracticality of this approach, we focused on an adaptable and modular system, designed for a larger impact. We held workshops incorporating community feedback and learned how people sincerely appreciate the simple things in life - like a place to sit and socialize. Thus, we chose to develop functional amenities for sidewalk sheds. Along the way we discovered many sidewalk sheds sit dormant due to a facade inspection ordinance. Additionally, many sites were stalled construction. We determined there is an opportunity to design desirable amenities to mitigate the negative effects of construction infrastructure. The parts we have designed were informed by specialists in public furniture and street scape amenities, incorporating pragmatic features and durable materials.
Environmental ImpactNew York City is known as a premier walking city. However with over 189 miles of sidewalk covered with scaffolding, the physical environment feels like a construction zone that envelops the entire city. Softwalks demonstrates the latent potential our cities have for urban innovation, and we believe this is a significant environmental impact. The parts we have developed work seamlessly with the existing structural capacities, and are a resourceful addition to the environment. In short, Softwalks inspires individuals to reconsider the potential of their surroundings.
Social ImpactThe urban theorist Jane Jacobs was revered for identifying the positive impacts of 'eyes on the street'. Her theories highlighted the benefits of having community members present in public space, socializing and enjoying their surroundings. Softwalks provides simple amenities to attract people to the street to sit, relax and socialize. The impact of this type of behavior turns what would otherwise be an eyesore into a community asset.
DifficultiesWhile sidewalks sheds are engineered for cataclysmic impacts and heavy-duty use, the most unexpected difficulty is the general perception people have of construction infrastructure. Many people perceive scaffolding as rickety, unsafe and generally unappealing. Additionally, the truth of why the structures are erected is unknown to the general population. Thus, our challenge has been educating people about the excess strength of the structure, as well as why there are so many sidewalk sheds that sit inactive for years on end. Everyone who learns these simple facts thanks us, then curses us after they realize how pervasive the structures are in the city.
Should Win BecauseAustin is the fastest growing city in the US. However, Austin is a small example of a larger trend in urbanization. By 2050, almost 80% of the worlds population will live in urban areas. This unprecedented migration of people will be accompanied by construction, infrastructure and congestion. The pressures on public space will escalate enormously as more people plan to live in dense urban centers around the world. Softwalks is committed to designing new ideas for dense urban environments, using placemaking and human centered design to imagine new functions for public space and infrastructure. This work is challenging and purposeful and winning the SXSW ECO award will enable us to demonstrate our thinking in an environment outside New York City. Let's work together to show how Austin can grow quickly and attract new business and individuals while showcasing cutting edge urban design and placemaking!
Lou Huang, Marcin Wichary, Katie Lewis, Shaunak Kashyap, Ezra Spier, Marc Hébert, Anselm Bradford, Code for America | San Francisco, CA
Streetmix is an interactive street section creator that runs in your web browser.
ProjectStreetmix is an interactive street section creator that runs in your web browser. Users are presented with a friendly interface that lets them mix-and-match "segments" to design their ideal vision of their neighborhood streets. They can share their streets with friends, colleagues, or even city officials, and other people can easily modify these ideas (we call this "remixing"). As a community engagement tool, planners and city staff can use Streetmix to reach out to communities online in addition to physical meetings. Planners will hear what their communities find most attractive or important, and also be able to educate community members about the importance of different street features or the consequences of certain actions. (For instance, messages like, "did you know you can protect bikers by putting in a buffer between bike lanes and traffic?" or "Wider traffic lanes result in faster cars, which lead to more dangerous accidents.") The project is built by fellows at Code for America, a non-profit organization that partners with municipalities across the U.S. to help them provide services and engage their citizens with tools and lessons of today's technology startups. While each team of fellows are dedicated to a particular city, 20% of our time is allotted for us to work on other projects, such as Streetmix. Although we're not complete yet, in the six months of our early development, Streetmix has already been used to provide feedback to planners in a number of communities around the world.
ProblemPublic meetings have always faced certain challenges: limited attendance or underrepresented demographics, for example. By gathering feedback online, Streetmix helps planners reach a wider audience. In addition, communicating online speeds up the feedback loop between planners and the community. Lastly, we created a simple and friendly interface so that urban laypersons can participate. Existing software to produce comparable visuals requires professional knowledge and don't inspire the community. We are changing all of this!
ProcessOur mission at Code for America is to create applications that improve civic engagement, made possible by the cross-disciplinary expertise of our fellows. To encourage quick iterations, we held a one-day hackathon in January where lofty ideas turned into working experimental prototypes. The idea for Streetmix came from a public meeting in San Francisco, where attendees were asked to design the street using paper cutouts. We knew we could build a digital version. Our team included an urban planner, an illustrator, a UX designer, and programmers, which enabled us to make decisions quickly together. We followed a 'lean' development model: speak directly with users, gather feedback often, and iterate frequently. We were able to observe how it was used and implement features based on users' actions and requests. A considerable amount of professional expertise and research (e.g. papers and standards documents) has shaped and guided our development.
Environmental ImpactAs an aspect of urban planning, better streetscape designs have definite direct and indirect environmental impacts: less cars and more bikers and transit reduces carbon emissions, improves health through walkability and other forms of exercise, and more trees and plants will reduce greenhouse gases and the urban heat island effect, and so much more. However, these impacts sometimes fall by the wayside when other concerns, like greater vehicle throughput, or fear of change to existing businesses or property values, take over. By providing another avenue for communication and engagement, particularly for underrepresented community members who seek greater health and safety, our hope is that Streetmix leads to better decision-making in the built environment, and to more sustainable environments in the long run.
