Following the success of their parklet program, San Franscisco is hosting a festival that will showcase creative new approaches to improving the urban landscape, according to The Atlantic Cities:
Park(ing) Day famously helped people all over the world re-envision the lowly parking spot, encouraging DIY urbanists for one day each fall to transform these spaces in their cities into parks, playgrounds, pop-up cafés – anything other than their intended use. The original idea, dreamed up by San Francisco-based urban design studio Rebar, went on to become a model urban prototype. The city of San Francisco adopted the concept for its “parklet” program. And now officially sanctioned parklets are popping up everywhere, most recently 2,000 miles away in Chicago.
The evolution of the parklet suggests that fly-by-night urban interventions can lead to something much more permanent. And this is the idea behind a series of “urban prototyping” festivals created by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts in San Francisco. “We’re working with lessons learned form the parklet and Rebar and others to inform how projects that start at the small experimental prototyping scale can grow and expand across neighborhoods and cities,” says Jake Levitas, research director at GAFFTA.
The foundation held an “urban prototyping” festival in June in Singapore. Now it’s bringing the public showcase to downtown San Francisco in October, when the next generation of parklet-like ideas will be on display for a weekend. GAFFTA and several partner organizations – including the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, the Intersection for the Arts and 5M Project – have been looking for replicable, affordable ideas at the intersection of public space and technology.
“We seem to have hit a vein of some sort in the community here,” Levitas says. He was hoping for a few dozen proposals (each winning entry got up to $1,000 to build its idea). The festival got about 90, many from outside of San Francisco.
You can peruse all of the winning projects here, including a mobile app that will turn objects in the city into a digital typeface, and a number of ideas for transforming ugly urban fences into edible and auditory pedestrian experiences. But we wanted to highlight some of our favorites as a first peek at the fall festival, and at what may be the next great – even better – Park(ing) Day ideas.
The DIY Traffic Counter
(seen in picture above)
This idea will really appeal to the urban geek/amateur researcher. For $80, you can assemble your own kit based on this prototype, roll out your own unobtrusive sensor across a street and collect traffic-count data for passing bikes or vehicles. The data can also be uploaded into a central database to share with others. That information, in turn, could help you state your case as you lobby for changes and improvements to city streets, to accommodate, for instance, more bikes and fewer cars.