Social ImpactStreetmix is all about improving community engagement and placemaking! Public meetings sometimes suffer from limited attendance, or a lack of attendance from the widest cross-section of its community. Limited staff resources, poor timing, poor outreach, or 'voter apathy' contribute to these challenges. Our goal is to innovate around all of these. We don't believe we can fix everything, but we certainly intend to close this gap. With Streetmix, feedback can be gathered outside the confines of a meeting and planners can reach a much wider audience. In addition, we're working toward the best possible user experience that captures the imagination of our users. To this end, we've designed Streetmix to be fun, intuitive, and easy to use. The graphics are playful and light. Even without an official planning initiative in place, we'd like residents of all communities to play with Streetmix and start dreaming of a better place.
DifficultiesIn civic apps such as ours, difficulties are both technical and social. At Code for America, the mantra that keeps our priorities straight is "people, not programs." Right now, our challenges straddle both sides. We've aimed to be as inclusive as possible, but as a 'beta' product, we've had to focus on building for modern browsers which may not be within reach for government employees, the technically challenged, or poor and disabled populations. Or perhaps even you! (You'll get an error message if that's the case.) However, we intend to build toward maximum accessibility. In addition, most of our user base right now are professionals and activists in the urban design and planning industry. We would still like to ultimately reach beyond this audience and into the layperson's world. However, we will be able to reach them through the network of professionals we've assembled who share our goals.
Should Win BecauseThese days, "civic technology" is a great buzzword leading to more open data, increased government transparency, or enhancing communication through social media. But the questions remain: Can applications change the culture of government bureaucracy? Can technology improve how citizens participate in local governance or to design and plan livable, beautiful places? We sense that Streetmix has struck a chord with civic activists around the world because our design is a simple, beautiful, and friendly way for planners and communities to engage around the most public spaces of every neighborhood. And, we see a spiritual sibling in SimCity, a game that's inspired many people of our generation to think broadly about civic issues. We've captured that sense of fun and exploration and brought it to our streets, in hopes of creating a new community of people dedicated to thinking positively about change in our cities. Hide Details
Mark Morris, VODA Landscape + Planning | Salt Lake City, UT
Sugarmont Plaza is a temporary public space installed in the heart of the Sugar House business district of Salt Lake City, Utah. see more
ClientSLC RDA Sugarmont Plaza Website
ProjectSugarmont Plaza is a temporary public space installed in the heart of the Sugar House business district of Salt Lake City, Utah. The site is a former thrift store building that has been vacant for approximately one year, and is currently owned by Salt Lake City. The Sugarmont Plaza project is the first project in Salt Lake City to follow the concepts of tactical urbanism, creating a casual public gathering space with minimal cost. At its core, this project intends to reclaim space in the Sugar House business district for a more active, and community building use. The parking area adjacent to the former thrift store was painted over with a bright and attention getting pattern, bringing art and interest into the business district. Inexpensive tables, chairs, and umbrellas were brought in to provide seating for users of the space during the summer months. A large mural painted on the side of the building brought added art and attention to this block as a public space. Its key location along Highland Drive and the Parley's trail corridor will ensure that passersby will see, and return to the space for any events. This particular location is of great importance to the Sugar House area, as the second phase of the Sugar House Streetcar project will bring a streetcar connection to the regional light rail system at this site. The long term goal of this project is to bring public support for a plaza space at this location.
ProblemWith more than 1,000 housing units under construction in the Sugar House business district, more and more people are calling Sugar House home. Construction of Phase 1 of the Sugar House Streetcar is nearing completion, with service beginning in December of 2012. Sugarmont Plaza brings much needed public space into the Sugar House business district, and sets the groundwork for support for a more permanent public space at this location in the future.
ProcessVODA teamed with the non-profit Friends of the Sugar House Streetcar and Amy Barry of the Sugar House Community Council to develop the project. Working together, the team researched similar tactical urbanism projects across the country, and looked around the Sugar House area to identify a site. The current site was chosen for its visibility, its existing ownership by Salt Lake City, and its vital location along the future Sugar House Streetcar alignment. VODA developed a plan for implementation of Sugarmont Plaza, then approached the Salt Lake City RDA for funding for the project. With this particular project, a local graphic designer, Matthew Manes, was also brought in to develop a graphic concept for the pattern painting on the parking area of the site. A street artist, Shae Peterson, was also enlisted to develop a temporary mural to be painting on the sides of the building.
Environmental ImpactWe support a more walkable, compact urban lifestyle. With added density, public parks and urban plazas are a vital part of developing a more livable community. The site of Sugarmont Plaza is centrally located within walking distance of many community amenities, such as shopping, dining, public library, movie theaters, gym, community swimming pool, boys and girls club, Sugar House Park, Fairmont Park and many of the new housing developments currently under construction in the business district. The proposed project would include wayfinding signage that would give walking times to a variety of these destinations. "Walk Sugar House" would consist of signs mounted at different intersections around the Sugar House Business District, patterned after the "Walk Raleigh" project. The signs include text stating how many 'minutes by foot' it is to walk to popular destinations. This project would be seen as an education program promoting a healthy and safe pedestrian environment.
Social ImpactTactical urbanism projects may create better public spaces, but they also create citizen activists. On our build day, we had more than 30 citizens involved in transforming a vacant parking lot in the heart of the community into a public space, open and inviting all. Our kick off event brought out hundreds of citizens, curious to see what was happening in the community, and eager to spend an evening enjoying music and food in a brand new public space.
DifficultiesCoordination we several entities, including the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency, stretched our planning process our longer than expected. We had great support from the community, but getting everything in line to actually implement the project proved a challenge. Initially we had expected more of a challenge to secure funding, but were greeted with great financial support by the Redevelopment Agency. While our kick off event was well attended, we've had a challenge bringing more people back to the plaza. We've had a few follow up events, but none as well attended as the first. We've had bi-weekly food truck rallies at the plaza, and have had some follow up urban art projects, but publicity of the space has been challenging.
Should Win BecauseAs citizen activists, our team is proud of what we've accomplished with the Sugarmont Plaza project. We feel that we've energized support for public space in a community highly resistant to change. We've successfully transformed an underutilized parcel in the community into something adding to the vibrancy and diversity of our neighborhood. Salt Lake City is currently looking for additional locations to implement similar projects in other neighborhoods, using our project as a template.
David Crumley, Houndstooth Studio | Austin, TX
Houndstooth partnered with SXSW Eco and the Austin Parks Department to transform Austin's Republic Square into an inviting after-dark public space. The goal was to convert an unappealing and dark park in downtown Austin with a variety of lighting sculptures. see more
ClientSXSW, Austin Parks Department
ProjectHoundstooth partnered with SXSW Eco and the Austin Parks Department to transform Austin's Republic Square into an inviting after-dark public space. The goal was to convert an unappealing and dark park in downtown Austin with a variety of lighting sculptures. We produced five installations using a variety of recycled materials and light sources to enhance the park's natural environment and promote SXSW Eco's message of sustainable design. These sculptures bathed the park in ever-changing colored light and attracted thousands of people into the space during the weeklong installation. Three of the installations were built from recycled materials sourced from Austin-based companies and recycling plants mid-stream; all sourced materials were recycled after disassembly. Another installation, titled 'Tree of Light' was a fifteen foot tall tree built from repurposed aluminum tubing and LED light tubes that were programmed to continually change patterns and colors. This tree was large in scale and highly visible from outside the park, drawing in numerous visitors to experience all the installations. The SXSW Eco and Parks Department logos were projected in light on one of the park's berms to let visitors know who was responsible for the event. Numerous children played in the projections and created interesting shadow figures, creating a spontaneous and un-foreseen play-space in the projected lights. Hundreds of photos appeared on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook showing off everyone's interaction with the installations.
ProblemThe primary problem we aimed to solve was the lack of light in the park after hours. Republic Square is very heavily visited during SXSW but in past years, very few people lingered in the park and only used it as a thoroughfare to get from Point A to Point B. The goal was to transform the park into an inviting and safe place for people of all ages to visit.
ProcessHoundstooth spent quite a bit of time in the park getting a feel for the space as well as its typical use and traffic patterns. We selected a few key areas well suited for lighting installations and proposed several ideas to transform the park, ranging from projection mapping both natural and man-made objects to simply lighting the existing landscape with LED fixtures. Through our experience with lighting and installations, we knew what types of equipment and structures would be ideal for the location–but we needed to narrow it down to the most effective pieces that fit the needs of the park and the clients. Once we finalized the installations, we began to reach out to local companies to provide the vast amount of recycled bottles, milk jugs, and packing material needed for the structures. We sourced from various locations to procure enough material to produce the towers at the scale needed for the park.
Environmental ImpactEnvironmental impact was something we kept in mind throughout the design and implementation phases. We wanted to use mainly LED fixtures to minimize electricity usage, as well as incorporate as many recycled or repurposed materials as possible. We ended up almost exclusively using recycled/repurposed materials and only purchased a few pieces of aluminum tubing that has since been reused for other installations. All recycled material sourced from local companies was sent to the recycling center after the installations were disassembled. The footprint of the installations in the park was kept to a minimum and all trenches and bases of the towers were re-landscaped after the installations were loaded out.
Social ImpactWe were in the park almost every night the installations were up and it was amazing to see how a small number of lighting installations transformed the park and increased the number of visitors throughout the week. There were, of course, thousands of SXSW participants in the park, but there were also many families who came out to experience the space in its transformed state. Furthermore, every day we saw dozens of new photos pop up on various social networks showing off the installations and expressing appreciation for both SXSW and Austin for hosting this type of public art; the installations reflected and promoted Austin and its culture. We were also struck by how long people stayed in the park, by adding the installations, it was no longer simply a place to walk through en route to your next destination. It was now an immersive environment to enjoy and spend time in.
DifficultiesOur vision for the sculptures included creating repetition and pattern by using multiple pieces of the same type of material. This would transform the visual aesthetic from a pile of trash to an interesting and complex design. Procuring hundreds of the same type of bottle or milk jug in good enough condition to use was difficult. We were lucky to find a few great partners that provided lots of material for us to work with. Another difficulty was constructing these towers to be temporary and disassemble easily but also withstand the unpredictable Texas weather and very unpredictable park visitors--we had quite a few people climb the tree like a jungle gym! But all structures survived the elements and remained fully intact throughout the week.
Should Win BecauseThis project truly transformed this park in a way that is easily reproducible in other public spaces. Our goal is to do similar installations (permanent or temporary) in other public spaces, including parks, playgrounds, and any other underused urban space. We feel there is enormous potential to enhance existing spaces with light and would love to expand on what we did in Republic Square, so winning this competition would give us and this effort much needed visibility and recognition.
Elisa Ruffino, Deisgnmatters | Pasadena, CA
An emerging need for an innovative arts center for Pasadena and Altadena's at-risk youth was identified, and through months of conversation between community partners and Art Center, the vision for the Teen Art Park project developed. see more
ClientCity of Pasadena Teen Art Park Website
ProjectTeenagers need a positive venue for self-expression, a place where they don't simply escape from their problems, but are encouraged to deal with them through the arts. Given the chance to channel their negative emotions into positive ones through the canvas, the wall, paper, or a loudspeaker, lives are transformed and youth can not only visualize their potential, they can reach it as well. The Teen Art Park would give them that chance. An emerging need for an innovative arts center for Pasadena and Altadena's at-risk youth was identified, and through months of conversation between community partners and Art Center, the vision for the Teen Art Park project developed. This two-term Transdisciplinary studio was comprised of small teams working to design an alternative and supportive environment for youth from underserved communities in Pasadena and Altadena. The prototype spaces would be called a Teen Art Park, and would provide the means for young people to focus their energy on positive expressions of creativity and to discover new opportunities and social relationships. The goal of creating such a space would require intensive research followed by concept generation and development, design refinement, and finally a build and implementation phase. STUDENT DESIGN TEAMS: TEAM ARTPAS Jori Brown, Adam Patrick Easter Cottingham, Breon Waters II TEAM FREESOL Anycia Lee, Evian Olivares, Joshua Wong TEAM HUB Seth Baker, Hugh Chuang, Thomas Kong INSTRUCTORS James Meraz, Professor, Environmental Design Chris Adamick, Instructor, Environmental Design
ProblemTeen Art Park of Pasadena is a collaboration between Art Center College of Design and community partners Flintridge Foundation, Armory Center for the Arts and Learning Works! Charter School, envisioned to provide a safe environment for creative expression and personal development for underserved teens. It would allow for mentorship toward creative careers, and would provide an alternative to gang participation and other potentially destructive behaviors.
ProcessTeen Art Park occupied 2 full-term studios, the first centered around human-centered qualitative research and interviews with community service providers, as well as workshops with at-risk Pasadena youth who articulated their hopes for what a Teen Art Park would bring to their communities. These conversations informed the Park's design development, and articulation of the physical space and experiences that would encourage a sense of ownership among the teens themselves. The studio's second phase kicked off with an event in which the students shared their park proposals with local teens and community partners organizations and solicited their feedback. Based on this input, the students then transitioned into physically creating the Teen Art Park environments, and three dynamic, full-scale prototypes were built and deployed in the community.
Environmental ImpactDuring the design process, the teams envisioned their projects, as a central 'urban tree' that, acting similarly to the communal 'big oak tree' in rural settings, could display art and act as a focal point for meeting, relaxing, thought and storytelling. Keeping with this original idea, they set-out to create organic spaces and took inspiration from D.I.Y and lo-fi culture that fuses natural and man-made elements to create artistic 'green spaces' that would have a minimal ecological footprint. The actual environmental impact remains to be seen, until the Teen Art Park project is fully implemented, however sustainability was a factor in each design iteration.
Social ImpactThe youth that were identified for the Teen Art Park project are residents from Northwest Pasadena and West Altadena, neighboring cities in Los Angeles County that have struggled with lack of economic opportunity, declining public education and youth-led gang violence since the 1970s. The region is prone to high rates of youth unemployment as well as to a high percentage of public school dropout rates in high school. The students co-created with these targeted at risk teens with the goal of long-term success and the sustainability of a positive social life that would be a direct result of the user-centered aspirations uncovered in the collaborative framework of the project. In short, The Teen Art Park could be a clear indication of the capacity in which art and creative expression can improve young people's lives and in the long-term create change in these communities.
DifficultiesThe initiative suffered somewhat as far as the actual implementation planning is concerned, because an anticipated commitment by the partners for a permanent site for the Teen Art Park project, by the time the studios started did not materialize. This prompted the design teams' need to anchor concepts around three plausible sites in the first studio, and then shift strategy to develop modular components in the second studio that could function in a wide variety of sites in order to ensure that the city of Pasadena and project partners would have a range of actionable options to take forward. The inherent challenges that surfaced were solved through collaboration: an extremely valuable aspect of this experience from a design educational standpoint. The faculty saw this collaborative dimension for the design teams and the teens as somewhat of an uncharted territory and a transformative proposition.
Should Win BecauseThe Teen Art Park project is in line with the fundamental belief that good design brings value to society: with the potential of especially transformative impact in the context of 'wicked' problems and ingrained social inequities. Teen Art Park project is envisioned to be a place for transformation, where you could become the best version of who you can possibly be. The aspiration and relentless commitment to collaborate in order to serve some of the most vulnerable and promising youth in the community continues confidently driving the Teen Art Park project forward. And if this project truly has the potential to change the life of an at risk youth, it's definitely worthy of recognition. And with this recognition, the Teen Art Park project could inspire others to use design to help rectify social inequities.
Chris Cowden, Women and Their Work | Austin, TX
In THIRST, The Center For Women & Their Work (CW&TW) will present a large-scale installation sited on Lady Bird Lake, the emotional and physical center of Austin. see more
ProjectAldo Leopold, the father of conservation ecology, said we must learn to "think like a mountain" when considering the balance of an ecosystem. But how can we learn to think like a drought? In THIRST, The Center For Women & Their Work (CW&TW) will present a large-scale installation sited on Lady Bird Lake, the emotional and physical center of Austin. Janus faced, THIRST will look back and memorialize the loss of over 300 million trees that died in Texas in the drought of 2011. It will also look forward to encourage an exchange of ideas about the impact that a scarcity of water will have on Austin, on Texas and beyond. Comprised of two components, the installation features a 30 foot tall dead tree painted ghostly white hovering over the surface of the lake, its roots unable to reach the water; and a trail of 14,000 prayer flags suspended from trees forming a 2.5 mile loop from the Lamar Bridge to Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge to the 1st Street Bridge and back leading visitors down to the Pfluger Circle. An image of the dead tree will be silk screened on each flag. Women & Their Work is collaborating with Beili Liu, Visual Art; Emily Little and Norma Yancey, Architecture; and Cassie Bergstrom and Landscape Architecture, to create the installation. It is the goal of THIRST to make the horrific loss visible while encouraging viewers to consider their relationship to water, our most precious resource.
ProblemAs the city struggles with recent extreme drought, water rationing and fears for future sustainability, THIRST will focus attention in a visually and experientially powerful way on the centrality of water to life and the need to engage in conservation and preservation. The constant water level of the lake itself serves to remind us how easy it is to be complacent about the availability of water in our lives, an attitude that THIRST will challenge.
ProcessW&TW was invited to apply to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation with a project that emphasized artistic excellence, innovation, and collaboration. We invited a visual artist, an architect and a landscape architect to meet to develop ideas and as a group and after many meetings, we decided to develop a project to address the water crisis facing Austin. THIRST was born. We initially planned to place the dead tree on a platform in the middle of Lady Bird Lake but found that this was not viable. With the help of a structural engineer, we determined that the tree trunk would need to be bored and a pipe placed in it. That in turn would be placed on a spike that had been driven through 20 feet of water and 20 feet of lake bottom. All materials that we used needed to not harm the environment.
Environmental ImpactThe devastating impact of climate change has been keenly felt in Austin. We hope that THIRST will acknowledge this devastation and suggest some way forward. Famous during his lifetime for his work that spanned artistic disciplines, Robert Rauschenberg believed that art is an important agent for social transformation: that art can change the world. It is to this high standard that THIRST aspires.
Social ImpactThousands of people visit Lady Bird Lake every day. The ghostly tree that appears to hover over the lake with its roots unable to reach the water is a powerful reminder of what is at stake. The 14,000 prayer flags with the tree image silk screened on them that will loop the trail also provides a meditative reminder of the impact of climate change. We plan to have many events to encourage discussion and community involvement including hand screening of flags.
DifficultiesTHIRST is an enormously complicated project. The scale of the installation and the permitting process has been daunting. We expected the complexity and meeting hours with vested community members, because many people here adore and use Lady Bird Lake. Large public art downtown is going to be vetted widely. We see this activity as an outreach opportunity that creates valuable and lasting partnerships. Our collaborative team is experienced, versatile, focused and pragmatic -all necessary characteristics for success in public art projects. Because THIRST is sited on both the lake and the trail, we have had over 40 meetings with various city boards, neighborhood groups, rowing and running club members, environmental organizations, and city council members. We have come to think that the difficulty and complexity of creating and installing this project THIRST can serve as a metaphor for the difficulty and complexity of the climate disruption problems facing us.
Should Win BecauseTHIRST is a unique project that addresses an impending crisis that is occurring not only in Austin but in many places throughout the world. We think that this art installation will call attention to the problem in both a visual and visceral way and will prompt viewers to consider their relationship to water in a new way. It is our hope that through its design, THIRST will convey the impact of climate change in an extremely powerful way.
Alex Gilliam, Public Workshop | Philadelphia, PA
Tiny WPA is a program that places young adults at the forefront of stimulating community engagement and civic innovation in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) by empowering them to design and build improvements to the public spaces, schools, and micro-infrastructure in their neighborhoods. see more
ClientMultiple Tiny WPA Website
ProjectTiny WPA is a program that places young adults at the forefront of stimulating community engagement and civic innovation in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) by empowering them to design and build improvements to the public spaces, schools, and micro-infrastructure in their neighborhoods.
ProblemPublic Workshop Tiny WPA connects young adults with needs in their cities where their contribtuions will have a legitimately transformative impact on the design of their neighborhoods. Sometimes this about gathering the data and stories that substantiate change or measure impact. Often it means modeling the behaviors that adults have forgotten and taking action when noone else will. Inevitably, very quickly in each Tiny WPA project, disempowered young adults become incredibly empowered and in the process inspire larger community change.
ProcessWe begin by partnering with a community organization, a school, a government agency, and so on, to identify a need and then they leverage their networks to bring the necessary local youth and assets to the table. From day one, we're building, working, meeting, imagining, and problem solving on-site, 100% of the time. We do EVERYTHING on-site, which creates an incredibly efficient simultaneous feedback loop that is much more effective than the way most typically work as designers. Design becomes a conversation, where the community is empowered by the immediate impacts of their on the ground expertise. This process makes it much easier to openly and freely collaborate, to know when it's most appropriate to speak, listen or 'do.' No matter the end objective of a Tiny WPA project, we start with making and doing, often doing full scale prototypes in the first thirty minutes.
Environmental ImpactAll Tiny WPA projects have positive environmental impact. Most Tiny WPA projects use reclaimed materials while others might encourage more community members to use public transportation or reduce the heat island effect of a vacant property. These environmental benefits are certainly great but more importantly Tiny WPA projects grow communities of citizen advocates and create the context for having deeper, more effective conversations about sustainability, especially in people's own neighborhoods. This is incredibly important because one of the biggest problems with sustainability is that its application and impact are largely invisible. Signage and infographics are helpful but can barely compete with a passionate young adult badgering their parent or a hands-on, participatory community improvement project.
Social Impact'Doing' is contagious and I am routinely blown away by the incredible impact that a teenage women with a power tool can have on instigating larger change in her community. It's the opposite of the broken window theory. Seeing kids transforming their neighborhoods through design really clicks for people. If kids can do this, then why can't we? Simultaneously, young adults are routinely getting compliments and questions from their neighbors which in just a few hours leads the teens to have massive leaps in self-efficacy. In a classroom setting this increased sense of empowerment might take years to achieve. This leads the young adults to work harder, which in turn spurs the adults to work even harder. In the process, making and doing serves as a conversation tool, creating the context that allows the teens to more effectively gather and disseminate information about complicated topics like sustainability in their communities.
DifficultiesIn our Tiny WPA project with the Village For Arts And Humanities, our tactic of making design visible--aka, moving the community meeting, the classroom, and design studio to the sidewalk--was ultimately too successful, drawing so much community participation that it actually began to 'threaten' and strain the integrity of our core team of young adults. In short, the team hadn't had enough time to 'gel' as a group before more and more people wanted to get involved. As a result, the original team members who were driving the project began to feel less special and thereby empowered. In general communities and people are complicated and unexpected problems arise in every single project. However, our process of moving design to the 'sidewalk' helps shortcut this, dramatically shortening lines of communication as well as making both failure and successes 100% evident to anyone.
Should Win BecauseWe launched Tiny WPA in 2012 and in just four months hundreds of young adults in three cities completed four youth-led community improvement projects, including an adventure playground in Philadelphia, bus stop seating in Flint, a shade canopy for a farmer's market in North Philadelphia, and a Switzerland-esque pocket park/neutral play space in South Chicago. In 2013, we have at least eleven youth-led Tiny WPA projects in four cities. These include an outdoor makerspace that is the USGBC Legacy Project for Greenbuild 2013; hacking the health of a sick public school in via design; secretly playable park furniture encouraging the elderly and small children to interact; and a parklet to crowdsource ideas and measure usage for streetscape improvements. There's nothing like Tiny WPA that integrates a deep understanding of human nature; great design; tactical doing; and the untapped potential of youth to affect larger civic change.
Sarah Gamble, Lynn Osgood, GO Collaborative | Austin, TX
Not only physically, but emotionally, the Trail is part of Austin's central identity and the place people go to feel healthy and connected. see more
ClientThe Trail Foundation Trail Memories Website
ProjectWith a mission to protect and enhance the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, the Trail Foundation (TTF) works to improve and enhance the Trail with infrastructural and environmental projects. In preparation for future projects, TTF wanted to engage visitors to fuel a design process with a local architect. The Trail Memories installation was designed to meet TTF's three goals for the community engagement process: celebrate the Trail and the work of TTF; gather user feedback about the upcoming Heron Creek Restroom design; and gather user information for future design efforts. Located just west of Lamar Boulevard, the installation measured 36 feet long and remained on-site for 7 days. The boards featured a linear timeline, highlighting moments from 1868 to the present with photographs, and map of the Trail. Visitors were invited to write down their history as it intersected with the Trail and to identify locations of particular memories. Over 1700 comments were gathered, filling the front of the boards and stretching onto the backs. An online survey followed the installation, asking users further questions about perceptions of the site and its potential development. At the conclusion of the installation, comments were recorded and analyzed to better understand Trail usage and fuel design ideas. It was abundantly clear throughout the process that Austinites and the city's visitors adore the Trail. Not only physically, but emotionally, the Trail is part of Austin's central identity and the place people go to feel healthy and connected.
ProblemTTF wanted to engage Trail users directly, in preparation for a restroom design and other improvement projects. TTF also wanted to celebrate the Trail and raise awareness for their organization. As designers, we recognized the importance of engaging users on the Trail itself in a creative, fun, and welcoming environment where visitors would want to stop and share their stories. Due to the park setting, the installation had to be temporary and lightly touch the ground to avoid damage / disturbance.
ProcessUsing an arts-based engagement approach, we set out to create an accessible way to engage with Trail users within their everyday routines. (This approach is in contrast typical 'community meetings' asking attendees to engage in an unfamiliar location.) We wanted Trail users to have an enjoyable experience that helped to celebrate the work of the foundation. We designed the interactive timeline to assist visitors in connecting their history to the Trail's history, using key moments since 1868. The history was displayed in a linear fashion, with minimal text and ample space for stories. Visitors were drawn to the historical and contemporary photographs, gathered through research at the Austin History Center, online resources, and TTF's records. For the construction, we collaborated with a commercial sign installer to produce the weather and graffiti resistance boards in an economical, yet sturdy way. The sign installer provided helpful information about wind and structural considerations.
Environmental ImpactThe design celebrated the Trail, widely considered Austin's 'Central Park', and its users. Visitors shared stories highlighting the Trail's natural beauty and its value as a place for exercise, gathering, contemplation, rest, and exploration. The installation raised awareness of the Trail itself and the Trail Foundation. The results highlighted the deep feelings of attachment that Austinites feel towards the Trail and will help the foundation advocate for their environmental conservation and sustainable development work in the future.
Social ImpactAs a tool for community engagement and celebration, 1700 comments were collected. TTF engaged users directly and found ideas and inspiration for future projects. TTF is able to better advocate for the Trail an explain why it is so important to users and the City at large. Comments and analysis were provided to the local architect to fuel current projects. TTF staff can now reach out to new and future users with the collection of stories. For example, TTF staff now uses one comment at the end of each of their monthly e-newsletters, indicating the lasting impact of the project. For Trail users and the public-at-large, the project created an opportunity to share their personal stories collectively and reflect about the Trail. The volume of comments indicates our communities' love for the space. KXAN news and YNN news covered the project celebrating the Trail and encouraging visitors to provide comments.
DifficultiesOver the one week installation, participation exceeded our expectations. Visitor comments filled the front of the boards (36' length by 4' height) by the end of Day 4. The fullness required visitors to provide comments on the back, which slowed the volume of comments received per day on Days 5, 6, and 7. During the installation, we had two incidents of graffiti, which required quick action to remove the inappropriate comments. Fortunately, the selected materials allowed for relatively easy removal.
Should Win BecauseThe installation surpassed the goals of the client, created an enjoyable and unique social experience for visitors, and resulted in measurable, positive impact on Trail users, the TTF community, and the public. Originality: The timeline drew visitors to learn about the Trail and share their stories, which surprised and delighted with their regular routines. Interactivity: 1700 comments collected. Sustainability: Awareness was raised of the Trail and TTF's environmental mission. Accessibility: Comments were received in multiple languages and by all ages, including children. Accessibility: The design aligned with front / side accessible reach ranges for those with physical disabilities. Volunteers assisted during high frequency times. An email address was posted as an additional feedback option. Community Impact: The project is featured on TTF's website and a story concludes monthly e-newletters. The project was covered on 2 news programs and is influencing current architectural design processes.
Leslie Davol | New York, NY
The Uni offers a new kind of place to sit and gather in public, and something new to gather around: books and learning. The Uni Project is dedicated to expanding a culture of learning beyond the walls of schools, museums, and libraries, into public space. see more
ProjectThe Uni Project is dedicated to expanding a culture of learning beyond the walls of schools, museums, and libraries, into public space. We've developed a new tool to do this work: a portable reading room called the Uni that can be dropped into almost any available street-level location to provide a place to gather around books and showcase the act of learning. The Uni starts with an architect-designed structure that can be installed temporarily in parks, plazas, and markets, and even on sidewalks and lots. Relying on lightweight modular shelving units and benches for seating, the Uni attracts a walk-up audience to a collection of books and learning activities for children and adults. Books are high-quality and multi-lingual. Some are shelved together in mini-collections curated and contributed by other organizations such as the Museum of Modern Art, 826NYC, and the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Activities include a microscope, chess, wooden tangrams, and origami. The whole experience is managed by a crew of volunteer librarians and educators who relish the opportunity to work in public. We launched on Kickstarter and in 2012, we installed the Uni in seven New York City neighborhoods, including storm-damaged Red Hook, Brooklyn. We tested a variety of urban environments and created partnerships with the Queens and Brooklyn public libraries. In 2013, we tripled our deployments and began to develop a regular circuit through underserved NYC neighborhoods. In a short time, we've served hundreds of patrons and have been observed by thousands more in passing.
ProblemBooks and learning are nearly invisible in many urban neighborhoods. Fast food and cheap retail often dominate at street level, while learning opportunities remain behind the walls of schools and libraries with aging infrastructure and limited hours. Even as incomes rise, residents find small bookstores and cultural venues are priced out. Cities need a lightweight, tactical solution to keep books and learning in the heart of the city and at the center of the culture.
ProcessThe Uni represents the culmination of years of experimentation with how to use temporary 'pop-up' strategies to improve the lives of urban residents. Street Lab is a nonprofit founded by husband and wife Leslie and Sam Davol in order to bring opportunities for culture, community, and learning to underutilized urban space. From 2006-2010, Street Lab created a range of projects, including the Storefront Library, a temporary, community-run library that operated in Boston's Chinatown. Besides demonstrating the importance of library services to the Chinatown community, that project also showed how simply seeing people reading and learning outside the context of school–in this case, through a storefront window–had a dramatic impact on people's sense of pride and connection to the neighborhood, and on children's sense of what the community valued. Out of that work, we developed the Uni, a portable reading room for public space.
Environmental ImpactThe Uni is intended to be part of a mix of solutions that create more sustainable, livable cities. We need civic institutions that are lighter, flexible, less expensive to maintain, and better integrated into our patterns of daily life. The Uni uses just such a model to create a welcoming place for urban residents to gather around books and learning in the heart of cities. It allows us to be tactical in deploying educational resources, putting them right where people already gather and where they have maximum impact. We face a challenging future where cities will become still more dense and expensive, and rapid social, environmental, and technological change will be the norm. Portable and lightweight might seem like a novelty today, but someday these characteristics may be a necessity.
Social Impact"I don't really like to read." That's what a 9-year-old girl told us in the middle of a busy plaza in Queens on a summer afternoon in our open-air portable reading room called the Uni. Undaunted, a volunteer librarian kept reading to her, while passersby stopped, put down grocery bags, browsed nearby shelves, and sat down to read books themselves. Pretty soon, the girl tried reading aloud, and she and her brother ended up staying for more than two hours at the Uni, pulling book after book from the shelves. Something special happens when we create a prominent place for reading on the street. People feel pride in the place where they live and pride in themselves as readers and learners. We lift up those who love to read and attract those who are poised to do so. We help foster a stronger public culture of learning.
DifficultiesOur work developing urban pop-up and now a portable reading room for cities has required collaboration between multiple partners and disciplines (architecture, design, urban planning, library science, education, and community development to name a few). We love being producers who pull together a team of collaborators, and we think it makes our work better. However, we've had difficulty obtaining recognition and funding for our work because it doesn't fall squarely in any one discipline that we can rely on for professional validation and support. As such, opportunities like SWSX ECO are important to us because of the effort to identify and share interdisciplinary work with the public.
Should Win BecauseWhat we see at street level in many urban neighborhoods does not reflect our aspirations for ourselves and our society. We believe that our urban future can include cities where learning experiences are prominent, accessible, and enjoyable. The Uni lets cities show off our best teachers, librarians, and educators doing great work, on a stage, in the heart of the city. We would be excited to share the Uni and these ideas with SXSW ECO. In fact, we have recently created a new cart-based version of the Uni structure that is designed not only for neighborhoods but also temporary communities like festivals and events. We can imagine our portable reading room on the ground in Austin this October, drawing on festival content and also the local institutions, bookstores, and libraries that make Austin such a unique city.
Stephen Glassman | Topanga Canyon, CA
Urban Air transforms existing urban billboards into living, suspended bamboo gardens. see more
ProjectUrban Air transforms existing urban billboards into living, suspended bamboo gardens. Embedded with intelligent sensor technology that measures and communicates air quality, Urban Air becomes a global node and an open space in the urban skyline. Urban Air is at once an artwork, and a symbol and instrument for a green future. The vision doesn't stop there. It's our plan to transform the steel and wood of outdoor advertising into the infrastructure of urban sustainability around the globe - actively, publicly, and collectively generating a green global future.
ProblemTo transform commercial urban blight -- the billboard laden urban landscape that exists only to sell -- into a living sustainable art-scape and infrastructure that contributes to the world.
ProcessUrban Air was born as a conceptual agit-prop artwork in the LA studio of sculptor Stephen Glassman. The image immediately sparked the interest of key vanguard professionals in related industries including Arup engineering, BEACON research, Common.is, and more–and the Urban Air development team was born. Upon receiving the London International Creativity Award, Summit Media–a Los Angeles based billboard company– volunteered their production support and select billboards to support the launch of a prototype. With all the necessary players in place, it was decided that we would try to raise initial startup capital through crowdfunding. Urban Air's Kickstarter campaign went viral - hundreds of thousands of viewers on every continent. This enormous global attention generated worldwide invitations, opportunities, and project growth.
Environmental ImpactWhile Urban Air is a powerful social sculpture and urban tableaux, its intention is to generate measurable impact. Each 'greenboard' will be ground zero for an urban sensor network to provide real-time, local measurements of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. This is made possible by the collaboration of the renowned [BEACON atmospheric research project](http://beacon.berkeley.edu/Home.aspx). BEACON has produced a single sensor node for CO2, NO2, O3, CO, and more. Data from these sensors is collected once every five seconds and transmitted to a centralized server for broadcast. BEACON combines and calculates all the sensors' data to produce concentration maps, track plumes, constrain calculations of emissions, and more. Production interface and integration is designed and engineered by Arup Engineers, inc. Fusing good science and advertising infrastructure creates a bold new platform for re-imagining the integration of capitalism and sustainability.
Social Impact'Urban Air' brings an active face to the possibility of urban sustainability. Strategically selected billboards become "greenboards" that address this challenge, transforming structures of urban blight into both living artworks and scientific instruments. 'Urban Air' hopes to inspire community dialogue and action, create landmarks in disenfranchised communities, beautify transit corridors, catalyze community engagement, and ultimately connect people. The point is to produce measurable results, provide powerful possibilities for public/private partnerships in the green economy, and bring an urgency and vibrancy to the civic landscape. Ultimately, the plan includes partnering with the Clinton Foundation, and placing greenboards in the 40 cities of the global C40 Climate Initiative.
DifficultiesUrban Air was initially conceived as a site specific work of art. It was a piece designed to have the power, meaning, and singularity of vision that makes for a significant, resonant and memorable art installation. But the image proved extraordinarily relevant to a much larger community, and the opportunity to develop Urban Air as a global installation presented itself. It's been a great challenge to build a collective production network and design a site specific, interactive globally scalable production item that still maintains the power, meaning, and integrity of a single work of art.
Should Win BecauseIf the world were a bell, and art a hammer, then Urban air is an artwork that rings true. It's impact on Kickstarter resounded worldwide with over 21,000 articles and blogs including NYT, NPR, Huffington Post, Forbes, Yahoo, National Geographic, Discovery, and more. It's been downloaded over 150,000 times in 125 countries on every continent; seen by millions; and inspired the participation of scientists, engineers, media professionals, and more. Urban Air fuses good art, good science, and community engagement in a powerful public symbol that transcends information and sparks an experiential message. It "occupies" a space that is wholly devoted to commercial consumption, transforming it into a global green portal for a possible new future. Urban Air is a breakthrough in scale and social impact. It has generated that rare response of both familiarity and astonishment. Rather than asking "why?", the response to Urban Air has been overwhelmingly "why not"?
Sarah Gamble, Lynn Osgood, GO Collaborative | Austin, TX
We propose to visually and figuratively reveal the urban systems beneath Austin's city streets through a temporary drawing. The drawing will trace and highlight the unseen piping, tree roots, soil conditions, and other underground features of a selected location in Downtown Austin. see more
ProjectOur communities rely upon numerous, unseen, infrastructural systems for daily life. We often underestimate the volume of resources and design that goes into the construction and maintenance of our physical environments. These systems, especially utilities, have dramatic impacts on environmental sustainability. To raise awareness, we propose to visually and figuratively reveal the urban systems beneath Austin's city streets through a temporary drawing. The drawing will trace and highlight the unseen piping, tree roots, soil conditions, and other underground features of a selected location in Downtown Austin. The drawing will be created on paved, horizontal surfaces stretching from one sidewalk, across the street, to the other sidewalk. The drawing will have a number of inputs, including construction records, historical maps, utility information, study of tree species, and on-site observation. Color, line types, and text will be used to diagram and depict the underground features at a 1 to 1 scale for visitors to experience. Text will be used to: label each element; indicate depth, size, and material; and provide key statistics / quotes. The drawing will be done with temporary construction paint.
ProblemInfrastructure, the underlying systems and constructions that support our daily lives in a city, is commonly hidden from the public's view. We often forget about the resources used to create these system and our daily use / consumption of these elements. Our design will reveal the urban ground like an 'x-ray' and raise awareness of our infrastructural systems.
ProcessThe size and mechanics of our underground systems are complex and telling of urban life. As architects and planners, we have access to the historical and technical information that details the 'archeology' of our urban streets. The first step of implementation is to select a 10' wide swath of a Downtown Austin street. This area would be heavily researched to gather maps, drawings, and technical information as inputs.
Environmental ImpactOur design draws visitors attention to the underlying systems that support our city. This act raises awareness of these systems, their construction, and associated consumption of utilities within the City. For example, few realize that the single largest municipal expenditure of electricity in Austin is required to treat and pump water. This energy consumption is about 75% of the City of Austin's electricity bill. A better understanding of the size, scale, and number of water and wastewater piping puts this shocking statistic in a more understandable context.
Social ImpactThe social / community impact is based on awareness. Visitors will gain a better understanding of the components, connections, size, scale and complexity of the underground systems. Awareness of these elements and their rough, urban beauty will provide new insight for how our cities come together.
DifficultiesFor implementation of this design proposal, we anticipate permitting and permissions will be needed to mark the street. As this type of installation is not typical, we expect a slow approval process. An additional option for siting, which would alleviate damage concerns and / or speed installation, is projection of the drawing onto the street itself or on an adjacent vertical surface. The designers are open to other mediums / materials, assuming the original project intentions are maintained. Also, we anticipate the information gathered from maps, construction records, etc will be contradictory, as City of Austin departments rarely plan projects or record information cooperatively.
Should Win BecauseThe design proposal, as a physical experience, will have much greater impact on Austin residents and Convention attendees, than any 'one pager' or collection of anecdotes describing underground systems and the associated environmental statistics about consumption and conservation. Originality: Bright colors and the street as an unconventional drawing surface will create a unique environment to learn about infrastructure. Interactivity: Visitors will experience the drawing at a 1:1 scale with the ability to move over and around. Sustainability: The installation creates an educational opportunity to increase awareness of our urban infrastructure, 'unseen' conditions, and consumption. Accessibility: The drawing will provide access to information typically hidden or sprinkled throughout numerous technical / historical drawings. The installation space will be physically accessible through selection of a site that meets Texas Accessibility Standards for public spaces. Community Impact: The drawing will increase public understanding of infrastructure and awareness of utility construction and consumption.
Matt Tomasulo | Raleigh, NC
Walk [Your City] is a pedestrian-first platform enabling on-the-ground civic action through community-created and -installed pedestrian wayfinding signs. see more